• Your boss’s unresponsiveness may have absolutely nothing to do with you
  • Your career doesn’t revolve around your boss so take charge of it
  • Be proactive and get the job done - your boss won’t care otherwise
“Hi, boss! Please, will you be so kind as to review the deliverables I sent last week?”

Ugh. Too soft; he won’t even look at this twice, you say to yourself, as you quickly delete the email to compose another one.

“Hi! I’ll need you to go over this. It’s been over a week now.”

Too demanding. Your manager will get pissed off.

“Pretty pretty please with sugar on top could you just review the deliverables so that I can get to other stuff? I need some closure!!!!!”

No. Just no. Delete, delete, delete.

“Look here, you son of a b-”

Fuck. My. Life.

It’s been over a week since you submitted the deliverables and the only thing you’ve gotten is radio silence. Zero communication whatsoever from your boss.

I mean, do they like it or not?

You deserve to know, don’t you? So that you can move on to the other million things on your plate.

But unfortunately, they don’t seem to share these sentiments with you as they’re hellbent on ignoring you. Or so it seems.

Getting what you need from unresponsive coworkers is a challenge, but when it’s your boss that’s not responding, it makes your job much harder than it needs to be.

Reasons Why Your Boss Is Unresponsive

There are a ton of reasons why your boss can be MIA.

It’s pretty frustrating to have to explain why a full-grown adult is doing something that your youngest child is smart enough not to do. Or rather smart enough to do.

But this phrase is right up there with “10 signs your spouse is cheating.” It’s that important. And no, we are not being sarcastic.

It’s very important for bosses to be more responsive. This study from the Industrial Relations Journal shows that managers who are responsive have more productive employees.

So why are there still unresponsive bosses around?

Here are some pretty good - and pretty petty - reasons.

They’ve Got A Ton Of Shit On Their Plate

Look, we’ve all been there. Except, in this case, your boss is still in there - like all the time.

They may have been too busy to reply to your email or may have forgotten. And like all briefly forgotten emails, it gets buried under tons of other briefly forgotten emails. To be permanently forgotten.

It’s like their inbox is one giant digital black hole. Nothing ever comes out of there.

Remember that your boss isn’t only your boss. They’re managing other people and projects, all with responsibilities of their own and very urgent needs that sometimes surpass yours.

They also have a boss too and have to manage them as well. Sucks to be in middle management sometimes.

So between those tasks, requests, projects, clients, direct reports, and bosses, your deliverable - which may have been marked as important - may not be so important anymore.

To them, that is.

We all know how important it is to you.

They’ve Mentally Checked Out Of The Company

This could be for so many reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with you.

It’s simply a “whatevs” attitude - kinda like an indifferent teen that just doesn’t give a rat’s ass about anything. Your boss doesn’t give a shit about you, their job, the company, etc.

Maybe they feel that they’ve reached the pinnacle of their careers and have nothing else to gain so they’ve become demotivated.

Or they hate their fucking job or boss and are doing the bare minimum to get that paycheck, only working just hard enough to not get fired.

Or maybe they’re only months away from retirement and so, they’re just coasting in neutral.

Or they’re just downright lazy and only got the promotion because they’re related to the CEO.

Whatever it is, it is unlikely that you can do much of anything about this.

They Feel Threatened By You

Your boss may be feeling threatened by your level of skill and expertise. They may feel that you’re trying to take their job or outshine them. This is pretty petty thinking but it’s within every realm of possibility.

In their minds, if you get along with everyone while killing it at work, it’s undermining them. You’ve got the makings of a manager, and while they grudgingly appreciate that, they believe it shouldn’t be at their expense.

So, what happens?

You guessed it - they’re not as supportive or responsive to your progress, efforts and success. In these kinds of situations, you want to tell them that it’s time to grow up and be an adult at work like everyone else.

They Just Aren’t Manager Material

Not everyone was born to be a leader - that’s why some executives are fucking clueless.

On the other hand, some very capable people don’t want to be in leadership positions. But someone has to do it, especially when they’re already doing well at their jobs.

Your boss may fall into either of these categories.

Maybe, they only got to their level because of favoritism or seniority. In both cases, they can’t tell their ass from their elbow.

It’s kinda like when Creed from The Office became interim regional manager just because of his level of seniority.

VIDEO: Creed Temps As Regional Manager
YOUTUBE: The Office
LENGTH: 3:10
Summary points:
  • No boboddy cares about acronyms
  • Photo Hunt is one of the oldest tricks to keep someone busy
  • Office admins are actually the ones that run the office
Another possibility is that they’re just socially awkward and made it so far up the corporate ladder due to sheer brainpower. They just can’t hold a social conversation outside of their bubble of expertise to save their ass.

