Micromanaged

A reader writes…

I feel like I am constantly being micromanaged by my boss. What’s the deal?

Dear, “Under the Microscope,”

This is a tough question for me to answer since I am unaware of your specific situation. Is it that you used to feel more “freedom” in your position and now suddenly things have changed? Are you alone in this, or are your co-workers feeling the same way? Could it simply be your manager’s leadership style?

Regardless of the circumstance, feeling micromanaged is never fun. For some people, however, constant hand-holding and follow-up from their manager is appreciated and even necessary. For instance, if the quality of your work is diminishing, your manager may legitimately need to watch your every move in order to evaluate what’s going on. Perhaps you’re being asked to bite off more than you can chew… and things just aren’t getting done. Or, maybe you’re not the right fit for a particular task (and it’s evident in the work you are producing). Sort of like a science project, your manager may need to observe you under the microscope in order to make an accurate evaluation.

On the other hand, it could just be that you have turned into a complete slacker, and your manager has to keep a close eye on you (kind of like being grounded as a kid!) Be warned, if this is the case, your days on the job may be numbered. Your manager should not have to be your babysitter.

Then, there’s always the possibility that micromanagement is just simply your manager’s preferred “technique.” Don’t hold it against them… this is just how some managers are. They want to be involved with every transaction, copied on every email, and included in every decision. It’s good to have an involved manager. In fact, some people NEVER hear from their manager and have a hard time getting feedback or input on things (which can be even worse!).

I think the best thing for you to do is take a good look at your situation and initiate a conversation with your boss. By sharing your feelings and having an open dialogue you will likely discover the reason behind the microscope.

Anita

Unhappy on the Job

A reader writes…

I have been a Respiratory Therapist for 17 years. I started a new job back in May at a well-known hospital, but I am so unhappy there. I do not like the people there; they constantly talk about others. The morale there is very low, and I feel that it is taking me down with it. I worked at another well-known hospital for 17 years, and I loved it – I just could not keep up with the long drive. The people were nice to work with, and I did not feel like the black sheep. I have started looking for another job, and that is that is not in my personality to do this, but I am so unhappy that I do not know what to do.

Dear “Black Sheep,”

In my opinion, if you’re unhappy with your current place of employment, you should start looking for a new job immediately.

There, I said it. 

Even in an economy where jobs are sparse and millions of people would be willing to take any —and I mean ANY – position, I’m a firm believer that you need to be happy in the place where you spend a good majority of your time.  You’ve been there nearly a year, and things are not going as you had hoped.  That happens.  It’s not easy to deal with, but not every environment or “company culture” is right for every person.

In your case, it doesn’t seem to be your actual “job” that’s bugging you. It’s the people, the environment, the mood. 

Have you spoken with your direct supervisor or manager about this?

Workplace gossip is not only counterproductive; it’s unacceptable and should be avoided.  Your manager needs to be tuned in to the situation and address it right away – particularly if it’s affecting your performance.  (I’m hoping your manager is not PART of the problem!)

You’ve proven that you are a dedicated employee just by the fact that you were at the same hospital for the previous 17 years.  I can also sense by your question that you’re feeling guilty.  Putting your feelers out is not a crime… especially if it’s for your own good (and job satisfaction).  The key is to “look around” without making it known to your current employer.  As mentioned above… jobs can be sparse, and you should avoid unemployment.    Never proactively switch jobs until you have something else completely lined up.

My guess is that you have a lot of people in your professional network that may be able to help.  Likewise, you can consider going through a specialty agency for your field.  Let THEM do all the legwork!

Readers, what do you think? Should she stick it out in hopes that things get better?  Or explore new options?  Post your comments here.

Getting Hired (or not) Based on Age

A reader writes…

I have been out of work for over a year and feel I am not getting any call backs due to my age. I am an Executive Assistant with over 36 years’ experience and feel that most employers don’t want to hire someone who is in their mid-50s instead of appreciating the experience and knowledge I could bring to the job. What would you recommend I do to make prospective employers know I am anxious to work as well as learn new things?

And another reader adds….

