A Ghost Boss, one who is either literally always absent, or who is there in body, but who rarely offers any input, guidance, or actual management, is every bit as much a Bad Boss as one who screams, puts you down, or shovels all the work on you while taking all the glory.
Most of us recognize a Ghost Boss by that eerie sense that no one is home inside the Ghost, even as he or she stands there, gently smiling at us. Unfortunately, most of us don’t recognize how the Ghost’s undermanagement is a career killer.
Such bosses remind Greg McKeown, CEO of THIS Inc., a leadership and strategy design agency, of the comment Jim Hacker (the fictional politician in the English cult classic "Yes, Minister") made, when he said to his bureaucratic colleague, "You really are a wet blanket, Humphrey, you just go around stirring up apathy."
McKeown continues with:
“These nice but somewhat absentee managers can continue to survive, unchecked for decades. At least a controlling boss who yells all the time gets noticed: they create acute pain and people complain. In contrast, the pain these nice "Neutralizers" produce is chronic. The pain is inflicted slowly, drip by drip. On any given day an employee can say, "Well, it's not so bad." They are, after all, nice. But the cumulative effect on your career can be dramatic.”
Be sharp. Be alert. Be aware.
When you feel that deadening effect on your morale of a Ghost Boss, don’t assume it’s not so bad because at least you’re not being yelled at. Take charge of your job! Take steps to manage your career. Get strategic on your own behalf, because it is guaranteed your Ghost Boss won’t lift a finger to help you get there.