They may think that you already know what’s on their minds. Perhaps their silence means approval and they expected you to know this since they’re already so busy.

Their emails that seem rude? They were in a haste and always believed that you knew what they meant or at least that you should.

Who can blame them?

The number of “I hope this email finds you well” they receive is enough to make anyone barf all over their keyboard (seriously, stop using that phrase).

They Have A Different Working Style

This is most often the case when one of you is new to the company or department.

Whether you acknowledge this or not, your work environment influences the way you work. The working style of either of you or your boss may have fit in the past work environment, but makes it difficult to adapt to the new current environment.

It’s easier when you’re the newbie because you have colleagues to guide you, give you advice and pointers. You can easily find out how your boss works and ease into that style.

When your boss is the new one, it’s a bit difficult especially if they’re so set in their ways that they don’t even notice that they’re doing anything differently. They’re just not self-aware.

It gets exponentially harder when you’ve got to handle multiple bosses and not lose your shit. If you’re in this bucket, you have our full condolences.

Dealing With An Unresponsive Boss

According to this study from the University of Bergen in Norway, unresponsive bosses can sometimes be much worse than angry or aggressive bosses. And when you think about it, it makes sense because you’re getting the job done with aggressive bosses though not exactly how you’d want.

So now that you understand some of the reasons your boss is unresponsive, it’s time to find out specific ways to manage them.

This is not a “one size fits all” strategy.

This is a living breathing human who unfortunately has a tiny but effective power to influence your career. Now, let’s get to it.

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Who knew that Ice Cube’s lyrics would apply to work life lessons?

But, it does.

You have to find out if your boss’s behavior is specific to just you or not.

Are they this unresponsive and laissez-faire in general to anyone and everyone or do they do an about-face when they see you?

Understanding this will enable you to sort out the rest of the solutions from what we’ll explain below.

If your boss is generally unresponsive to everyone, then the solutions we list below apply to you. An additional solution will be to work hand-in-hand with your colleagues to achieve the desired results.

However, if you believe your boss is unresponsive to only you, you may want to reevaluate your approach to work.

Firstly, find out what it is that makes them unresponsive to you.

Is it your attitude to work? Is it the quality of your work? Or is it your boss's insecurities toward you?

The last one is not something you can do much about except to manage your boss well.

The other points are things you must do to improve your relationship with your boss.

Ask your work BFF and even some trusted colleagues to let you know what areas to improve. They definitely noticed that something was up. It's the office after all - no secret is ever a secret for very long.

Get On The Same Wavelength

No matter where you are with your unresponsive boss, it's important to find out what their routine, schedule and habits are like, and mesh with it.

What kind of communication do they prefer? Emails, texts, IMs, in-person convos or phone calls?

What time of the day are they most responsive? Are they night owls or morning larks?

What is their calendar like on average and where can you fit in?

Always remember that while you're at the company to pursue your career goals, the firm's immediate need for you is to make your boss's work easier.

Some ways to get into the flow without being too obvious about it include:

Schedule Recurring Meetings

Don't ask, do.

Your boss is not likely to respond to you if you ask nicely anyway so why not take the bull by the horns?

Using their schedule, select appropriate times weekly or bi-weekly where he meets with you and the team to discuss everything that needs to be discussed at that point.

Don't wait to ask your boss when they're free. Just send them a recurring weekly meeting invitation that covers you for the rest of the year.

Remember, this is the only clear shot to get what you want every week so make sure you have a well-detailed agenda with all the questions and comments you need so that it's efficient on both sides.

Send Concise Emails That Only Require A Simple Response

This is such an effective way to go about your day that you'll be feeling like you won the lottery.

When you absolutely have to send emails to your boss that can't be answered during your meeting time, always write it clearly and concisely so that it elicits the response you want.

Do you need them to do something right away?

Try writing "[ACTION REQUIRED] blah, blah, blah” as your email subject and get straight to the point.

Or similarly, you can use “[REPLY Y/N] blah, blah, blah”

Do you need your boss's approval for a project to kick-off?

Try writing an email of fewer than 3 paragraphs explaining very concisely what is required and what he should do.

It could go like this:

Subject: [REPLY Y/N] Okay with the venue?

Hi Dave,

The meeting with the sales department is at 5 pm and we need your approval to use the venue.

Reply Y or N.


The key here is to be precise and make it uber-easy for your manager to reply with just a few keystrokes or phone screen taps.

Be Proactive

Both of you cannot be lackadaisical. And let's face it, you have way more to lose here.

You'll be doing yourself good by being more proactive. This will depend on the type of boss you have.

Do they not trust you enough?

