Enough is enough

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You may have been wondering.. where are all the office secret posts? Well I got stuck with a micromanaging boss last January and had 8 months of sheer hell. I employed all my techniques I explained in the last few blogs but she was really wearing me down.. I let it get to me.. as did my poor colleagues and it was affecting  our health and home life.

So I applied for a new job in the company and got it! In August I took a new role and life is looking much better! But not for the reasons you may think and thats what I want to share with you today.

So stuck with a micromanager? Three strategies.

  1. Find a new job – not so easy to do and quite stressful so..
  2. Stick it out – your boss may leave sooner than you think. If they are as bad as you think they may get demoted, or fired, or laid off. Or re-organized. My colleagues who didnt find a new job actually lucked out when the company did a reorganization and the horrid boss got moved to another department in  January 2017. So had I waited, she would have been gone. And I could have seen this coming – look around you and see if this happens in your company – but in my company its routine for people to get promoted every 18 months to 2 years.. so maybe all you have to do is sit tight and wait it our!
  3. Don’t let them get you down – remember for most of you this job isnt about world hunger, or war and peace. Its just a job. Sure it pays your salary but try not let it affect the rest of your life – take a step back and put it in perspective – and keep your ego in check. Its only 8 hours a day and then you can go and focus on what really matters – your family, your health. Just try not to get caught up in the job. If you can’t do this – see 1 and 2 above.

But this isnt what I actually wanted to share. My new boss is ALSO a micromanager! But heres the thing I learned from this.. to me its not the fact they micromanage.. its HOW they micromanage.

Old boss would give barking instructions at 3am on Saturday night by email and my blood pressure would  be high all Sunday. New boss buzzes me on IM during the workday and asks if its ok if I can send her this or that right now.

Old boss would review my work word by word and constantly edit it – and reply with comments by email. New boss asks for weekly updates on what I am doing, and detailed presentations… which she thanks me profusely for in person.. and still gives edits.

Old boss did give thanks but rarely- 1:1 so no-one else could see and it wasn’t sincere. New boss says thanks in front of a crowd so everyone knows I do a good job.

The difference is the new boss is much nicer about it.. more personable and thankful for it.. even though the micromanaging outcome is the same.  And although its not ideal, I am ok with it. Plus I bear #3 in mind!

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Working with a micromanager

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They say in every career you will run into a micromanager as a boss. I just got my second one.  My experience first time wasn’t good at all but fortunately my company has managers playing musical chairs so they are usually gone after two years and I survived him.

However two years is still a long time so here’s a few practical strategies to help you get through it!

  1. Keep them busy – a micromanager can really only be like that if they don’t have enough to do. If they are busy they will be too busy to micromanage you and have to trust you to do your work. So overwhelm them with stuff to review and read etc. Micromanagers can be slow to get things done or make many rounds of revision so be sure to give them lots of time, and tell them a due date (a date thats a few days earlier than needed) to get it done by. Or send them something not critical.  Remind them often about getting it done.
  2. Pick your battles –  I try to keep it in perspective – at the end of the day I work to pay bills. Work isn’t my whole life. So I will only fight on what is important to me and just sigh and shrug and do the rest – currently detailed spreadsheets and plans on every minutia I work on.
  3. Push back  – when they ask you to do yet another task, push back with questions or ask for more details. Micromanagers love details.  But ensure what you ask for means they will have to spend time (preferably lots of it) working on what you need, and that they can’t push that back on you. This will keep them busy
  4. Pre-empt – Try and get ahead of the questions and keep them updated before they ask. This will allow you to get on with other stuff rather than jumping as soon as the request comes in.
  5.  Defer – If they want to review and see everything you do, let them.  And let them do the work for you. Ask for their guidance and decisions and review. And sit back and let them do it. They will feel appreciated and you can take a break!
  6. Block – Micromanagers love meetings so block off your schedule to work on critical things and hopefully they will respect that and book around it.
  7. Communicate – keep them updated on what you are working on in a manner that works for them i.e.  a daily email in the morning listing what you are working on, or a brief morning meeting to explain. This will calm their fears. I prefer popping in to their desk and saying “I am busy working on this for the next few hours- when do you want an update on what I am doing?” and then perhaps they leave you alone till then.
  8. Stay calm and do the job –  Your job at the end of the day is ultimately just to keep your manager happy and make them look good. So jump through the hoops and prioritize what they ask for to the best of your ability and eventually they should learn to trust you.

