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Monday, February 11, 2008

Micro-Managers

Most recently I switched jobs due to an enticing “creative & leadership” role and have been there for 3 months. Upon starting, I was asked to complete a presentation for my manager and “higher-ups”. I did a rough draft, presented it to manager and explained that I was planning to transition this into a more formal document.

She told me to leave the document as is. I explained my concerns and she told me to leave it as is. Long story short, it was not fine. I presented, they (the higher-ups) hated it and she asked me to give up the project completely. When I told her “no thank you” she commented that since I am only in my mid 20’s, it’s ok to be stressed and that everyone would understand due to my age. As you can understand I was furious and started not to trust her. I don’t blame her for my poor work, but I do blame her for using poor manager skills and trying to make me feel incompetent. I revised the doc right away (my way) and sent it off to everyone in the meeting. They gave me praise, but also gave her the credit for “helping me” (ugh) She gave me half the credit in response.

I have noticed that she knocks me a lot. I have asked her to double check a project before it leaves the department, she doubled checked it and explained to me in several ways why I was a disappointment and not good with details. There have been no improvements since then. Naturally, I can’t do anything correct. She continues to call me an equal, but treats me like an intern. I have not put the company in danger or risked losing money, so I don’t see why this criticism is necessary.

I have a lot of resentment at this point, and while I know it’s been a short time, I don’t know how long I can work with someone who is not helping me improve my career.

My question to my LONG story is: Do you see these as red flags, or am I just being sensitive to someone who doesn’t understand how to work with people?


Flags. Red. Hmmmm, just what kind of danger do these flags seem to be indicating?

From your description, I can see this in two different lights.

1. Your manager really did think that your draft presentation was fine, and was shocked with the higher ups disagreed. So, now she has to cover her rear end by blaming you.

2. Your manager needs to feel superior and because of that, she needs to have others around her that fail.

Truth be told, both are terrible management practices.

Just how does she treat you like an intern? Is it because she oversees your work, or because she has you making copies and filing things? Some bosses like to oversee a lot more than others. You've only been in this job for 3 months and she may not feel comfortable with you yet. Does she hover over the other people in the department? If so, it's not a personal thing, it's just how she manages.

Is it age discrimination? Not legally. You aren't considered a protected class until you hit 40, which you haven't. But keep in mind, being young means you don't have a lot of experience. You may be brilliant--truly brilliant--but you just don't have a lot of experience.

There are definitely flags, but from here I can't tell the color. What it is signaling is her management style. Here are the steps I would advise:

Step 1: Arrange a meeting with her. Explain that you feel like you aren't meeting her expectations and could she please help you to understand what is required. If she's just a nit-picky hoverer, this meeting will be pointless in practical application, other than to make her aware that she's annoying you. If, however you have some short-comings in this area (not unlikely, given your short tenure), this will help to establish what you need to do to meet her expectations. And please note, your expectations of what this job would be like and what her expectations are could be two completely different things.

Once you have expectations set, work hard to meet them and then go to step two.

Step 2: Deal with it. Understand that she's going to criticize and hover and hang you out to dry whenever possible. Work your best. Make sure you don't present any "rough" drafts to her any more--just completed professional work. Sure, she'll want changes (That font on the power point presentation--is that Arial Narrow because I prefer Times New Roman.), but they will probably be minor.

When you are meeting with her management remain professional and don't let your annoyance of the whole situation show. Just be professional and cheerful. Make it clear that you've done the work.

Step 3: If this doesn't resolve the problem, then start looking for a new job. By the way, this resolution should take a considerable amount of time--so I'd say start looking for a new job when you've been there a year. There's no requirement that you stay in an unhappy job. Start looking. Incidentally, I find that some people agonize more over leaving a job then they do about leaving a spouse. That really should be the other way around.

Micro-managing, power hungry, credit grabbing bosses stink. But, this same boss may really be trying to help you figure out the ropes in an area you are new in. If that's the case, you don't want to dismiss her to closely.

Keep trying for a while, and see what happens.

10 comments:

Ask a Manager said...

Re: the writer's paragraph about how the manager says he's not good with details and corrects his work -- well, it's possible he's not good with details and his work needs correction. In fact, at his experience and tenure level, I'd pretty much expect his work will need *some* correction. So there might be another side to this story that we're not hearing. I'd also note that the writer's statement that "I have not put the company in danger or risked losing money, so I don’t see why this criticism is necessary" shows some naivete -- your boss wants you doing good work even if the consequences aren't so serious. It's possible this manager is hands-on but not inappropriately micromanaging, and the employee is bristling at it without lots of cause....?

Evil HR Lady said...

Very insightful, oh managerial expert. You are probably right and I am probably over defensive of the people who write me.

Ask a Manager said...

My role is to spread rain throughout the world, it seems. :) I don't mean to discount the possibility that the employee is in the right; god knows there are more bad managers out there than good ones.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar situation happen to me. My boss was overpromoted (promoted beyond her capability) and set up to fail by our senior management. She hired me and made me do a lot of her managerial bumpf which she took credit for at closed senior meetings, where I could neither present my work or even take half of the credit for it. I stuck around for a year but it was a brutally toxic environment when your desire to do good work is impeded by someone who is working so hard to cover their own ass that they would stoop to this level.

Wally Bock said...

As Ask a Manager says, we only have one side of the story. But here's something I use with coaching clients who often sound like the writer.

When you're thinking about how your manager treats you ask if she's specific about what you did wrong, or if she uses phrases like "always" as in "you always hand in sloppy work." Specific criticism of individual bits of work is usually a sign that the manager is trying to teach.

When you're thinking about how your manager talks to you, pay attention to whether she criticizes you or your work. If the language is about you as in "you're a disappointment" there may not be much hope of salvaging the relationship. On the other hand if she talks about your work and how to fix it, or that your work is not the quality she expected, it's likely things will ultimately work out if you and she work at it.

Evil HR Lady said...

Excellent suggestion, Wally.

The Ethical Slut said...

I've had two female managers that fit your description to a T. I think the comments are probably valid, but it just reminds me too much of these women: conniving, backstabbing, sabotaging, hysterical and overly personal. One canceled my sales appointments with big clients over and over...and then went herself and blamed me! The other cried when I didn't invite her out to drinks with 2 of my coworkers. Read Queen Bee and Tripping the Prom Queen (and also Toxic Coworkers, just to round out your workplace education)

HR Wench said...

My official HR opinion is:

Dude, that is messed up.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to weigh in late, but I also think the writer made a big mistake by correcting the original presentation and resending it to the meeting attendees. That makes her boss look bad, and would certainly cause her not to trust the writer. Going around the boss instead of through the boss always causes problems.

Micromanajerks said...

I have worked for several micromanagers.. one in particular who manages every detail he possibly can about my work. Even when he is out of town he calls in constantly and will call others with whom I work with to check on my work. After five years of working closely with him he has gotten slightly better but I can always tell when his personal life is on the rocks because he becomes that much worse of a micro manager. It got so bad that I created a website for others and myself to vent anonymously... http://www.micromanajerks.com/ because I needed some place to vent. Everything I try with the boss doesn't work so I figured I may as well help others in my shoes with a good laugh and to know that they are not alone.