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This week, we have Claudia Cadena, director, strategic human capital management, president and group CEO’s office, Sapura Kencana and Datin Nancy S Y Sim-Lim, SVP and head of human capital, Great Eastern Life Assurance (M) Bhd to answer Shamira’s question.
I am an events executive. I’ve been here for two years and have designed and executed some really big events. I believe I am good at what I do. I am very creative, organised and structured and our clients love me.
However, working with my boss is a big struggle. She hovers over everything I do. She demands for minutes of all meetings, wants copy of every email, and be part of every decision making process.
After a long day at work, I have to inform her of her every single detail of the projects I’m handling.
This is very frustrating for me because it takes up so much of my time.
Being in the events line, you are always rushing for time, and dealing with my boss’ micromanagement takes up a lot and causes me late nights, and it’s taking a toll on my personal life.
Also, I do not feel empowered. My boss’ behaviour gives me the impression that she doesn’t trust me.
Sometimes the manner in which she questions my thought processes and decisions affects my confidence at work.
I really love my job, but going to work is starting to get too frustrating. I know the right thing would be to talk to my boss, but I am not sure how I should go about doing it.
Can you please give me some advice on how I should address this?
It is good to know you enjoy your work and that you are good at what you do. I also think you are right in wanting to talk to your boss about what you are experiencing in terms of the way she manages you. As you said, this is a delicate conversation, and you want to ensure that it is conducted professionally and you get the most out of it.
I believe your best option will be to have a performance conversation with your boss, which will help you answer three fundamental questions:
Understanding what her expectations are will help you understand if there is alignment between what you are delivering and what your boss expects you to deliver. This is important as her behaviour/micro-management style may be derived from her belief that you are not doing as required/ expected.
Understanding your boss’ perception of how you are doing will enable you to understand if you are meeting, not meeting or exceeding her expectations. This again will provide you with information about alignment/ misalignment of expectations. You can seek specific examples that support your boss’ perceptions. You can also give her your own examples to support your current performance.
With this question, you will be able to understand ways to enhance your performance and continue growing as a professional. It is very important that you seek her views on how to go forward.
You are not asking her for a solution. You are asking her for suggestions. You may have your own ideas/views.
This conversation is not about making your boss believe that she is right, or defending your performance. It is about enabling you to understand her perspective. You can, through this conversation provide her with feedback as well. You can talk about things that you like and have learnt from her and things that may not encourage or support your best performance/efforts at work from the way she manages you.
This conversation may also help your boss become aware of the impact her behaviour and interaction with you is having on your performance. Remember, your boss may not necessarily be aware of how she is impacting you.
Give this conversation a chance. Go into it with an open mind and be willing to learn and understand. Don’t be defensive or accusatory. Commit to having regular discussions with her. End the conversation with agreements on what will change and how you intend to move forward.
I wish you all the best.
It’s good to note that you are enjoying your work and you have found a career you are passionate about. Here are some suggestions and that will hopefully help you embark on a better work relationship with your boss:
Managing bosses is an art form in the corporate world and it is no different from managing our teachers in school or parents at home. Most bosses like to be kept in the know. They don’t like surprises especially in events management when you are spending a third party’s funds and when your profit is not known until the final payment is made.
Without knowing your age and total years of working experience beyond the two years of working experience in your current position, it is difficult to identify the root causes of your boss’ lack of confidence or in trusting you entirely with projects, despite the good work you have done.
It is also plausible that since your boss has been managing you through this process for these two years, that there haven’t been any mistakes that affect the bottom-line or reputation of the company.
Usually bosses are only able to reduce overseeing all developments in detail when someone attains at least a supervisory or managerial level in his job and subsequently takes over the accountability for any loss or mistakes that occur during a project execution. Naturally your boss feels this strong need to be thoroughly involved perhaps because she is personally accountable.
Therefore, there is really no way around having to report to your boss until you achieve the level of seniority in a position where you will be shouldering all responsibility for any possible issues.
You mentioned that you are organised, creative and structured. That being so, here are a few tips in which you can keep your boss updated and make life stress-free:
• Find the best time in the week for detailed project updates – would this be a Monday or a mid-week update? Plan your report well.
• Know your numbers, and your margins – update her in a way which makes her understand easily. Learn the style in which she ask questions and follow that model.
• Develop a few templates, and key-in data, as well as project updates as you sit in those client meetings. If they are well-written, you can then easily summarise for her all the high-level matters. For example: The budget and the margins.
Updating your boss in a structured and timely manner helps you to manage your reputation and also allows her to manage her own reputation with the client and higher-ups. This you must appreciate. It also helps to build trust on a daily level. Once trust is there, your boss will empower you.
Remember, with bosses – part of our duty is to make them look good (with all other things being reasonable). I can only assume that you meet with her daily and have not had a long heart-to-heart talk for some time. Hence, there is perhaps a growing tension between the both of you.
When is your next appraisal? And when is your next update with her? Find an opportune time – such as when the next client sends you a thank you letter congratulating you on great work done. That would be a good time. Choose a nice evening like a Friday evening and perhaps book your boss for a drink. Take your boss off-site and plan for that meeting.
Don’t let that meeting revolve around you and her but more on how the business has grown and how you feel that with a bit more autonomy, you can help her do more. Share with her some of your ideas and also find out how she would like to be updated.
Remember to offer some solutions – can you give her updates that are simple but tell the whole story. Barbara Minto has a great model on the pyramid style of presentation. Use the “elevator pitch” – updating your boss and keeping her in the know without too much detail.
Try this and over time you will find that trust will emerge and this could bring your relationship to a new level and allow empowerment to take place more readily. All the best!
Nancy S Y SIM-lim