I’ve been with my company for 2 years. I really like it. I have friends at work, like the culture, I like the job. It has been great. About 5 months ago, we hired a new leader for my division. I was excited at first and tried to make a good impression, but now I’m really bummed. This guy is a terrible boss. He is a micro-manager. I can tell he doesn’t really like me and he is making my day to day job really stressful. So much so that I don’t want to go to work and I avoid him at all costs. When he misses our 1:1s I’m thrilled. I know that each 1:1 he will pick apart everything I do and ultimately it will ruin my whole day.
At this point, I think I should look for a new job, but I’m annoyed, because I like this company and would be sad to leave. Why are there so many bad managers out there? Any ideas for me?
Bad Manager Blues
Dear Bad Manager Blues
We’ve all been there - things are going along great at work and then a re-org or a new leader and it shakes everything up. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes not so much. I wouldn’t rush to do anything. 5 months may feel like a long time, but this guy is still getting the lay of the land and figuring out all the people on the team and co-workers and how to make an impact. Maybe you can manage up in a way that works out.
Here are a few things to try:
Be direct - Have you asked him why he wants to spend so much time in the details? There could be an underlying concern he has about your work or the deliverables or pace of results. Can you probe to find out what he is worried about? Micro-management is sometimes used to keep track of under-performers. Do you think he doesn’t trust your work or doesn’t think you are doing a good job? If that is the case, over-communicate, show results, agree on deliverables and timelines and execute well and make sure he knows you are meeting objectives.
Take control of your interactions - managers have different styles and figuring out your new bosses style may take time. But it can really help. Now that you know he is a micro-manager, can you provide him lots of detail, but redirect the 1:1 time? For example - tell him that he seems to care about the details of the project, so you have shared a detailed project plan you’d like his feedback on. See if you can move some of the detail review into a shared document he can review outside of your in person meeting. And then ask for what you need in the 1:1s. “I’d love if we could use 15 min of the meeting to talk about the blockers I had this week and your advice for how to proceed.” You need to take control of the agenda of the meeting and keep to the schedule - if he is rat-holing on details - up level him…”Bob, I know you are worried about xx getting out on time, but I think the bigger issue is that yy and zz are not moving forward. Do you have advice for me on those bigger issues?”
Find some allies - Have you talked with anyone else about his management style? You seem to have a lot of good relationships at this company - so lean on some friends (and maybe friends in high places) to see what they think. Is he treating everyone like this or just you? If this is his style, then ask for advice (from HR or a more senior mentor) for how to deal with him more effectively. Sometimes when you discover that you aren’t the only one feeling these things. it gives you a little more confidence to face it head on or to ask for help in making it better for everyone.
What can you do to help? Before you throw in the towel, can you see the situation from his perspective? Are there issues he is dealing with that make his job really hard (and shit is running downhill)? Are there things he is asking you to do that you aren’t doing? As a new boss in the company - he is trying to make an impact - is there anything you can do to help him (given you’ve been there longer)? See if you can empathize with him a bit (maybe right before you walk into your 1:1) and try to change the dynamic. Ask more questions in your interactions with him to see what is really going on and how you can help him.
If none of those things help - you should look around the company and see if there are any other jobs you can transfer into before you totally abandon ship. But, sadly, people leave bad managers more than companies and sometimes, it is time to move on.
One other unsolicited note - don’t tell someone you are leaving because of a bad manager, no new hiring manager wants to hear that - so have a better story at the ready if you do decide to interview elsewhere.
write to me at email@example.com with your questions.