An absentee manager may be work at work but they can still be "absent". Now you say "How can that be?". Well an absent manager is one who, for example doesn't provide leadership, doesn't provide feedback or doesn't take action when issues are brought to them. They are at work but when it comes to taking care of their responsiblities they are absent.
I've had the experience of working with an absent manager and here are some of the things I encountered.
The absent manager may not be at work when they are supposed to be which really puts the "Absent" in Absent Manager. Also they would leave early even when we were short staffed. When they would leave early most of the staff didn't know that the Manager had left. Talk about letting your team down.
Not having staff meetings or informing staff of important issues. It's impossible for your staff to do a good job and improve their performance if you don't communicate with them. This leads to mistakes being made and opportunities being lost. It's part of training your staff. Think about how they feel when they work for a manager who won't get involved with them.
The one minute annual performance review. I have been involved in numerous performance reviews as an employee and as a manager. However, I had never been involved in a review that lasted under a minute. No, I wasn't the only one who had a review that was that short. To be honest it was the standard.
To be told "I have no issues with you so if you can sign the review." shows a real lack of interest in the employee who is a person. Most people I know want to get feedback, want to grow and want to be recognized for what they have accomplished.
It's not surprising that the absent manager wouldn't know what their employees are doing because they aren't engaged with the staff. If you don't talk to them or lead the team you aren't aware of what they do and the challenges they face in doing their day to day tasks.
Some people love having an absent manager because you don't get micromanaged. Also, you can do what you want to a certain extent. Unfortunately, some people take advantage of this situation and don't do their jobs or they get away with things that wouldn't happen if there was proper leadership.
The problem with the absentee boss is that you can feel that your efforts and accomplishments are not appreciated. Is it a surprise that people get demoralized when they don't get any feedback or a feeling that the manager cares about you or the job you do? How does the team acheive a high level of performance when you as a absentee manager show you don't care?
Who picks up the slack for the absent manager? How does this affect the performance of the team?
The absent manager doesn't care about doing a good job and this can lead to other members of the team not caring but you have to avoid not caring. Why? Well somewhere along the way something will go wrong. Your absent manager won't know what happened and if it was your responsiblity you are going to be the one in the spotlight.
Keep doing your job and be professional. The other people who are part of your team will appreciate the fact that you continued to move forward even when there is poor leadership.
Keep your absent manager informed about what you are doing or the things you need from them. Use email and if you don't have access to email leave them notes. That is what I did and it was very useful.
I my situation because I have been a manager in the past I took on many of the absent managers tasks - ordering product, dealing with sales representatives, training staff. My belief is that by not doing what I could I would have been letting down the rest of the team.
For me I don't care what my job title is I want to provide leadership and I expect a person with title of manager or supervisor to provide leadership. If you are an absent manager you are telling those people that you work with that you don't care about them or the job that you are doing.
You can always take something away from a situation that is not ideal. When you see the affects of this type of manager you can see what type of manager you want to work with and if you aspire to be a leader what type of manager you would want to be.