"I wish he would just talk to me," Sue lamented. Sue's boss was driving her nuts. After listening to Sue (not her real name), I completely understood why. Seems that her boss did not make requests to her directly about things; instead, he chose to speak to her through one of her co-workers.
Her boss (we will call him 'Bob') does not completely ignore her. He does acknowledge her. He does answer her questions when he sees her in-person and he does reply to her emails. Her specific issue is that he often sends information to her through this other co-worker (let's call her Ann). In fact it is always Ann. Often Ann will stop by and see Sue and say, "On by the way Bob wants you to have the client profile reports ready by noon on Friday." Or, "I was just in Bob's office and he wants to know if you can attend the monthly review session in his place?"
The first time this happened Sue was really caught off guard. The only reason she was not suspicious is that Ann is also a good and trusted friend. Sue and Ann have worked together before. If it had been anyone else, Sue would have thought there was some game-playing going on. Still, Sue stopped by Bob's office and asked him about it. Bob seemed puzzled but confirmed that, yes, what Ann had conveyed was correct and it did come from him.
At first Sue thought that perhaps she was in trouble. Then she thought well, maybe Bob just doesn't like me. Then she thought that perhaps Ann was being groomed to take over. Eventually, Sue just became tired of it.
As Sue became more bothered by the situation she began to feel more comfortable about approaching Bob with her concerns. She stopped by Bob's office and asked him why he sent her messages and assignments through Ann.
Bob replied that sending her messages through Ann was easier for him. Bob's logic goes something like this: he was talking to Ann anyway, he had a message for Sue too, he knows that Ann and Sue are friends, he knows that they will talk a few times throughout the course of the day, so it makes sense to Bob to send messages to Sue via Ann.
Sue pushed on and asked Bob why he never gave her messages to give to Ann. Bob's answer? "Oh Ann would hate that. I know you can handle it, that's why I will keep doing it." Unfortunately at that point Sue did not have the courage to advise him that she hated it, too.
Shame on Bob, he is being a lazy communicator.