For the next two weeks, my boss is on a well-earned holiday.

As I contemplated the next fortnight without her at the helm, I thought about the range of options that I had at my disposal.

What would I do?  How hard will I be working?  Will anything be different?  Should anything be different?

As I look at it, there are three main options that we all have when our boss goes away and the choice that we make tells us a lot about our mindset and will indicate the sort of career we can expect in the future.

Option 1:  Slack off – I’m sure that we’ve all heard the saying, “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.”  That’s the response of a lot of employees when their boss goes away.  They take advantage of the opportunity to come in late, leave early, take a couple of sick days or just do the bare minimum.  Don’t worry about the big pile of work that’s building up, you’ll just work extra hard when the boss gets back.

The problem with this response is twofold.  Firstly, it shows a lack of integrity.  Remember, integrity is “who you are when no-one’s looking.”  Anyone can look like they’re working hard when someone’s looking over their shoulder, but it takes character to operate effectively without requiring supervision or instruction.

Secondly, if you take advantage of the chance to slacken off, you miss out on the opportunity to further your development, to take on extra responsibility and to build your reputation as a trustworthy, responsible employee.

Option 2:  Don’t change a thing – Just because your boss is away doesn’t mean that you have to drop your standard, so perhaps you just come in to work and operate as if nothing has changed.  You come in as you normally would, work hard and go home, satisfied that you’ve done your job satisfactorily in your manager’s absence.

This is a reasonable response, and it certainly beats option 1, but I can’t help but feel that there’s still a more resourceful option to choose from, which leads me to the next choice.

Option 3:  Step up – If your boss is away, why not take advantage of the opportunity to increase your influence and provide some leadership?  I’m not talking about a bloodless coup, but about becoming the sort of person who can be relied upon for direction, energy and ideas that ensure the rest of your team feels as though they can still function effectively despite the manager being away.

This option is the one that will have the greatest long-term impact on your future career.  By stepping up, you show to those around you that you have leadership, initiative and ambition.  It develops your skills, gives you a greater understanding of your organisation and helps your manager (and others) see you as a credible option when the time comes to promote someone from within.

When your boss goes away next, don’t take advantage of the chance to take your foot off the pedal and don’t just go through the motions as if nothing’s changed, but step up, take on more responsibility and show that you can be trusted with more in the future.

It’s probably also a good idea to wish your boss a happy holiday as well, so have a great time Brenda.  We’ll miss you around the office, but we’ll also be making sure that we choose option 3.

What do you do when your boss goes away for a couple of weeks?

Previous post – Acres of Diamonds – A Story About the Search For Success

Next post – Which Voice Are You Listening To?