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Micromanaging Boss

I am an executive assistant to a high ranking VP in our winery. I have over 24 years experience in what I do and I have been working with my boss for over 3 1/2 years now. I have a good reputation in both our department and the winery in general, get good performance reviews and I believe I have proven myself over and over. My boss, however, writes down every single thing he asks me to do and then expects follow-up on everything. This includes such things as whether or not, and when, I have shipped an engraved decanter to an employee in Australia who was here for meetings recently but couldn't take it with him because he was on vacation for the 3 weeks after that. Have you ever worked with a boss like this, and how do you convince him that what he does is counterproductive? I am extremely frustrated at this point. Thank you.

Submitted by: Angeliki De Morgan


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I’ve worked for a boss just like yours and there is no way you are going to change him. Or convince him it is counterproductive. You have to change your mind set or else find someone else to work for. People like these are micromanagers and they have a fear something is going to slip past them or that you are not doing your job correctly. If you like your job, start making spreadsheets and charts and give him what he wants and don’t take it personally because these types of people don’t even realize they are micromanaging. I know your frustration, you can only change yourself and your attitude, you’ll never change his I’m sorry to say. I finally ended up quitting only to be hired back 4 months later to work for VP of Operations who give me the freedom to do my job the way I see fit. Anonymous on 8/26/2008 12:19:12 PM
I used to work for someone like that as well. Even photocopies had to be “initialed w/a date” to make sure they were photocopied for the right person in a timely manner. You can try to keep a running sheet in Excel that you create (either daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) and just fill in the request and when and how it was taken care of, attaching any fedex vouchers, backup, etc. to the request and keep a 3-ring binder with this information in it. Keep it locked up (I’ve had co-workers destroy info on me) and each time he asks, you have a records of what has been done. Certainly, over a period of time, he will see you are handling things correctly and will ease up. Date Requested Request Date Handled How To Whom 8/22 Dinner reservation 8/22 Phone Carol @ restaurant 8/25 Send flowers to Carol 8/25 Phone Len @ Flower to Go (will deliver 8/26) Anonymous on 8/26/2008 12:08:09 PM
I just left a position of 30+ years and my boss was also a micromanager. I finally asked her to give me her list of things she wanted me to do THEN asked her to ranked them by HER priority. It worked for me. Priority was then her call and I could back up my actions with her decisions. Nancy Weber on 8/26/2008 8:46:53 AM
Hi Angiliki: You have proven yourself to your boss over and over again and yet he can't trust you to carry out your assigned tasks makes me wonder if he fears losing control or some past experience may be preventing him from trusting anyone. The only way I see to handle it is to beat him at his own game. Give him an update before he has a chance to ask you if you completed an assignment. Continue to reinforce that you are responsible enough to perform your duties without close supervision. SWW on 8/26/2008 6:35:33 AM
Hi Angeliki, I can sympathize with your plight, and I agree with the other posters who suggested keeping a log each day. That's what I do with my boss (CEO). It would be nice if your boss were to change a bit, but let's face it, he's not. You, unfortunately, have to adapt to HIM. It stinks, but that's the reality. I've found that the only way to deal with micromanagers is to bury them in reports/details. Here's a time-saving suggestion for you: instead of taking 30 minutes at the end of the day to compile an email to your boss, wracking your brains to recall every little minute thing, first thing each morning start a "Task Update - mm/dd/yy" e-mail to your boss, but save it in your Drafts folder. As you go along throughout your day, just type in each item as you do it, so at the end of the day, you can just hit "send." Two bonuses with this system are 1) before your yearly performance review, you can skim your sent emails and look for any outstanding items you did that you might have forgotten about; and 2) if you are asked about something but can't remember when you did it, just check your Sent emails for a keyword, and you'll have the date you did it, along with any forgotten pertinent details. Hope this helps. Kelly Kelly Humiston on 8/25/2008 4:07:54 PM
Hi, Angeliki, Welcome to the club, for starters! I worked with someone who was the same. If I failed to perform one of her many tasks she had listed in her "file" she litterally threw a hissy fit, and I was the Secretary/Executive Assistant and work for her for 7 1/2 years, so I can completely understand what you're going through. Micromanaging I think is a safety net for some top executives - to assure them that they are not forgetting to cross their "T's" and dot their "I's", therefore passing down to you the extra added frustration of knowing that they are noting everything that gets done, when it gets done, and how long it takes you to do it. The best advice I can give - if you're going to stay employed with this company - keep a separate log of everything you do. Note the length of time it took you to do it, when it was done, what and when items were shipped, etc. We can't get around micromanaging. The best thing good admininistrative personnel can do is meet it head on and not be intimidated by it. Let your boss know that you're also keeping track of "everything" you're given to do, regardless of how small or how large the task may be, you're just as much as ahead of the game as he is. It can only help you in the long run. Remember, you are in charge of the work you do. Keep doing it well, and I am confident that your boss will have no choice but to notice the work you do and reward you in time to come. Rene Rivers on 8/25/2008 3:33:57 PM
I worked for a fanatical micromanager - and he was known far and wide for his attitude. After he told me to "put the pages in the binder and MAKE SURE THEY'RE RIGHT SIDE UP!", I quietly asked him for some time and I told him that in order for us to work well together, he would have to begin to trust me. I told him I had a strong work ethic, I took pride in doing a good job, and I would do everything possible to make sure his work was done not only on time, but as SOON as possible. Then I had to train myself to realize it wasn't anything personal about my performance (the man had 8 admins in 7 years and I was #8!). Once I realized that I felt better. He didn't completely calm down, but talking to him allowed me to have my say (diplomatically) and then I began keeping a work log as so many of us do. Having written proof of finished tasks soothed his worries and gave me more confidence (there were times he practically had ME convinced I didn't do something which I KNEW I had!) If you have a reasonably normal person who just needs reassurance, documentation will probably be your best bet. If you work on a shared drive or can both access the same documents, having a log he can check himself would probably be very good for him and less of a headache for you. If he's crazed, like my old boss, then you just have to realize it's a personallity quirk and he probably won't change. However, a couple reminders a year did keep things manageable. After 25+ years, it was a challenge, but hey - they called me the "long-timer!" I actually lasted 7 years versus all the others. ;-D Best of luck. Elizabeth Engelson on 8/25/2008 3:08:28 PM
