Due to working in a small business, my manager is also HR. Pretty much every memo we get from him says ‘see me anytime’, ‘let me know if any problems’ ‘I’m always available’ etc.

However, he is generally not available. He’s often at another building (which he is also manager for and is owned by the same owner, but it’s not connected to us otherwise). When he is in our office, it’s still not easy to have a chat with him as we are overloaded with immediate work including clients that need immediate attention.

We have monthly staff meetings which are intended for my team and this manager. He is sometimes too busy to attend and sends a memo. When he does attend, he seems to lack basic info on what we do. On multiple occasions he’s changed a protocol and all the paperwork has been done and then the owner of the business has reverted it back hours later.

I have sent him many emails about where work is at, what feedback we need, etc. I very rarely get a response.

As far as I am concerned, the manager really isn’t available for us. I haven’t had a one-to-one chat with him in months. If I approached him for a one to one chat, I would be leaving a very short staffed team under a lot of pressure.

However, there are many concerns I have about my workplace. One of which is the way this manager handles things. Today our only interaction was when he ‘scolded’ me for taking too long on a phone call. I’d been on the phone for 6 minutes to an elderly lady, we’d made an error and she was rightly complaining. I was apologising and explaining the issue to rectify it. I felt like taking the 6 minutes was appropriate on this one occasion. The manager walked in, saw from the phone that the call had been running for 6 minutes, scolded me without asking what it was about and then left.

Due to this and other issues, I’m considering leaving. What I’m concerned about is getting a lot of grief because the manager said ‘come to me anytime’ and I technically didn’t. This also could affect references from the manager/owner of the business.

Should I attempt to schedule a one-to-one meeting with him, even though this will sorely impact my team because we’re stretched so thin? Or can I point to my numerous unanswered emails if I’m accused of not going to manager?

  • 3
    Someone would have to take on my work for the hour I was away. We have constant daily deadlines, and half-day deadlines, and regular incoming calls from clients with few gaps so it’s not as simple as it ought to be. He goes home for lunch or that would have been a great option! @JoeStrazzere
    – Obie
    Dec 10, 2018 at 17:31
  • 1
    You could be right! My concern is that he truly believes he is available and is doing a great job. I’m not sure which is worse! @corsiKa
    – Obie
    Dec 10, 2018 at 17:33
  • The nitpicker in me wants to point out that "I am too busy to have a 1-on-1 with my manager" is completely compatible with said manager being "always available". Of course the end result is the same, but the core problem that needs to be addressed is completely different.
    – xLeitix
    Dec 11, 2018 at 9:49
  • 1
    "I'm too busy to have a meeting" is not the same as "He's unavailable."
    – Brondahl
    Dec 11, 2018 at 11:26

4 Answers 4


If I approached him for a one to one chat I would be leaving a very short staffed team under a lot of pressure.

If you're so stretched that you can't break away for a half hour 1 to 1, then that's a damn good reason to break away for half an hour and have a 1 to 1. What happens if someone in your team goes off sick? What happens during holiday time? Phrase the meeting in a way of saying "I think we need to hire more people, we have no spare capacity for illness or holiday", and see what he comes back with.

I’m considering leaving. What I’m concerned about is getting a lot of grief because the manager said ‘come to me anytime’ and I technically didn’t.

This doesn't need to be an issue unless you make it one. When asked why you're leaving, don't mention anything negative about your current company, just mention positives about the new role. "I've loved working here, but I've had a really great offer elsewhere and so I think it's time for me to move on" works lot better for keeping those bridges in tact than "You were never around, the work sucked and you scolded me for trying to do a good job, so I'm off."

  • 57
    Gotta love the way you return the argument. And you're 100% right. If people are so much in hurry that they can't stop to think, then it's definitively time to stop anyways and rethink how the whole thing is working.
    – gazzz0x2z
    Dec 10, 2018 at 16:29
  • 62
    It reminds me of a quote : "if you're too busy to walk 1h in the woods, go walk 2h in the woods". Dec 10, 2018 at 18:57
  • 10
    I'm really confused by your "don't mention anything negative" policy. Isn't that the point of an exit interview for the company to figure out whether there is something wrong that causes employees to leave?
    – user83608
    Dec 11, 2018 at 6:17
  • 10
    @r3musn0x exit interviews might do some good to the company if they were willing to listen and acknowledged any criticisms and were willing to act on them and followed through etc. No upside for the leaving employee, though, and plenty of opportunities to burn a bridge. And in this particular case, you'd be complaining about the manager to the manager (who's also HR). I don't see that going well.
    – Celos
    Dec 11, 2018 at 6:53
  • 7
    @SethRobertson , I know it as a Zen saying that goes "You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you're too busy. Then you should sit for an hour". This one is very google-able. Dec 11, 2018 at 8:12

"I'm always available" doesn't mean the person has so little work to do that you could just pop in, completely unannounced, and have a great meeting, any work day, any work hour. It also -- and this is important -- doesn't mean that they can schedule a meeting at your convenience. What it should mean is that if you send him a "meeting request", however that happens, after a little bit of negotiating free times, you have a meeting scheduled.

