Monday, May 16, 2011

Tips for Dealing With a Micromanager -- and Other Workplace Pains

I've read Jodi Glickman's stuff over at Harvard Business Review online for a long time, so it was great to get to finally connect with her for this column I did for Gannett/

Some of the stickiest workplace situations include a micromanaging boss, delegating unwanted tasks and stopping constant interruptions.

The result? Workers who are stressed, overworked and resentful.Dealing with those scenarios are so difficult that some workers avoid them completely and just put up with the annoyances.

Yet, some people know just how to handle such difficult situations at work.

How do they do it? Have they been blessed with magical powers capable of halting irksome bosses in their tracks? Do they possess some secret technology that keeps others from bothering them with unnecessary emails or phone calls?

No, Jodi Glickman says. We all have the same powers — the powers to help us say the right thing at the right time so that we not only alleviate annoying situations at work but get ahead in our careers.

"I think the biggest problem in the workplace today is that people don't communicate their expectations below them or above them," she says. "There is a real disconnect because people rely too much on their assumptions."

In other words, the boss who drives you batty with constant emails doesn't realize that he's hurting your productivity. He just assumes he's staying updated. But you assume he's a micromanaging nutcase who can't trust you to get your work done.

Glickman, who has worked for Goldman Sachs and the Environmental Protection Agency, says some techniques to handle such problems can keep everybody from walking away angry or frustrated. In her new book, Great on the Job, (St. Martin's Griffin, $14.99), she talks about some of the most frustrating situations on the job and how to handle them:

Some of her advice includes:

• Dealing with the micromanager. "This is when you've got to play offense, not defense," she says.

Instead of constantly reacting to a boss' emails or phone calls, send a daily update with information on issues such as a project's progress or timetable. Be as specific as possible so that the boss and the team are receiving information before asking for it, she says.

• Outlining the consequences of interruptions. A blizzard of emails, phone calls or texts can hurt your productivity, so point this out to others.

Glickman suggests saying something like, "I'm having a hard time getting my work done because of the constant interruptions. I'd like to propose being offline from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. every day." Or, "I would do better in getting my work done if I could turn my phone off for a couple of hours every day."

The key "is making the issue is not about you personally but about the productivity impact," she says. "You're not whining; you're proposing a solution."

• Carving out personal time. Workers today often feel they're on duty 24/7 because they may receive emails or phone calls at home. Glickman says the key is letting others know you're doing something else at the moment but will respond later.

"People get really stressed out when you don't respond for three days to an email, so you just tell them that you're out of pocket for 24 hours and will look at the information on Monday and get back to them," she says. "Once they receive an acknowledgement, they're OK. It's the unknowing that's so unnerving for some people."

• Dealing with unrealistic deadlines. "Use transparency," Glickman says. "Communicate what you've got on your plate and tell the boss you'd be happy to work on something, but also outline a realistic timeline of when you can get it done."

She also suggests outlining resources that will be needed to get the job done.

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