Q&A: What Do I Do When My Boss Is Away

By Chai Fook Tien

Question: My superior is currently away on holiday and I’m kind of unsure about what to do in the office now. Some of my colleagues have started relaxing saying that they can’t do work since the boss is not around anyway, but I feel a little uncomfortable about not doing work at all. So what should I do during this period?

Answer: First of all, rejoice! With your boss away, you’ll be able to go to the office without worrying about someone breathing down your neck all day long. Regardless, you won’t want to be too much of a slouch during this period. If you end up not doing work at all, you can definitely expect your boss to kick up a big fuss about it when they come back.

At the same time, it’s going to be a shame if you don’t take the opportunity to enjoy life a bit. So here are a few things you should be doing while your superior is not in the office.

Loosen Up (But Not Too Much)

With your manager out of the picture, you can probably feel that the atmosphere in the office is much lighter now. So make use of this time to goof off a bit. Mingle with your coworkers a bit, go out for a long lunch, or leave a little earlier than you normally do. Of course, do know your limits. You shouldn’t spend the whole day yakking away with your colleagues, and leaving two hours before your official knocking-off time is just plain unreasonable.

Enjoy life a little, but do practice some restraint (and common sense). After all, your boss being away doesn’t mean that no one is watching – your coworkers might just report your misdeeds to your boss.

Do Work, and Make Sure Your Boss Knows It

Things might slow down a little, but work doesn’t completely stop even if your boss is away. So you’ll probably end up having to do some work anyway. The problem is that your boss might not know that you’re actually doing anything. Make your boss very aware that work is being done even when they’re away. Document everything you do for easy reporting later, keep your boss in the loop by cc’ing them in your emails, or maybe even provide little updates of what you’re doing (don’t be annoying about it though).

Don’t Make Any Major Decisions

No matter what, you should never ever make any decisions for your boss! Just because the proper authorities are away doesn’t mean that you are automatically promoted into a decision-making role. If you do, things will come back and bite you in the rear. Sure, you can actually get credit for making the right decision, but both you and your boss will suffer from the fallout if you end up making a wrong decision.

Almost nothing is so urgent that it cannot wait for your boss to come back. Even if it is, it’s still your boss’s responsibility to anyway. So they will have to be consulted on the matter, either by you or the person asking for the decision to be made (but of course, it’d be better if you aren’t the one bothering your boss during their vacation).

Boss not around now? Why not take the opportunity to browse through some of our jobs at JobsCentral?

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