I kind of have the same question. I’m 53…and trying to find any NON-physical labor position in what already seems to be a job market for 20-30 year olds has been impossible. I’ve been unemployed for 2 years and 9 months…with only a seven week job a year after being laid off…that I was then laid off from AGAIN.


Dear “Frustrated Fifties,”

You, like many job seekers, are up against “Gen Xers”  (and, well, “Gen Yers”) who have grown up with today’s communications, media, and digital technologies and, quite frankly, are hot-to-trot on dominating the job market.

 Frustrasting?  Yes.
 Impossible to overcome?  No way.

(Now, for my young and eager readers, please don’t take offense.  You too have a lot to offer – but when it comes to experience…. you just can’t compete on this one!)

While I don’t know your exact situation, your interviewing techniques, or the details included in your résumé… there’s not doubt in my mind that you have a drive and willingness to work hard and dedicate yourself to a company.   It’s all about how you present yourself – in writing and in person.  Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Stress your loyalty and desire to grow with a company. I read somewhere that younger job seekers (mentioned above) have a tendency to switch jobs every 24 to 36 months.  This can be extremely costly to corporations… not to mention annoying!
  2. Highlight your availability and willingness to work extra if needed. Many “younger” candidates may not be as flexible or available as you when it comes to working overtime or going the extra mile.  Let’s face it…  your days of picking kids up from school or racing home to get toddlers in the tub are probably a thing of the past!
  3. Emphasize the fact that you’re not necessarily concerned about “getting ahead” or jumping to the next position.  You simply want a steady career where you can utilize your skills and experience, while learning new things.
  4. “Age-proof” your résumé and cover letter. Exclude college graduation dates. Limit previous jobs to the past 15 years. Also, don’t list the length of experience you have in your summary (or objective – if you use one); for example, it’s not a good idea to say you have over 36 years of experience. It will flag you as older.  Also avoid promoting your age with terms like, “seasoned professional” – this is sure to let the cat out of the bag!
  5. Tailor your résumé for a specific job. Hone in on your specific skills and experience relevant to the position.  The more you relate to the precise job at hand, the better.
  6. Take a look in the mirror with a critical eye. Now, unless you’re big on Botox, you can’t necessarily hide your age in person (like you strategically can on paper). Here are 3 areas to work on (for the ladies out there!):
    1. Hair – How are the roots? Are you in need of a new (updated) cut?
    2. Purse – Keep it classic (not trendy), but do some window shopping on contemporary styles.
    3. Shoes – Keep them comfortable but professional!
  7. Try networking!  Social Networking sites, especially LinkedIn, are a great way to connect with potential employers and other professionals.  Someone you know may know somebody, who knows somebody… and so on and so on!
  8. Keep your skills current.  Regardless of age, EVERYONE applying for employment these days needs to be able to send email, work on a computer, and have a basic understanding of software programs (like Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint).
  9. Consider going through a staffing agency.  Select Staffing is part of The Select Family of Staffing Companies, a top 10 staffing firm in the US.  With locations throughout the country and thousands of open positions (many of which are in the Administrative and/or Light Industrial fields), they can help match you to the job/company that’s a perfect match for you!

Hey readers, anyone else experiencing the same thing?  Any additional words of wisdom?  Please post your comments here!

Getting Started

A reader writes…

Dear, Anita,
Today was the first day of my new job, and I feel like I have so many questions. I don’t want to annoy my new boss, but how should I go about getting answers without sounding too stressed or anxious?


Dear, “Antsy,”

It is completely NORMAL to have a ton of questions… especially after your first day! You are just getting started, and any manager would expect nothing less. I can tell that your mind is spinning so here are a few things you can do to help ease any anxieties and get the information you need:

