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How To Deal With An Out-Of-Town Boss

The world has become a global workplace, thanks to technology’s far-reaching capabilities that can keep everybody in touch. From phone calls and emails to instant messaging and web-cams, there are plenty of ways to stay up to date with everybody you do business with.

So it may not be too surprising for today’s workers to sometimes have a boss that works and lives primarily out of town. While there are some unique challenges that come along with this work arrangement, there are also plenty of ways to have a thriving business relationship with your out-of-town boss while still getting the recognition for your accomplishments.

Define your responsibilities
The first must-do if you have an out-of-town boss is defining your responsibilities. In-office bosses can more easily hand you one-off tasks and ask questions on current projects, but out-of-office bosses who pass along projects to you may not be as easy to keep up with, especially for seemingly unrelated projects that you’re not sure you’re supposed to be handling.

Ask your boss to establish what areas you’ll be specifically responsible for, and what other areas your co-workers are managing. Not only will this help make sure the right projects go to the right people, it also minimizes the chance of miscommunication or hurt feelings; nobody wants an out-of-office boss to accidentally leave them off emails or projects, so it’s the team’s responsibility to make sure that the boss knows who’s working on what. It’s hard to emphasize enough how many subtle changes or conversations can be missed if you don’t work in the office, so taking advantage of communication tools and project management is crucial.

Establish a chain of communication
If an urgent answer is needed on a project and you can’t get a hold of your boss, who’s the next person you could ask? Does the answer change based on the problem or urgency? It’s not only okay to know who to ask for answers when your boss is unavailable—it’s preferable. Your boss won’t want projects slowed down or a crisis ignored simply because they’re not reachable at a moment’s notice. And knowing when to take initiative or include others in a conversation shows your own leadership maturity as well.

If the chain of communication isn’t the same as the chain of command in who you answer to on your team and department, ask your manager to create and distribute an organizational chart. This will clear up any confusion for co-workers who are trying to overreach their responsibilities or who may not feel confident asking non-team members for help or answers. You should have answers for who to go to for certain problems, general inquiries and who is the next in charge if your boss isn’t available. The flow of business shouldn’t slow down simply because your boss doesn’t work in office all the time—technology has given us too many solutions to work slowly now.

Use time off wisely
Similar to having a chain of communication for when the boss is unreachable, you’ll need to plan ahead for days that you’re unreachable—it won’t be obvious to your boss that you’re out of the office unless you communicate that. That’s why it’s best to use time off wisely; you don’t want to check your email that evening and find a string of urgent messages. That’s a lot of miscommunication you can avoid by utilizing tools like shared calendars and set up out-of-office messages to automatically respond if you’re unreachable. These steps can feel cumbersome if you’re not used to having an out-of-town boss, but taking the extra step to ensure everybody’s communication is strong will help prevent big mistakes from being made, and also keep your team close though not everybody’s always in office.

Defining your responsibilities, establishing a chain of communication and using your time wisely will all help make sure that productivity stays high and you’re able to do your job well with an out-of-town boss.

 

Susan Ricker researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder.

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