How Much Time Should You Spend with Your Manager a Week?

Jul 21, 2014
7 Min Read

There is a “sweet spot” when it comes to spending the right number of hours per week with your boss. Spend too much time and you feel nitpicked, while spending too little time can deplete your motivation and creativity. A survey finds the right number of hours to spend with the boss to get the greatest payoff.

In six hours a week, you can watch six episodes of “Game of Thrones,” take 12 half-hour naps -- or spend the time with your boss.

While you might not choose the last option, it’s the one most likely to make you happier and more creative on the job, finds a new survey.

The survey, by Leadership IQ, finds that there is actually a “sweet spot” when it comes to how much time you should spend with your boss. It’s – you guessed it – six hours. Any more than that and your boss starts to feel like a micromanager, while any less can leave you feeling less motivated and creative. If you want to be more innovative, the survey finds it’s beneficial to spend  11 to 15 hours or  20-plus hours.

But it’s not just the number of hours that are important to your career. It’s also key that the time with the boss be face-to-face, instead of just an email, text or phone interaction, says Mark Murphy, founder and CEO of Leadership IQ.

“These findings don’t just apply to employees,” Murphy says. “Managers and even vice presidents were happiest when they got boss time.”

Specifically, spending seven to eight hours per week with the boss inspired executives the most, while middle managers got the most from spending nine to 10 hours a week with the boss.

That’s because being in management “really is a lonely job” and spending time with a higher-up can help supervisors feel like an important part of the team and ease everyday worries, he says.

In addition, because of the number of layoffs in recent years, manager ranks have been thinned and those whose jobs were spared must often oversee more employees and take on greater responsibilities and challenges, he says.

“Managers can be just as worried that they may lose their jobs as anyone else,” he says. “They want more time with the boss to make sure they’re totally aligned with that boss.”

But how to get to the “sweet spot” of boss interaction may be more challenging for some workers, depending on the issues they face.  Here are some common issues and how to resolve them:

Problem: The boss hides behind email. Getting face time with her is like trying to figure out who is going to get killed off next on “Game of Thrones.”

Solution:  Get specific. Sometimes managers don’t want face time with employees simply because they don’t have time for chit-chat, Murphy says. In that case, going to the boss with an idea on how to improve a product, for example, can give you the desired face time. When you have a “task-oriented boss” it’s good to come to him or her with a solution, not a problem, Murphy advises.

Problem: You don’t want face time with the boss because it will only mean you are assigned more work. You have been known to dive behind the water cooler when you see him coming.

Solution:  Your evasion tactics will backfire in the end because being out of sight of the boss can hurt your career as it can cause you to miss out on great projects or promotions. Such watercooler diving is an indication that you simply don’t have a good relationship with your boss and you need to take the initiative to improve it. Start by making better use of meetings and offering insights and solutions to the boss, Murphy suggests. “Send up some trial balloons to see how he reacts. It gives you something to talk about then when you have other conversations later,” he says.

Problem: You get some face time with the boss but then can’t think of anything to talk about. You begin to fidget, suddenly feeling like a first-grader without something for show-and-tell.

Solution:  “People often prepare for customer meetings, but they don’t prepare for theirbiggest internal customer – the boss,” Murphy says. “Always have something in mind that you can discuss with the boss.”

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