In today’s world it seems that more and more employees are overworked and overloaded. Burning the midnight oil is common and accepted. At my company everyone wears the “I worked till 2am last night” message as a badge of honour. They even think you aren’t busy enough if you only work 8-5pm! Honestly its getting boring.
But here’s the thing. I think staff being overloaded isn’t evenly distributed through the levels at many companies.
I was at a meeting yesterday in which a VP (of which we have very many) was describing a new process for designing and implementing certain types of project. It was a presentation that had flow diagrams and arrows and graphs and all this fun stuff. He certainly put a lot of work into it. And the senior VP loved it.
But I sat there stunned. If you really looked at it it worked like this
- high level strategy “what products to focus on” would be done by a team of 20 VPS and directors.
- 2nd level strategy “what audience to target” would be done by another team of assorted 10-20 VPS and directors
- 3rd level “high level messaging strategy” again performed by another team of 10-12 directors and senior managers
- everything else/implementation – design, all the details, content, tools, implementation, tracking and followup would be done by 1 person (with no team or support)
Can you see the issue with this? Not only would it take months to align all these senior VPS and directors to get them to make these decisions (decisions which the person in set 4 could do in an hour max) but there are tons of people working “strategy” but only 1 poor person doing all the implementation!
Here is an example of this in action. New project to be launched – intricate new program which involved setting up a new program for a division – this would require staff training, website, brochures, new tools creation, communications created and deployed etc. For step 1-3 above all the “strategists” had to do was come up with a name for the project – no other work could start until this was done. Project was due completed in 9 months. It took them SIX MONTHS to come up with the name. SIX MONTHS to just to decide a name! Suffice to say the project took over 2 years. (and they changed the name twice!)
This is a classic case of too many chiefs and not enough Indians. Senior managers don’t seem to realize they need actual people to do the work. The implementers are badly overworked. And the company continues to lay off the poorly paid implementers whilst keeping the higher paid strategists!??
One strategist I did talk to said they could always outsource the implementation work to outside companies. (And possibly even the strategy!). But I have seen this attempted and fail badly – outside companies often don’t have the insider knowledge to effectively implement this and prior best practices and practical experience is lost.
Your company got too many chiefs and not enough Indians? If you are an Indian, get on your horse and get out of there.
What does your boss actually do? The answer may surprise you. It appears the higher up the management level that people go, often the less work they have to do. Meanwhile todays employees are buried in work. There are 3 ways this can happen
- The boss only manages people and doesnt have any projects of his/her own
- Their role is to “strategize” but since this mostly happens at the initial stages of a project, then bosses can often find themselves with not enough to do apart from supervise when the project is running.
- They are lazy and/or see their role as “managing” not “doing”
This can cause you, the employee, a number of headaches – not just because you are likely overloaded and could do with them taking some of it off your shoulders.
Nor because you are a little envious.
But because a bored boss is often a micromanaging boss – who will create work to keep themselves busy – extra HR forms, unecessary spreadsheets, projects that go nowhere. Or in many cases when you do need them they can’t/wont help or are nowhere to be found.
Where you can try and give the work back to them – as long as it doesnt mean extra work for you i.e. “Can you help elaborate on this?”, “I would feel more comfortable if you do this…”. I have found this tactic more unsuccessful than successful but its worth a try..
Also don’t let her take the credit for your work – offer to do presentations on your projects to senior management instead of her (if she is a true slacker she will love this). Keep up the good work and make sure everyone knows what you actually do and work on. And people will start to wonder what she actually does.
Who is the backstabber in your office? Are they in your team? Is it your colleague, a team member, other senior management or even your boss?
It doesn’t really matter who they are, or if you know who they are, but you still need to protect yourself from potential backstabbers. I have been in a few situations over the years when I trusted someone and then they stabbed me in the back .. it totally caught me unawares. First time shame on them, second time shame on me.
Since then I have learned to not trust anyone at work – because at the end of the day, its you or them when it comes down to the wire.
So how to protect yourself from the back stabber?
One simple way is to get everything in writing. When you send an email, BCC yourself. Keep a copy. Make sure your email keeps all emails (sent and deleted) for a month. And save the important ones that could be controversial or cause issues later on in a personal folder.
If you are meeting with someone over a topic that you think could cause an issue, send out notes by email after the meeting or call. And keep a copy. “we discussed this and you agreed..”
By keeping a paper trail you can cover yourself by retrieving the email when necessary.
Just last week a senior VP at my company emailed me and copied my boss to ask about a file she said she never received despite the fact I had sent it a week prior, plus she had been informed about this file at many meetings over prior weeks. Likely she was busy and just overlooked it but also knowing her as a backstabber, I simply retrieved the prior email from my sent items and forwarded it to her and copied my boss. I included a new cover note which said “Sorry you missed my last email – resending below”.
This shows her and my boss that I didn’t dropbox the ball.. she did. And I avoided a potential blame game.
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.
- Find a new job – not so easy to do and quite stressful so..
- 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!
- 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!
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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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!
- Block – Micromanagers love meetings so block off your schedule to work on critical things and hopefully they will respect that and book around it.
- 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.
- 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!
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.
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!