I am counting the days till she leaves.. only 475 working days to go.

Do you have any useful tips to help me through it? Let me know!

 

The Art of not saying NO!

NO NO NO NO

People don’t like to hear the no word. Especially your boss. He is asking you do something and even if you want or need to say no, its not what he wants to hear. So if you want to get ahead you need to frame it better so that you are both  happy. So my tips for today on how to say no.. or not.

Deflect –  If its a colleague asking try and direct them to someone else .. “I can’t help you right now with my workload but I believe Joe would be able to help./ Joe was working on this../ I think Joe knows more about this than me..”

Delay – Replace “no” with “not now”. Say you “can’t handle it right now but will get back to them with it on” a set date. Then you can work on it when less busy, or they may go elsewhere to get the work done. Another situation is where you are in a meeting and someone dumps work on you. You don’t want to get into an argument or say no at that time so just nod and you will “look into it /do more investigation/  get back to them on it”. Then followup later with that person in a 1:1 where saying no is easier.

Ignore – if the request comes by email (and not from your boss)…. Close the email and mark it unread. And wait. If its important they will call you and you can make an excuse why you didn’t work on it. This will give you valuable time to get other stuff done i.e. “I saw the email but haven’t got to it yet .. I must have missed it”/ “I don’t remember seeing it.. can you send again” etc. This shows how busy you are as well!

Give them work   – Another way of avoiding saying no is to give work to the person asking, so the request goes away – possibly temporarily – maybe permanently.

  • So if they ask  you to do “x” you can respond with “I think we need to take a step back and look at the strategy here, can you set up a meeting with all these people so we can review”. Do a few strategy meetings and people may decide you don’t need to be involved after all, or that the project was a bad idea etc.
  • Or give them some prep work – try “I can help you but can you do X Y and Z and then we will meet later to review before I get started”?”. By asking them to do some initial work they may balk at doing anything at all and so the request will go away.
  • In my office, my IT and creative department have “submission forms” that  they ask people to fill up before doing work. These are long and complex and then involve a meeting afterward to discuss. They take time and work on the part of the submitter…. which best case means they may not bother submitting the form at all… or will give you a delay while they complete the form.

Say yes but mean no – One of my colleagues always says yes to whatever you ask. But she then doesn’t do anything unless the request comes from a senior level employee or is high exposure. If you ask her where the work is, she has numerous excuses about workload etc. This is worth a try but be careful as the requester could escalate to your boss so be prepared to respond to questions if this happens.

Quick tip – taking credit for others work

Busy busy today so thought I would share a single quick tip to help you get ahead.

Taking credit for other peoples work is unethical. But unfortunately its a way of office life.

A good boss will give you credit for your work – but good bosses are rare.  Chances are your boss takes credit for your work, at least in part – another reason you aren’t getting promoted.  And if he/she is a good boss maybe they will also take blame too – although more often than not they will pass blame to you! No wonder you aren’t getting ahead!

Todays quick tip – take credit as subtly as you can for others work. In a team situation, don’t say “Joan produced this”.. Say “we produced this/ we are working on this” or “here is this document that was produced” people will assume you did it.

Everyone else is taking credit – you might as well do it too!

Are you in meeting hell?

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Too many meetings? Back to back meetings can mean you are attending the last meeting without having taken any actions since the previous one. Or you are invited to meetings that don’t get anywhere or don’t really need your attendance. Or sitting in meetings that would have been sorted by a short email or phone call. Office life really can be meeting hell and all you can think about is getting back to your desk to get some work done!! And a drink  🙂

So a few quick meeting tips:

#1 accept all meetings – ok I know this sounds like it will make things worse. But if you don’t accept, you will be spending time explaining why you didn’t accept. Best to accept them all.  But half of them will get cancelled anyway. If they do – leave them in your calendar anyway. People won’t book you at that time – or if they try just say “I have a conflict”. (you can always say you forgot it was cancelled and/or blame it on an outlook glitch). This will free up some time.

#2 Skip meetings you think are irrelevant or low exposure or if your boss/senior management isn’t there – especially if a lot of people are invited. Half the time people invite as many people as possible and don’t need you anyway. If anyone asks you “had a conflict” or “had a fire to put out”.  These are get out of jail free cards and are great excuses for being absent from meetings. And there is always the famous “it wasn’t on my calendar / it didn’t send me a reminder” excuse where you blame Outlook again.