  1. Grab a piece of paper and jot down every question that comes to mind. Consider this your brain dump. For me, writing things down always helps clear the mind and make you feel less overwhelmed. Having a visual list will also enable you to prioritize your thoughts. Right now, as you recall your first day, you’re thinking about everything from, “Where’s the copy room?” to “What’s my phone extension?” In the grand scheme of things, what you really should be thinking about are more fundamental questions such as, “How often should I include my boss in emails?” or “Will we have a set meeting time to regroup each day or week?” These are the things you want to try to get ironed out with your immediate supervisor early on. The other stuff will naturally fall into place.
  2.  Next, if your manager hasn’t done so already, see if you can set aside a meeting with him or her to go over your list of questions (once they’ve been prioritized). It’s best to get a meeting on the calendar where you will receive undivided attention. Tugging at his or her sleeve in the hall every time a thought comes up will get annoying.
  3. As you get more and more into the swing of things, you will likely make new friends and discover great resources for some of the miscellaneous stuff like, “Where’s the best place to grab a bite around here?” You know what I mean.
  4. The questions you want to address during your one-on-one time should be primarily about what is expected of you in your role, when certain projects are due, how and when to escalate certain challenges or situations, preferred communication methods, etc.

Think back to your interview. You were hired for a reason and likely came across as a confident, hard-working individual. Don’t let that person get lost in the shuffle as you begin this new career path. Pay close attention to your manager’s personality and business style, listen carefully, be resourceful, and knock ’em dead!

Anita

Truth About Salary

A reader writes…

Is it ok to lie about salary when looking for a job?

Dear “Pinocchio,”

Don’t you remember anything your grandmother taught you? Lying is never a good idea. Well, okay – an occasional white lie may not get you into too much trouble, but when it comes to looking for a job and establishing an honest working relationship, I say… keep it real. After all, it’s not difficult for the company to verify if what you say is true (through reference checks or simply requesting to see your W-2), and if he/she finds out you lied, that could be the nail in your interview coffin, so to speak.

Take a gander at an article that was provided by my friends at CareerBuilder and posted on CNN. I think you’ll find some good insight!

http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/09/15/cb.embellish.salary.history/index.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_living+%28RSS%3A+Living%29

Time Management

A reader writes….

I’m stuck in meetings the bulk of my day with very little time for the “management” aspect of my job. How do I effectively time manage my staff since I’m rarely around?

Dear “Tick-Tock,”

Stuck in meeting madness, huh?  I know how that is.  You’re sitting in the boardroom, watching the clock tick away while wondering what your staff is doing, (You can only HOPE they are preparing  the presentation you need for your next meeting!)

The “management” aspect of your job takes time, there’s no doubt about it.  Since time is of the essence, you must make the most out of any opportunities you have to provide guidance and direction while effectively setting expectations. 

Check out these time management tips from management-hub.com … it will only take a minute
(I promise!)

 

Co-Worker “No Shows”

A reader writes….

My co-worker, Sue, is absent all the time, and it’s starting to affect me both personally and professionally. I need her to complete her portion of work so that we, as a team, will meet deadlines. Her constant “no shows” are making me dread work. It also seems unfair that I’m here every day, yet she doesn’t seem to be committed to the job. What should I do?

Dear, “No-Show Dread,”

 I definitely sense some resentment, and it sounds like in your case, absence DOES NOT make the heart grow fonder!

While there may be a good explanation for Sue’s absence, I can understand your frustration. We all make an effort to show up on time, put in the long hours, and in many cases, rely on our co-workers to collaborate on ideas, complete tasks, or get through projects. How can you “rely” on someone… if they’re never there?!?

I suggest you speak with your manager about the situation and how it is impacting your performance. Your boss may be thinking about Sue’s best interests (whether the absences are due to medical reasons, personal difficulties, etc.). It’s also very possible that Sue has made an arrangement with your boss to deal with her extenuating circumstances, and your boss may not be willing or legally able to share that with you. Even so, it is important that your boss realize the issues your co-worker’s absences are creating for you professionally.

You can gracefully address the situation, without sounding nosey, by keeping the conversation about your productivity concerns. Keep emotions and/or personal feelings out. This is business. You were hired to get a job done, and if you are prevented from achieving that objective for whatever reason, it’s important to raise the red flag.

Ideally, your boss would respond in one of two ways:

1)   Remind Sue that her team relies on her regular attendance and if she cannot fulfill her role on the team, a change will be necessary.

