I've had great managers and terrible managers. I've worked in growth cultures and cultures that didn't foster growth at all. Anyone relate?

I've had several recent conversations with women who don't feel supported by their boss or their company. They're frustrated because they don't feel as though their manager is invested in their growth and career progression. And I get it because that's super tough.

Like most life situations, you have a choice to make. You can either feel sorry for yourself and complain about your bad luck or take action to make it better.

I often talk about the systemic changes we need to see for women in the workplace, but I also share tips on how we, as individuals, can improve our situation. The reason for this is simple: I don't want to sit around waiting for change to happen. I want to create change for myself (and then for others), and I want to help you do the same.

So today, I'm going to share some advice for dealing with the three following scenarios:

  1. Your manager doesn't have regular 1:1s with you
  2. Your manager isn't initiating conversations about your career advancement
  3. You're at the point where you know your manager is not going to promote you

Let's dive in!

Your boss doesn't set up regular 1:1s with you

Talk about making you feel unimportant! When your manager doesn't bother to set up a regular 1:1 or regularly cancels your 1:1s, it can feel as if they don't care. My personal rule of thumb is to have a weekly 1:1 with every single one of my direct reports, and I like to meet with my manager on that same cadence.

So what can you do if they don't give you the time?

First, if you haven't requested a regular 1:1, do that. It's possible this person doesn't see the need for a weekly meeting but is happy to comply if you make the request. If you open up the conversation and they agree, get something on the calendar ASAP vs. waiting for them to do it. Be the one to take the initiative so you can ensure this meeting actually happens.

But what if they keep canceling or tell you to book meetings when needed instead of having a recurring schedule? In that case, consider your goals for meeting with your manager and whether you can achieve them another way.

For example, I think a key benefit of 1:1 meetings with your boss is sharing your wins. You can also do this by sending a weekly update at the end of the week, letting them know your progress towards certain projects and initiatives. I'll bet your manager will get a ton of value from this update and will appreciate you taking the initiative to put it together.

If you decide to do something like this, ensure that it is concise and only lists the key points. They are always welcome to follow up with a conversation if they want more details.

The bottom line is this – not having a regular 1:1 with your manager should not prevent you from sharing wins and updates. If you're trying to progress in your career, this is crucial.

Your boss isn't initiating conversations about your career advancement

Let's say you do get some face time with your manager, but they aren't initiating discussions around your career growth. Maybe you've brought up your desire to move up months ago and they seemed open to it, but haven't brought it up since.

What do you do?

It can feel awkward to constantly be the one bringing this conversation to the table. But at the same time, the onus is on you to ensure these conversations are happening because you have the most to gain by having them.

I recommend creating a process where these conversations happen regularly so you don't have to keep bringing it up. Personally, I did a 30-day check-in with all of my reports, as well as with my manager. When I started reporting to a new CEO who did not use a process like this, I shared the template with him and explained how beneficial it had been with my own reports and previous managers. I framed it as a way to ensure we were having more strategic conversations at least once a month, and he was happy to adopt this new process.

If you're curious, the template I used is this one, and I've slightly changed it depending on my team and the company I worked at. I used the first section to highlight wins and achievements and the final section to discuss career growth.

You're at the point where you know your boss is not going to promote you

Been there! Sometimes, we realize: This guy will never see me as a ______ (insert Director, VP, Sr. Manager..). It's a tough realization to have, but it's also a good one because you can now be intentional about what you want to do next.

I believe we leave too much in the hands of our managers. If they are supportive and foster career growth, that's not the worst thing. But the truth is that so much can happen, from having a manager who's not great at advocating for you to someone who is downright unsupportive to someone great who ends up leaving!

Instead, take accountability for your career growth. Yes, do the things I've outlined above, but in addition to that, ensure you are building relationships with people outside of your direct manager. And this is even more important if your manager isn't supportive.

So, where to start? I would take a look inside your organization and see what other senior leaders you can start to create a connection with. Maybe you decide to volunteer to be on a committee where you can interact with the executive sponsor or take the initiative to strike up a conversation at a company event. You can even reach out and ask for a 15-minute call to get their thoughts on something.

One of the best things you can do is be intentional about building relationships with other senior leaders. This may mean they think about you when they decide to expand their own team or suggest you for a new role that's being created.

In addition to this, continue building your network and fostering relationships with your existing network outside of your company.

When I finally had the ‘aha' moment of, ‘My boss is never going to make me a VP', I was having lunch with a former manager later that week. I mentioned it to him in passing, and he happened to be on the lookout for a VP for a company he was advising for and thought I would be the perfect fit. Long story short, I got that VP role, and the rest is history.

Finally, if you're struggling with your manager, try to lean into empathy and curiosity. It's very likely this person is not out to get you (although occasionally that's the case). It's more likely they are feeling stressed or overwhelmed or perhaps haven't had a ton of training on what it means to be a great people manager.

When you take the initiative, it makes their job easier and allows you to take some power back when it comes to your career progression.

Until next time friends… ✌️💜