#3 Conference calls – by now you have probably learned to put the phone on speaker, muted – then do other work. But sometimes its hard to concentrate with blah blah going on. So after 30 minutes don’t tell anyone you are leaving – just hang up. And use the excuses above in #2 if anyone notices you are gone.

#4 If you asked to set up a meeting you don’t think is important or relevant. Set it up immediately. That will keep everyone happy. A few days later just cancel it with no explanation. If anyone asks, give an excuse – “i had a conflict but I will reschedule”. And don’t reschedule! Chances are they may forget you cancelled and you just got out of the meeting! Another excuse is you tell them you actually rescheduled but “maybe forgot to add them to the new request.. but anyway the meeting decision was…”

Hopefully these tips will help you make the most of your time and get out of meeting hell!

Work overload stopping you from getting ahead?

Its been a while because my day job has been crazy but I thought I would share some quick tips that I have learned from successful colleagues on managing work overload!

First of all you’d think the key to work overload is to get better organized, and manage your time. I am super organized and it does help – but only to a degree.

So experts say talk to your boss and ask them to help. But talking to your boss rarely works – as the reason you are overloaded is they aren’t managing your workload to start with and likely unable to manage their own. In many cases your workload comes from them anyway!

So the conversation when I have it, usually ends up with me having MORE to do. Whether its another priority they forgot about, or they want me to sit down and create a big list of what I am working on so they can help prioritize it. They forget that if it was that easy I would have done it myself! But you spend a few hours putting the list together anyway. Then you pore through the list with them at a second meeting you don’t have time for. If you are lucky, and by pressuring them to decide, you can get them to prioritize for you – if you are lucky- as many managers can’t handle that – to them everything is important and urgent!! But then a day later along comes another project (from them!) and you are back to having the conversation again. Total waste of time you don’t have.

So Tip  1 is – if nobody is asking for the work, and it doesn’t matter how important it is to the company, put it on the back burner till someone asks. Only the high exposure projects matter.

Tip 2 – NEVER take on anyone else work. Doesn’t matter if they are sick/off/ overloaded. Once you take it once you will be stuck with it forever.

Tip 3 –  Book time off in your calendar every day to get work done. Otherwise you will get stuck on back to back meetings and never get work done.  Too many meeting requests? I will address that in a later tip!

Beam me up Scotty!

The topic of this post is about setting expectations with your boss and anyone you do work for, specifically around timing of work. As an experienced employee you will know roughly how long it takes to get a certain task done. So when someone asks you to do something and asks how long it will take you would think the obvious course of action is to tell them. But here is a secret  I have learned from big business – its better to under promise and over deliver.

Take this common scenario where a project is given to you with a set deadline from upper management. You know from past experience of similar projects that the deadline is unrealistic.So you tell them that right? !!No.!!!

Heres an example of a common scenario where i work.

“Hey can you design this collateral for me? Its rush and I need it next week” says my manager.  Issue is that collaterals take 2 weeks to make which includes design services (who have a heavy workload and other jobs to manage) and also the process needs to allow time for my manager to review. She is busy with other things and never turns things around fast.

So in the past I would say “Having a collateral built will take 2 weeks”. Which then leads to long discussions about how long it takes, and why does it take that long and how important the project is and an unhappy boss!

So having watched and learned from other projects  and other people in the office I changed tack and now say “Sure no problem, I will need to rush it but I will do my best!”. And boss is happy! Then I start work knowing it won’t be ready in time.

Then when the unrealistic deadline starts to near , boss starts asking where it is I start blaming things and slowly pushing the time out. “I just spoke to the team – the project slipped a little and is going to be one more day because.. team are overloaded, your review took 2 days, I had another rush project, John was sick etc etc So I am expecting it tomorrow”. Blaming it on unforeseen circumstances and other peopleAnd repeat pushing it out whenever asked till the 2 weeks have passed and the piece is ready. People seem much more accepting of delays, than you being honest up front. 

And of course if the piece is ready before the 2 weeks then I look like a superstar – which is why, like Scotty on Star Trek,  you should always pad your time estimates – you will look like a hard worker when you produce the work earlier than predicted!

For whatever reason, on the majority of projects (but not all), apologizing for the project being late seems to be more acceptable than being straight up front – despite the fact the project takes the same amount of time!

Part of this is because in many cases your boss is only asking because their boss is asking them up front when they brief them on the project and they need to give them a due date. Both bosses then usually become too busy to keep track of time and when the deadline actually was – so  this process can work quite well – unless the project is very high visibility.

Give it a try next time!