Today I’m answering questions about working with control freaks who micromanage your time.
Due to budget cuts, I’m doing the work of two staffers. I handle all of the report formatting, filing and detail work for seven professionals. I am fast, competent and able to prioritize. I like my job and most of those I work for, but I have little patience for fools or those who think I am one.
One of these professionals routinely overstates his project’s urgency. He intentionally sets bogus deadlines so I’ll start on his assignments even though several of the others have projects that also need attention. Then, these others wonder why I’m so slow.
When I tell him to just put it in my inbox and try to work on the others’ projects, he needles me with statements and questions like, “You know I need it done by…” and, “Do you have everything you need to start my project?” His badgering irritates me, breaks my concentration and cuts into the time I have to complete my full workload.
What irritates me most is he doesn’t seem to realize that I have a brain and have been here long enough that I know his customers’ deadlines, so I know some of the assignments he says need to be handled pronto aren’t needed for at least a week. To shut him up, I’ve taken to doing whatever he gives me first and letting everyone else’s work slide. I know better than to bring the others into it, as they defer to him, and he’s vengeful and will trash my reputation to our general manager. What can I do?
When you find yourself in a deadlocked situation that erodes job satisfaction, ask yourself, “What’s really going on here?” You work for a supervisor who wants to control your time — and so do you. You want to avoid unfair manipulation and keep your job. You need him off your back and to convince him you’ll take care of his projects.
First, the more you shut him down, the harder he’ll push. When you tell him to add his projects to the stack because you have other jobs that take precedence, he doesn’t think you realize the importance of his work. Instead, do what you’re now doing, and ask him to give you a time frame for when he needs it back. Add it to an Excel spreadsheet listing each of his deadlines, along with those of the other professionals, and a column showing how long each assignment actually takes. Add a column for interruptions and communications, and identify the time this takes as well.
When he gives you bogus deadlines that move his assignments ahead of the others’ deadline projects, ask if he’ll OK that with his peers. If they defer to him, that’s their problem, not yours; however, send them all a copy of the spreadsheet so they see where your time goes. Ultimately, they need to handle their urgent peer or give you an assistant or teammate to handle the overflow. If you maintain your professionalism, you avoid clouding the issue with your behavior. In short, avoid the control battle, and concentrate on winning the war.
© 2016, Lynne Curry. If you have a career question you’d like Curry to answer, write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Curry is an executive coach and author of Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully, AMACOM. You can follow Curry through her other posts on sheknows.com, via workplacecoachblog.com, bullywhisperer.com™ or @lynnecurry10 on Twitter.