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I currently work as a software developer in an big accountancy/consultancy company.

I have been here for about 10 months. I have some troubles with my manager. He is a nice and likable person, but he seems so busy that he seems unable to show up reliably for appointments or process his emails. He often works abroad so just asking him in the office is often not an option.

Often when I need his input, I write it down in order to ask it next time I see him (at our next catch-up, either in person or by phone). However, I have no confidence that this 'catch-up' will actually happen. Past experiences show that they can be cancelled the same day without a new one scheduled. I have stopped relying on email to communicate with him. (I still send emails, I just don't expect anything to be answered. )

When I ask team members on how to deal with this, they just say 'you need to be able to work quite independently with him as manager'.

This is my first serious job, so I am not sure if this is normal for a professional organization. Or am I just incapable (for now) of working as independently as expected?

So, how do I deal/work with a manager like this? And how common is this situation in general?

  • Accountancy, but they have some internal software projects. I will update the question to reflect that. – gorgabal Oct 31 '18 at 10:34
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    also: I notice that this question is downvoted serveral times. If the question can be improved, please let me know. – gorgabal Oct 31 '18 at 10:36
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I have some troubles with my manager.

He seems so busy that he seems unable to show up reliable on appointments or process his emails. He often works abroad so just asking him in the office is often not an option.

So, how do I deal/work with a manager like this?

There are a few techniques you might use:

  • Ask your boss who you should turn to if you need an answer and he isn't available
  • Ask your boss what would be the best method to get time from him when needed
  • As your coworkers suggest, learn to operate far more independently. Sometimes that means making a decision and going forward even if you are unsure if it is the right decision
  • Continue to save up the important questions for whenever you do get in contact with him
  • When you send an email, also indicate what path you will take if you don't hear back within a specified period of time. That will let your boss decide if it is urgent to reply or not

If all else fails, and you find that you aren't able to operate as independently as the situation calls for, maybe this isn't the right organization for you.

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    I really really like the "here's what I'm going to do if I don't hear otherwise" part of the emails. It avoids the whole "how come you didn't read my mind" discussion. – DaveG Oct 31 '18 at 13:02
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    Good suggestions. I'd also suggest that OP talk more with teammates on OP's own initiative to try to solve questions. – David Thornley Oct 31 '18 at 17:40
  • Good answer. I'd stress that if you make a decision, it's probably a good idea to record or document it, not so much to use as evidence, but just so if you're queried you can say "Oh, I sent an email about that..." And you have to be careful to follow procedure if nobody's checking your work. But at the end of the day, some people like working alone, others prefer teams or hierarchies, so make your own choice. – Stuart F Nov 2 '18 at 14:36

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