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5 Tips for Working Without Direct Supervision

by | Apr 13, 2020 | Admin Advice, Career Advancement


In 2020, the global pandemic forever changed the way we live and work. Many professionals started working from home for the first time. And during that incredibly difficult and stressful period, I received a lot of questions and complaints from people who were struggling to work without direct supervision. 

Of course, a lack of supervision can be challenging even when there isn’t a global pandemic! 

Let’s be honest: No one likes a micro-manager. But, on the other end of the spectrum, it can be just as hard to work without any management at all—and that’s what a lot of people in 2020 (especially administrative professionals) were facing. Today, many organizations are still working in remote and hybrid environments, so this struggle still exists. 

Leaders are extremely busy. In 2020, they were dealing with the immediate problems of the pandemic. Many were trying to save their businesses from going under. They didn’t have time to manage their teams, and that was frustrating for those who were trying to figure out what to do all day as they worked from home.

Even now, as things have returned to “normal,” leaders remain busy! They may be focused on different things, but they still may not have the time required to truly manage their teams in the way they’d like. And while many people have become more accustomed to working from home (at least some of the time), it can still be challenging to manage yourself without any supervision. 

So, what can you do to work effectively when you have little or no direction from management? Here are 5 tips that might help.

1. Empower Yourself

Hone your “figure it out” skills. In 2020, there was no roadmap for what we were going through—leaders were just as lost as their staff. You had to make things work in the midst of uncertainty and ambiguity. And you did it! 

Whatever is happening now, figure out what you need to be successful and how you can get it. Then actively pursue it. Don’t wait for it to be offered. Go find it, ask for it, or make it happen. Trust in your ability to connect the dots on your own, take intelligent risks, and make decisions independently. 

Need help taking initiative? Read this!

2. Get Proactive

If you’ve been following me for a while, you already know how passionate I am about this topic. Being proactive is about looking into the future and taking the right steps today to make tomorrow better. This was incredibly important during the pandemic, and remains just as important today. 

Your leaders are too busy and too consumed by today’s issues to think about planning and preparing for the future. They need YOU to do that for them, for yourself, and for the team.

If we learned one thing from the pandemic it’s this: everything is fluid. So, one way to be proactive is to create contingency plans for “what if” scenarios. It’s not enough to have plan A. You also need Plan B through Z. Not only will this give you peace of mind, going through the thought process will also help you proactively prevent issues and minimize the impact if/when they happen. 

You don’t need anyone to instruct you to do this. Anticipating what’s next and preparing for it is always a smart idea. You can’t prepare for everything (as we learned in 2020) but you can at least do your best to maintain a future focus. 

If you need help enhancing your proactive skillset, grab my book The Proactive Professional on Amazon! 

3. Initiate Communication with Management

Just because your leaders are busy, doesn’t mean they don’t want to communicate with you. They just might not be thinking about it. So again, be proactive and initiate communication with them—don’t wait for them to do it. Offer brief updates on what you’re achieving and ask for what you need to be successful. This helps to ensure you stay on their radar (even if you’re not physically in the same space all the time) and that you receive the guidance, support and resources you need. 

4. Self-Assess and Adjust

While it’s always nice to receive feedback on your work, it’s also important to self-assess and adjust on your own. Often we don’t need others to point out where we have excelled and where we have room for improvement. We can actually see it for ourselves if we take the time to really look. Hone your self-awareness skills and be open to what you might discover. 

Of course, at the same time, you can also actively request feedback from leaders. You don’t have to wait for it to be offered. When invited, most leaders will happily share feedback.

5. Don’t Take It Personally

Like it or not, less frequent direct supervision is a part of the modern work culture. This is one of the many long-term impacts of the pandemic and the more common remote and hybrid work environment. Instead of viewing it as neglect, see it as an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to self-manage and take initiative. You certainly leveraged these skills in 2020, and they are likely to remain a part of your everyday professional toolkit from here on out. 

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The Career Success Library is a convenient, affordable online learning center for career advancers including administrative professionals, emerging leaders, and anyone else who wants to leverage the power of ongoing professional development. 

About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and certified Professional Career Manager (PCM). She is an author, in-demand presenter and international speaker known for engaging, entertaining, educating and empowering audiences of all sizes and backgrounds. Learn more here.

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