How To Overcome a Lack of Direction at Work

Updated June 30, 2023

Without direction, employees may find it challenging to understand their tasks and complete them. The job of supervisors is often to help employees navigate their responsibilities, but sometimes they find it challenging to provide direction to their staff. If you have a supervisor who struggles to communicate or is too busy to direct you, there are several steps you can take to improve your relationship and understand your responsibilities.

In this article, we explain why direction is important in the workplace, describe why your workplace might lack direction and describe steps you can use to work effectively in these situations.

Key takeaways:

  • Direction is the process of allocating duties or transferring authority at work, and getting direction may make people more efficient and content in their jobs.

  • There are several reasons why your employer may not provide enough direction for you at work, such as a heavy workload, communication issues and differing work styles.

  • If you find that you need more direction to be successful in your role, you can identify what you need, analyze your performance, ask questions and increase your interaction with your supervisor.

Why is it important to have direction at work?

Direction is the process of assigning tasks or delegating responsibilities in the workplace. It's often a key part of leadership, and it can help employees be more productive and satisfied in their work. These are some of the benefits that direction can provide companies and employees:

Increased productivity

Direction from supervisors can ensure that all employees know their tasks and that they have the information to complete them. Direction can also ensure that staff members are aware of the company's goals and understand their role in achieving them. This knowledge and confidence can allow employees to increase their productivity and the quality of their work.

Employee satisfaction

Directions from supervisors can often improve employee satisfaction by helping them feel more comfortable in their job. It can ensure that they know how to complete their tasks and contribute meaningfully to their team. Direction can also help staff members know that their supervisors care about them and want to help them succeed.


Coordination between staff members is often an important part of maximizing productivity and creating a strong team identity. Direction can ensure that every member of a team is aware of project goals and work expectations. It can also help avoid confusion by ensuring that all staff members receive the same instructions.


Supervisors can often use direction to provide motivation for their teams. They can set goals and give their employees something to work towards. Motivation can help staff members enjoy their work and increase their productivity.

Better company culture

Direction can provide many benefits that can help improve company culture. It can provide meaning at work, improve relationships between staff and supervisors and determine goals to improve collaboration. These benefits can help build a work atmosphere that embodies teamwork, productivity and growth.


Most businesses consider growth to be one of their primary goals, and growth often requires changes within a company's processes. Direction from supervisors is often a vital part of incorporating change and can increase a company's adaptation. Clear direction can ensure that employees understand the company's new priorities, recognize their new tasks and receive training with new equipment or technology.

Increased accountability

Accountability allows leaders to identify challenges in their operations and assign credit to their employees. Direction can help increase accountability in a workforce by ensuring that every member of a team knows their responsibilities. This makes it easier for management personnel to fix obstacles to productivity and recognize the accomplishments of the most valuable team members.

Related: Directive Leadership Style: Definition and How to Use It

What are the obstacles to direction in the workplace?

There are several reasons why your supervisor might not provide sufficient direction to your work:

  • Excessive workload: In some cases, your supervisor may be unable to communicate effectively with you because they have a large number of responsibilities. This may include directing a large team of other employees who might also require guidance.

  • Difficulty communicating: Some supervisors may have trouble communicating or may have a different communication style than you. If this is the case, it may be helpful to find ways of communicating that work for both of you.

  • Lack of leadership: Some supervisors may provide little guidance to their employees because their leaders aren't providing them with guidance. They may also lack the training required to complete their responsibilities.

  • Different work style: Your supervisor may appear uninterested in your work because they have a different or more self-guided work style. In these cases, it can be helpful to communicate with them and tell them what you require to do your best work.

How to handle a supervisor who provides no direction at work

If you have a supervisor that doesn't provide enough guidance at work, consider the following steps to address the challenge and improve your work:

1. Discover what you need

The first step to improving leadership challenges is often identifying what your requirements are. Think about your work style, identify the parts of work you don't understand and try to find the communication style that works best for you. You can also speak to your colleagues and determine whether they're having similar experiences with lack of direction. These observations can help you identify what you might require to be successful and motivated in your job. After you understand these factors, you can begin to identify solutions to your lack of direction.

2. Understand your supervisor

After you have identified your own needs, it may be helpful to make an effort to understand your supervisor. Consider factors like their communication style, personality and leadership traits. You can also try to determine their workload to see if they are responsible for too much. To find these things out, it might be helpful to speak with your supervisor or your coworkers. Knowing about your supervisor's responsibilities, personality and communication style may help you develop solutions to a lack of direction in the workplace.

3. Examine your own performance

Before looking for solutions with your supervisor, it could be beneficial to examine your performance and look for ways to improve. In some cases, your supervisor may expect a more independent work style and may not be aware of your concerns. You can also speak to coworkers to find out if you have missed any communications from your supervisor or if you aren't meeting expectations. If this is the case, you can work with your teammates to improve your performance.

3. Maintain a positive relationship

When addressing leadership challenges in the workplace, it's often very important to maintain a healthy relationship with your supervisor. Consider using maintaining a respectful tone with your supervisor and demonstrating a desire to improve your relationship with them. It may also be helpful to speak positively of your supervisor with coworkers to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust. This can show your managers that you value your work and want to improve the work experience for everyone.

Related: Types of Motivation in the Workplace (With Examples)

4. Make connections

If you aren't receiving feedback and instruction from your supervisor, it may help you build relationships with other employees. Look for experienced staff members who understand the expectations and tasks of your job and speak to them about your concerns. These individuals may help guide you through unfamiliar tasks and improve your productivity. Experienced team members may also be able to tell you if your experiences are unique or if a lack of direction also affects other employees.

5. Improve communications

Communication is often one of the most important part of building a mutually beneficial relationship between you and your supervisor. You can begin to improve your communication by trying to understand how your supervisor communicates and how that compares to your communication style. Some managers may communicate well verbally, while others may prefer to write instructions for their teams. Once you understand the communication dynamic in your workplace, you can take steps to match your communication style to your supervisor's.

6. Plan meetings

If you're struggling with your responsibilities, it might be helpful to set aside a specific time to address this with your supervisor. You can consider planning an in-person meeting if they have time, or you can set a time to speak via video chat or over the phone. When you meet, you can respectfully raise your concerns and try to find solutions. Holding a meeting can ensure that you get a chance to speak to your supervisor directly and can prevent confusion and misunderstandings.

7. Learn more

If you aren't receiving feedback or direction, it may be helpful to increase your ability to work independently. You can do this by learning more about your job and your responsibilities. Your coworkers may be a valuable resource and may be able to increase your training and confidence. Depending on the type of work you do, there may also be extensive educational resources available online or at local schools. You can consider looking for online classes and certification programs, courses at local community colleges or seminars and trade conventions in your area.

8. Take a leadership role

If you and your coworkers are experiencing a continuing lack of direction and feedback, you may want to consider taking on more of a leadership role in your team. This can be especially helpful if you feel comfortable with your tasks and may help your teammates get the help that they need to work effectively. If you're uncomfortable taking a leadership role, consider finding an experienced coworker who might be able to provide guidance to you and your team.

Related: What Is the Importance of Leadership?

9. Ask questions

If your supervisor isn't providing answers to your concerns at work, it may be helpful to ask directly for the information you want. Consider approaching your supervisor with questions or sending them a message via email or through your company messaging app. This can allow you to get the direction you require and may help build a more communicative relationship between you and your supervisor.

10. Document your work

When communication is ineffective in the workplace, it can make accountability challenging. If your supervisor isn't directing you and your team, they may not be communicating with company leadership either. In these cases, consider documenting your work to show that you're completing tasks and maintaining productivity. This can help company leadership recognize your accomplishments even if your supervisor isn't reporting them. It can also show your initiative and ability to work independently.

Related: How Supervisors Can Support Employees at Work

11. Speak with other leaders

If you're unable to create a more effective relationship between you and your supervisor, it might be helpful to speak to another leader in your company. You can consider scheduling a meeting or a phone call to raise your concerns in a respectful way. These leaders may be able to give you extra context about the situation, provide answers and advice or address the performance of your supervisor. Although this can be an effective way to deal with a lack of direction, it's often best to approach your supervisor before going to other leaders.

12. Understand when to make changes

If you continue to experience challenges with direction at work, you might consider making some changes. If it's possible to move to a different team or department where the leadership is better, consider looking for a transfer. You can also look for promotion opportunities and apply for them if you're comfortable with a leadership position. Look for different employment opportunities if your company can't support your work style and provide direction. You may find a business that offers a more effective leadership style for your needs.

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