Look around the firm and find something that can be a passion project for you. Do it and let them know about it. You'll be developing yourself and giving them more reason to trust you.

Are they too busy?

Follow up in a way that matches their schedule. Do what it is that you want to do if you know it's beneficial and tell them about it later.

Let's say your team is supposed to go for a 2 day trip without your boss but you may need their approval. Send him an email letting them know. If they don't reply, follow up with something like this:

Hi Jennifer,

The annual 2 day trip for the team is tomorrow, Tuesday, and we're all set.

We leave by 7 am and will return by 2 pm on Thursday. Let me know if you have any comments or questions during that time. I will be available between 10 am to 3 pm on Wednesday only. Have a good day.

Now's a good time to do a little mental fist pump. It’s important to celebrate small victories like this often.

You should also be proactive about your career development. One thing an unresponsive boss does well is to give you less work.

As long as you're doing all you know you should do, use the extra time to learn some skills. Take a class, preferably on a subject outside your area of expertise. There are lots of ways you can improve your skills for free.

This will help you to be even more formidable and able to take on more responsibilities when the time comes.

Grow Your Network

Your network is not just your teammates. There’s a whole world out there!

Take time to develop a network within your team and department, but also outside your department. It's even better when you develop a network outside your firm and even outside your industry.

LinkedIn is the de-facto platform for this. If you’re a newbie or haven’t been on LinkedIn in a while, check out this LinkedIn for beginners article.

Growing your network is important.

This is not so much because of your boss but for your own good.

You want people who can vouch for you if anything happens later on. People who can speak for you when you're not around and open doors for you that would have been shut.

Naturally, your boss should have taken this role but since they're not available, it's left for you to find who will fill it.

Try to attend a few networking events each year - maybe one each month or every other month. It doesn't have to be fancy. Any event is a networking event if you do it right.

In-house groups, employee networks, meetup chapters of professional networks, Facebook professional groups, etc. These are amazing ways to meet people and build relationships as it's already obvious you have something in common.

Develop relationships with the right people as peer mentors and sponsors in and out of the firm so that if you need to leave at any point, there are people who are willing to show you these opportunities and vouch for your awesomeness.

Or if you need that promotion, those same people already know your kick-ass capabilities and can speak for you when your boss won't or can't.

Don't Be Shy, It’s Okay To Be A Bit Pushy

We get it, some of the emails above seem pushy and even rude.

But let's be real here, passive politeness has gotten you nowhere so far. In fact, you feel stuck at work, both in terms of your projects and career.

Your boss isn't going to change with a bit of strategic “I hope this email finds you well.” (ugh, about to barf again).

Nor are they going to know how much you're enthusiastic about the job because you sprinkle your emails with exclamation points!

Ditch the stupid-ass sentiments from your work and do what it takes to get in the zone and get shit done. Sitting on the sidelines, twiddling your thumbs and waiting for your boss to respond isn’t going to make things better.

So, get on it.

Your work productivity (and happiness) will be so much better for it - for real.

Look For Other Opportunities

We don't want to have to write it, but there are times when you should just look elsewhere.

Maybe after much evaluation, you find that the job just isn't for you, even without the unresponsive boss.

Or maybe the environment has become so stifling that there's just no way you can meet your career goals at that firm or department. This is when you feel like the situation is holding you back from success.

That means it's time you start looking for other better opportunities. So, don’t ignore recruiters because they can bring you these opportunities and help you advance your career.

You may even find opportunities that fit you much better than where you are right now, and that's just half of it.

It all boils down to your proactiveness and network. Make them count.

Get The Support You Need Or Blaze Your Own Path


I just finished the 2-page report you asked for and I went the extra mile to put in a graphical analysis to illustrate the points there.

I also finished some online courses and sharpened my skills. Who knew learning could be so cool, eh?

The networking event I attended yesterday was amazing and I met some very senior people at our firm who are willing to take me under their wings. I also think you’re a stuck up asshole boss but I’m enjoying myself so much since I decided to take my career into my own hands that I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself.

It’s really funny how everything gets better when perspectives change. Maybe I do have something to thank you for anyway.

Hope this email finds you how I left you - ignorant.

You really do want to click send but you reason - rightfully - that it helps no one. So, you don’t ‘cause you know better.

You just need to make some tweaks and adjustments to change things for the better. And when you do, your manager will notice. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

And when things start rolling, there won’t be any more radio silence. It’ll be lots of back-n-forth chatter - good, bad and everything in between. You’ll no longer be isolated for sure. You’ll be in a happy place and your career path will shine brighter.

But who knows, maybe an amazing opportunity at another firm appears because of these new efforts that you made. And maybe, just maybe, you may send that email.

Feel Better,

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