Knowing that he'll check, you might as well keep a diary and stay ahead of him by letting him know, "Mission accomplished." Keep it positive. If after 3 1/2 years he does not know that he can trust you to "git 'er done," he never will. Accept it and respond accordingly and even laughingly. I know you also anticipate his needs and then he gets to put it down and cross it off his list! Crossing stuff off is cathartic for some. Let him make his check mark. It makes him feel better. Linda Palmer on 8/25/2008 2:36:34 PM
I keep track of all assignments and tasks and at the end of each day I send an e-mail with a subject title of Update and provide a status report on each item I'm responsible for completing as well as an update on all items I handled on his behalf. This was a new process I introduced to him. It didn't take long for him to get used to it and he looks forward to receiving my update e-mails. Maybe you could introduce something like this to your boss and once he becomes accustomed to the process he will quit MMing you. Goodluck! Kimberly Edge on 8/25/2008 2:27:21 PM
I agree with everyone who said to beat him to the punch with reports. I have a boss like that. I started copying her on every email and printing everything to PDF so that I could email it to her when it was completed (like an online inquiry I submitted or a supplier survey I completed). She rarely asks me about anything anymore, even when I don't offer an update. Kathleen Newton on 8/25/2008 2:25:45 PM
Hi Angeliki, I have had bosses like that and the best way to deal with them is tell him the day you complete an assignment so he does not have to ask. If you have a deadline and it appears that you will not make it, sit down and talk to him before the deadline and explain why it cannot be done on a specific date (be sure you are not the reason), but be ready to give him an alternative date. Most executives I've worked for like it when I go to them with a resolution and/or even an update before they "have to" come to me. It builds trust in you and gives them confidence that they don't have to keep asking if something is done. Try being a little more pro-active and see if that doesn't change him a little. Don't expect miracles, but a little change is better than none. A micromanager micromanages because he/she doesn't know the answer. If you give them the answer before they ask, maybe he won't micromanage so much. Try it - you have trust to gain. V AlVerta Harty on 8/25/2008 2:01:18 PM
The first thing that I would do would be to meet with him and express your concerns. I have a boss that reports to 36 Trustees and he absolutely needs to know when things are taken care of. I simply e-mail him and let him know exactly when I took care of an item so he knows that it is done. But communication is so important. Patricia Donnellan on 8/25/2008 1:57:29 PM
Hi there: I had a boss like that at one time. He was a Post-It freak. He would write everything down on a post-it (one post-it for each task) and then would check with me. If I completed it, he would throw the post-it away. If not he would continually check with me and his post-its. I would say that your best bet is to follow-up with him before he follows up with you. Send him an email for everything he asks you to do. Send him a shipper number or tracking I.D. number for every shipment. That way, maybe you can cut him off at the pass. Micromanager's are really hard to work for, good luck! Donna Brown Donna Brown on 8/25/2008 1:54:07 PM
Micromanagement (which some consider to be a curse word) is a horribly de-motivating trait in a supervisor - however, it is often an engrained trait and one that has, at very least, permitted this boss to advance over the years, and so has never been considered a negative by him (I would venture to guess.) I don't think you will be able to change him. I would encourage you to consider what you can do. First off, it sounds like you have been able to tolerate it - so think of what his standard behavior is, and expect it. Reward him when he doesn't track an item by providing a full update on a task item that he wasn't expecting. Also, make a little game of it - see if you can figure out his panic button on report back - is it 24 hrs, 48, 96 - that sort of thing. If the Muhammad won't go to the mountain. Finally, start heading off his inquiries. My experience has typically been that most micromanagers are hard wired to be in constant communication. His lists and his style of follow up inquiries are his security blanket for moving forward with more involved projects. Once he sees you reporting back before being asked, he may lighten up his inquiries. Good luck - MMs are a pain in the tookis - and can really work one's nerves. Dial him down to a preschooler and it does at VERY least become a little more tolerable to be around the behavior. Jaisend on 8/25/2008 1:45:54 PM
Honestly, he might never believe his actions are "counterproductive." I have supported managers in the past (and currently support someone) who keep track of all sorts of details some might find minute, but to that individual they are important. I would suggest keeping a notebook and the most detailed notes you possibly can. Save every email message, develop a filing system for as much paper as you can, and follow up via email as often as possible so your boss can have those answers in his hands at all times. If it's something you truly feel you cannot continue doing, it's probably time to dust off the resume. As administrative support, we can try to help our bosses streamline work processes but ultimately we have to be able to adapt to their preferred way of working. Kelly Olsakovsky on 8/25/2008 1:41:04 PM
Just a suggestion. Keep an extremely detailed itinerary (I mean down to the minute) of everything you do during the day. Hand him this list at the end of the day. Then when he asks if you've done something, you can tell him to look at the list. I did this once and my boss said that she didn't realize she was micromanaging so much. We were able to talk about whether or not she really respected me and believed that I could do my job accurately. It was hard for her to stop, but she did back off. Eventually, I could just look at her when she asked questions and she would joke about it and go on. BTW - what winery and where? Anonymous on 8/25/2008 8:41:29 AM

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