2)   Realize that Sue’s extenuating circumstances do not make her a good fit for this particular team and alter her job responsibilities so they can be completed within the schedule that Sue can work, leaving the rest of the team to move forward with their responsibilities.

Go get ’em tiger!
Anita

Job Hunting Blues

A reader writes…

I’ve got the job hunting blues.
What are some ways I can keep my spirits up and stay motivated during this difficult time?

Dear “Bye-Bye Blues,”

Chin up my friend. I know this is a difficult time, but as long as you stay focused, continue looking, and realize that job hunting can sometimes take a LONG time… things will get better.  Here are a few ideas to chew on:

  1. Maybe take a short break from searching. It’s common to feel even more frustrated when you don’t get immediate results after actively (and aggressivley) going after something.  Remember to be realistic. We are so accustomed to living in a fast-pace environment that when results don’t come in right away…  we don’t know what to do with ourselves!
  2. Use the time to join a professional networking group. You may learn a few tricks of the trade and even get connected with a potential employer. The more involved you get and the more people you know, the more you may be exposed to new opportunities.
  3. Sign up for an internship, do volunteer work, or take a class. – Now may be a good time to brush up on those computer skills, improve public speaking, or gain other knowledge that will help you professionally.
  4. Take care of yourself. Do the things you would not otherwise have time to do… like exercise, work on projects, or get organized. These activities will not only keep your mind stimulated (and your junk-in-the-trunk at bay), but they will give you a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment. Then, when you’re asked what you’ve been doing during your downtime, you can say, “I’ve applied myself by doing / learning XYZ, and I accomplished my goals.”
  5. Keep in mind that accepting temporary work is a great way to gain new experience, maintain income, and who knows… it may be your ticket to landing a new full-time career!  Get your foot in the door by applying online.  Ya never know until you try!

Management Techniques

A reader writes….

I’m new to my management role, and I’m a little scared!
Any suggestions, Anita?

Dear “Skittish Supervisor,”

First things first, don’t let your team KNOW you’re shaking in your boots! It’s okay to reveal some slight nerves — after all, you’re only human – and showing this side of you may even put your team at ease a little.  Then again, they want a leader, not a “Nervous Nelly.”  So buck up and remember, as a manager, creating a positive environment that fosters working relationships is probably one of your most important roles.  Your actions and leadership inspire, motivate, and influence the people that report to you.  It’s critical that your team feel valued and equally appreciated despite their varying roles or contributions to the “team.”

Here are some management techniques I’ve used in the past that were effective and encouraging:  

  • Communicate company goals – It’s key to have everyone on the same page with a big picture understanding of objectives.
  • Provide ongoing training – Stimulating your team and helping your direct reports enhance their skills is a good way to keep employees happy and motivated.  Cross training is also beneficial – it not only helps employees gain a better understanding and appreciation of one another, but it also helps when coverage is needed due to vacations, etc,
  • Encourage relationships – Work can be hectic.  Every so often, I used to invite my team out for an extended lunch… just to shoot the breeze and relax a little.  With a few good laughs and a hearty meal, we were all re-energized and ready to get back to business.
  • Define responsibilities – Nobody wants to be left in the dark.  Giving everyone a clear definition of their role takes away any mystery and increases productivity.
  • Empower – Don’t make all the decisions.  By empowering your team to make decisions, you are indirectly showing them that you trust their judgment and value their thinking.
  • Provide Feedback – Sure, you may not be able to get back to people immediately… but as soon as possible, please.  Even if you have not had a chance to provide an in-depth response, let your direct report(s) know that it’s in the works.  The waiting game is not pleasant and can even lead to resentment if you appear to be too busy, untouchable, or just plain non-responsive.
  • Reward and Recognize– Everyone likes to be acknowledged for their hard work. Share achievements and accomplishments with your entire team, provide incentives, and maintain a positive and encouraging environment as best as possible.  Keeping up morale can be a challenge, but as a manager – it’s essential.
  • Meet regularly – Whether it’s over the phone or in-person, you always need to keep the lines of communication open.  This allows you to gauge productivity, ask and answer questions, and address any personnel-related questions, etc.

You play an important role and were place in this position for a reason.  Now get out there and take charge!

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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