That said, you have legitimate work-place issues, he's the HR person, and you have a "professional obligation" to communicate them to your management. As someone else said, being so short-staffed that you'd leave your teammates in the lurch is a side-effect of the problem you're trying to communicate. If, after communicating the problems that are caused by being short-staffed, you aren't satisfied by the response, or the company fails to resolve the issues, then leaving is your next option. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with leaving a job that has problems like these. I wouldn't work in that environment.

  • 11
    ""I'm always available" doesn't mean" - what does it mean? Does it mean "I'm never available"?
    – Beanluc
    Dec 10, 2018 at 21:20
  • 18
    It doesn't sound like this manager is actually "never available", because of the comment "If I approached him for a one to one chat, I would be leaving a very short staffed team under a lot of pressure.". It's hard to put all the blame on a manager when an employee is afraid to set up a meeting in the first place. Dec 10, 2018 at 21:59
  • @JulieinAustin not sure that "I'm sometimes available but due to management decisions about workload your team is too short-staffed to come and see me" is usefully different.
    – Rob Grant
    Dec 11, 2018 at 12:00
  • Shouldn't he be saying "I'm sometimes available" ?
    – user1
    Dec 11, 2018 at 13:59
  • 5
    Agree: "I'm always available" doesn't mean that I'm at your beck and call 24/7. It means "email me any time and we'll schedule some time to meet". It can mean "pop your head in my office any time you have a question", but doesn't in this case.
    – FreeMan
    Dec 11, 2018 at 14:42

If I approached him for a one to one chat I would be leaving a very short staffed team under a lot of pressure.

So you worry about the consequences of leaving your team for one hour. Let's say, then, that you keep refraining from asking for this one-to-one chat. This means that the solution to your problems, or even an attempt to solve them, will simply never come (after all, if it could come without this meeting, it would already be there, don't you think?). How long do you think you will resist at this company, under these conditions? You are already considering leaving. Let's say two months? Six? Twelve, even?

It doesn't really matter. It's safe to say that eventually you'll reach the point where you really can't take it anymore, and you will leave. Then, your team will be permanently without you. The company could hire someone to replace you, but there's no guarantee. And even if they do, will the new hire be as good as you? Maybe, and maybe not. And how long will it take them to learn the ropes? If it takes one month (which, depending on the nature of your job, might be very optimistic), your team won't be under a lot of pressure for just one hour, but rather for one month. And I actually think it will take longer.

So if you worry about the consequences for your team, having this one-to-one talk is actually the best you can do.

If you are still not convinced, consider this: you are not the only who is struggling to meet the deadlines. If you could convince your manager that you are understaffed, it wouldn't benefit just you: it would benefit the entire team. Just do it! Do you really think that, one month from now, not to mention one year from now, someone will remember that one day you weren't at your desk for one hour? Do you remember that anyone was on leave one year ago? These are problems that seem insurmountable, but in retrospect they are nothing special. Do the right thing and ask your manager to meet you and tell him about your issues.

...That said, I don't really think that it will change much. Given the way you describe the environment in your office, I think you'll end up leaving anyway - but you should still give it a try. It doesn't make sense not to!


It's always possible that a bad manager will get canned before you do, so don't lose hope entirely :-). Sometimes their bad management shows to higher management in ways you can't begin to imagine, and they're still around because a replacement for them hasn't been found. But if I were you I'd still start looking for another job, because it sounds like you're in an untenable situation.

Keep sending emails about what's not working though. And, to cover yourself, be sure 1) save all work-related emails 2) sort the ones to/from him in a separate folder so they're easily accessible should you need them 3) back them up offsite so you don't 'lose' them suddenly. When incidents such as the 6mn call rebuke happen, send him an email to explain your side. Even if he doesn't answer, or bother to read it, it's a company record of your point of view.

  • 3
    @JoeStrazzere It provides a paper trail/evidence if it ever comes down to his word against yours.
    – yitzih
    Dec 10, 2018 at 19:53
  • 3
    @JoeStrazzere, if the manager ever tries to throw OP under the bus (to the owner), the OP, being junior, won't get the benefit of the doubt without that "paper" trail. (I have left such a toxic environment.)
    – donjuedo
    Dec 10, 2018 at 19:59
  • 1
    Exactly, donjuedo. It wouldn't be un-heard of for a manager like this to try to blame his subordinates if he feels the winds of dismissal blowing his way. And remote higher management can well try to can the OP as a first move if they detect problems, rather than the manager they sort of know. So self-defense seems like a priority
    – user90842
    Dec 10, 2018 at 20:17
  • @yitzih - "Document everything" is more appropriate when one is at risk of being involuntarily separate (fired / "laid off"). If the OP documents all the things, then what? Still not getting the issues resolved AND spent a bunch of time saving documents that won't be needed after they've left. Dec 10, 2018 at 22:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .