Absent Managers: An Introduction

When managers are absent from the office or demonstrate a lack of motivation to lead, it can negatively impact the workplace. At the same time, this can be a great starting point for addressing leadership styles and integrating new managerial techniques. Similarly, absent managers can become well-developed leaders by adopting a hands-off approach, which can give their employees the direction they need to complete their work on their own while allowing the absent manager to regain their motivation and take charge of their priorities.


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What are absent managers?

Absent managers are professionals in leadership and managerial roles who are not present in the office or who seem to be unaware of the operations going on within their teams and in their organizations. Similarly, many absent managers have the capabilities of exceptional leaders but frequently take on multiple responsibilities that can get in the way of directing and being present with their teams.

Read more: 7 Effective Skills to Help You Become a Better Leader


Absent management vs. hands-off management

Absent management and hands-off management have several key differences. These differences include areas such as:


Attendance in the workplace

One of the biggest differences between absent managers and hands-off managers is attendance in the workplace. While most absent managers are absent in the sense that they are frequently away from their desks and unaware of current processes, some absent managers frequently miss work. Hands-off managers are present in the workplace, but they manage their teams by providing initial direction and then stepping back to let their employees do their jobs independently. While these types of managers may appear to be away from their teams, they are not commonly absent from the office.


Employee reviews and feedback

Another area that differs between the two dynamics is the approach to employee reviews and providing effective feedback. Absent managers are unavailable to give and receive feedback and oftentimes only conduct brief employee evaluations or don’t perform them at all. Hands-off management encompasses regular employee performance reviews that provide effective approaches to improving performance and productivity. 


Planning, directing and decision-making

With hands-off management, leaders give employees clear direction on their job duties and expectations and delegate tasks for their teams to complete away from supervisors. Additionally, these managers recognize that their teams are integral to making decisions regarding business processes in their organizations. Absent managers, conversely, usually don’t provide structured plans for completing tasks and sometimes leave their employees uncertain about making important business decisions in their absence.

Related: How to Motivate Your Employees


Tips for making hands-off management work

As you integrate a more hands-off management approach to leading your team, consider the following tips to guide your development:

  • Set clear expectations. Ensure your team has a clear understanding of your expectations. Outline what you expect your team to accomplish in a workday, workweek or within the month. Then, incorporate ways for employees to be accountable for their workload, like checking into a weekly task management application.
  • Learn to delegate effectively. Assign work and project tasks that are tailored to the unique talents of your team. Develop your ability to efficiently delegate and direct your staff and give your team what they need to perform their jobs. This gives you the ability to step back and focus on your other tasks.
  • Provide regular feedback. You don’t have to provide feedback on a daily basis, but it’s highly imperative that your team has some regular constructive input that helps them evaluate their quality of work. For instance, monthly performance reviews to discuss completed projects and employee performance can have a positive influence on your team’s motivation and productivity.
  • Encourage employee input. Get your staff involved in making decisions, giving suggestions and offering feedback into how you manage and direct the workflow within your teams. When employees are involved in these important processes, they’re more likely to be engaged in their work.
  • Offer support and direction. Ensure your teams have clear outlines that cover the parameters and expectations of their assignments. Similarly, get your team involved with the development and planning stages of new project tasks so they understand the scope of work involved. When your teams have structured outlines, specific objectives and a thorough scope of work, they’ll be encouraged to work more efficiently with less supervision.

Read more: How to Manage Employees


Frequently asked questions about absent management

The following frequently asked questions about absent managers can give you some further insight into making hands-off management work for you:


What are some advantages of hands-off management?

Some key advantages to the hands-off management approach include the following:

  • Employees feel fulfilled through your trust in how they manage their own work and accountability.
  • Hands-off management fosters growth, development and creativity in your staff and allows them to come up with their own solutions.
  • This style allows you to take on bigger projects and focus on your tasks because you can rely on your team members’ investment in their roles.
  • This approach compartmentalizes your team’s roles so everyone knows what’s expected of them.


What is hands-on management?

Hands-on management encompasses characteristics such as working with staff on a peer level, getting involved with each aspect of your team’s work and maintaining consistent feedback and communication about the work being completed. Hands-on management is the opposite of hands-off management.


How does hands-on management differ from hands-off management?

Hands-off management encourages employees to work independently without the need for over-managing and gets them involved in the decision-making process. Hands-on management encompasses direct interaction with employees and staff. A hands-on manager is more likely to get involved with and complete the same work as their employees, while a hands-off manager provides initial direction and steps back to let their teams complete projects independently.


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