Vicki from Toronto writes,

“My boss never comes out of her office. She’s completely oblivious of all the things happening outside of her walls. She never sees the stupid stuff that goes on or the problems we have to deal with, and she’s never there to congratulate somebody when they do something particularly well…”

This is a “Cave Dweller” boss. Cave Dwellers can suck the life out of a workplace. Unlike other difficult bosses, it’s not the things they do that’s so bad; it’s the things they’re not doing.

To figure out how to deal with a Cave Dweller, it helps to take peak at the things that make them tick. More often than not, Cave Dwellers are simply not “people people”. Let’s face it, if they liked being around other people, or understood the basics of human leadership, they probably wouldn’t be in their cave in the first place. No, Cave Dwellers are far more focused on operations and processes, and enjoy tangible things like paperwork, spreadsheets and reports. It’s also possible, of course, that the company’s organizational structure and protocols just don’t allow for proactive, people-focused management, but truly people-centred leaders rarely stick on those jobs for long.

So, how do you get them out of their caves? You could try guilt or logic, but neither of those are likely to work. These bosses are completely in their comfort zones, and really don’t comprehend that they are doing anything wrong. Your best bet is to appeal to their emotions. (Yes, even Cave Dwellers have emotions) Try to get them out of their cave because they want to not because they feel like they have to.

Take a page out of Ivan Pavlov’s book, and try a little positive reinforcement. Every time you see your boss, make a comment that, “Hey we never see you! We miss you out there! We need your smile! We miss not having you around!” Those sorts of things. Let him (her) know that you like having him around. Then, on those rare occasions when he emerges out of his cave, make a big deal of it, “Hey the boss is here!” or “So that’s what you look like!” or “It’s nice to see you’re alive!” – anything that gives positive reinforcement to the boss’s presence to the workplace. The goal is to make the workplace outside of his cave more appealing than the environment within his cave. Your boss is human after all, and one thing we humans share is a desire to be wanted and appreciated.

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