Do you have a busy boss? 4 tips to help you navigate this

Is your boss always busy? Don’t feel that you are getting enough face time with your supervisor? Now, this isn’t always the case when working a new job, but it does happen to some of us and it can be tough! Luckily, there are ways that can help you gain more confidence and get needed support. Here are four things you can try out when faced with this kind of situation.

 Family Business" and the credit tag "UPHE" located on the top right.

Tip #1: Simply let your boss know

A good place to start would be to talk to your boss about your concerns. You may think that they are already aware of the situation but sometimes they actually have no idea. It may just take a little bit of speaking up to do the trick. Quick life lesson: never assume!

When you take the initiative to go and talk to your manager directly, they will remember that interaction and, hopefully, make a change. Don’t know what you should say? You can start here: “I understand how busy you must be during this time, but I wanted to let you know that I am having trouble understanding some of the tasks that you had assigned me and would greatly appreciate any support that you can give for this.”

Don’t just wait for them to approach you, take the first step. I know it can be a little nerve-racking and you will probably have 10 different scenarios playing around in your head, but don’t let these “distractions” discourage you. It’s always better to bring up a concern than to hide it away because, most of the time, your boss will try to find a solution for it. So, communicate, communicate, communicate!


GIF of Phoebe Buffay talking while sitting on a couch, in the show "Friends", with the caption "Shh! I'm swamped right now.", and the credit tag "WarnerBros" located on the top right.

Tip #2: Book those one-on-one meetings  

One-on-ones are super important. Even if it’s bi-weekly or once a month, you want to make sure that you are getting some time with your boss/supervisor. If you don’t have regular one-on-ones, try figuring out how you can make the most out of the time for when you do meet.  

Not too long ago, I interviewed an Arts student, Falak Ismaili, who found herself in this exact same situation during her first co-op term. “One challenge I faced during my last co-op term was that my supervisor was always busy," says Ismaili. "So, a lot of the time it was figuring out what to do on my own and I didn't really have anyone to ask questions to. […] I overcame this challenge by making a list of important questions I'd ask her just so I don't bother her too much, and instead of asking her again and again, I just asked her the questions all at once.” Here are a few other things you can talk about during your one-on-one: 

  • Ask for feedback on your work  
  • Bring up any concerns  
  • Talk about your work objectives and any new ideas you may have 
  • Your career goals 

I am thankful to have two one-on-ones each week with my supervisor and let me tell you, these meetings have helped me so much throughout my eight months of working here! Remember, your boss also has a responsibility to guide you during your co-op term and they are there to support you.  

GIF of Chris Harrison talking, in the show "The Bachelorette" with the caption "We need to talk" With the credit tag "ABC" located on the top right.

Tip #3: Take the Lead  

Sometimes you will just need to take matters into your own hands. If your boss is too busy, to the point where they barely have any time for you, take initiative (within reason of course). Go that extra mile and organize your work in a way that works for you. Prioritize your projects/tasks. If there is something that you don’t understand and it’s not a high priority, save it for later and work on something that you can do.      

Ask yourself, how can I make things easier for my boss? Maybe it’s setting up one-on-ones or doing your own research on questions that you have. I know this isn’t the best position to be in, but you just need to make the most of what you have.

GIF of Zoey Johnson talking and nodding her head, with the caption "Oh, I got this." With the credit tag "Freeform" located on the top right.

Tip #4: Look for other resources  

Most of the time, you will find that your surroundings are what will help you the most.  

Co-workers are a great resource to turn to as well. If you have colleagues that you have a good relationship with and trust their advice, ask them for some wisdom. You will sometimes find that a colleague was in the same position that you are in now and can probably help out in a specific area.   

However, don’t overuse your resources and still be considerate of their time. If they are willing to help you, that’s fantastic! But keep in mind that they still have their own tasks and responsibilities to focus on. Even if your boss is not always there for you, don’t let this keep you from creating a great work experience for yourself! 

Closing Remarks

Over the course of your professional career, you are going to have different bosses with different work styles. Now, you’re not always going to like each one, which is why adaptability is such a great skill. If you are in a “busy boss” situation, try one of these four options out. Life is an adventure and it’s not always going to be fun, but as long as you are putting in your best effort, you will be just fine!

About the author

Fatima Muni

Social Media Campaign CoordinatorA photo of Fatima smiling

Fatima Muni is an Arts and Business co-op student at Waterloo and is currently completing her second co-op term at the University of Waterloo as a Social Media Campaign Coordinator for Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE). One of the main projects she is working on this term is writing blogs for the Co-operative Education blog page. To date, she has written about helpful co-op tips and student co-op experiences and continues to write more blogs to share information that can benefit other co-op students! Feel free to check out Fatima's LinkedIn.


How to Succeed When Your Boss Doesn’t Have Time for You | The Muse

10 Brilliant Tips for Dealing With a Difficult Boss | The Muse

my boss is so busy that I can’t get any time with him — Ask a Manager

How to Deal with a "Drive-By" Manager That's Never Around (

  1. 2024 (8)
    1. February (5)
    2. January (3)
  2. 2023 (61)
    1. December (3)
    2. November (8)
    3. October (5)
    4. September (4)
    5. August (5)
    6. July (6)
    7. June (6)
    8. May (4)
    9. April (4)
    10. March (9)
    11. February (3)
    12. January (4)
  3. 2022 (58)
    1. December (4)
    2. November (4)
    3. October (5)
    4. September (4)
    5. August (4)
    6. July (4)
    7. June (7)
    8. May (4)
    9. April (9)
    10. March (5)
    11. February (4)
    12. January (4)
  4. 2021 (39)
    1. December (4)
    2. November (5)
    3. October (4)
    4. September (4)
    5. August (6)
    6. July (6)
    7. June (6)
    8. May (4)