Addressing management issues

Addressing management issues

Dealing with a controlling boss

Controlling boss

Q I have a controlling boss to whom I have been reporting for the past year; previously, we were co-workers. My boss micromanages me. For example, I wanted to make a proposal to bring a new quality system to our large acute-care hospital. My boss knew nothing about this process, and neither did administration. I spoke liberally with our associate administrator who was genuinely interested. I later had informal discussions with our COO. About a week after that, I was called to my boss office and counseled with written documentation for not following the chain of command. I gave a rebuttal and made it clear that no malice was ever intended and that I took exception to being counseled in this manner when no other discussion took place. Any suggestions?

A According to Alton Sturtevant, The action taken by your boss is a form of negative behavior modification called punishment. This action is designed to stop or limit unwanted behavior. Obviously, the manager wanted to stop your behavior. The problem is that you feel your behavior was justified, and your boss felt that it was not.

As a rule, I expect my staff as representatives of both the department and the institution to bring ideas to me before going to administration. This may seem somewhat stifling, but as managers, we are charged with managing all of our resources, including our employees. If you were involved in an extemporaneous general discussion involving interdepartmental staff and administration, and you made comments relating to a quality system, then I can see how the further discussion with the COO may have occurred. If such action seemed to be going further than general discussion, then you should inform your manager of it.

I expect my employees to keep me informed of their activities on company time. I would not, however, officially counsel you. I would simply explain my expectations to you. You should be able to sit down with your manager and discuss this particular situation. I would ensure that he knows you had no malice or intention to slight him or otherwise injure the department. You must explain why and how you went directly to administration prior to briefing him and asking permission to take the ideas forward. Based on the outcome of your discussions, you may decide that you cannot continue to work in that department and may have to transfer to another department in order to enjoy your work experience.

Marti Bailey advises, If there were some way that you could remove yourself from the situation and take the place of an impartial observer, I believe you would have a totally different perception. My take from your letter is that you are very resentful of your boss, possibly because he may have been chosen over you for promotion, and that you intend to carry on as though you are still equals. Personally, I believe you were totally out of line going around your boss to an administrator to discuss a proposal that you thought had merit. If, as you say, your boss knew nothing about the quality system, then it was your responsibility to enlighten him so that he could make a determination of whether he wanted your department to pursue this with administration. You clearly have your own agenda and have defaulted on your responsibility to be a team player. Trying to bring a new quality system into your hospital is not your job. Your job is to support the objectives and goals that your boss sets for the department.

Bottom line. You claim to be the victim when indeed you are the instigator. Your job is to work with your boss, not around him. Aside from the chain-of-command issue, your behavior was insensitive and undiplomatic. Your best course of action is to apologize to your boss and mean it. Commit to developing good communication and a supportive working relationship with him. Find out exactly what he expects you to be doing and do it. Things are never going to improve and you are probably risking termination if you do not come to terms with your position in the organization, which is not what you currently think it is.

Christopher S. Frings is an internationally known consultant and speaker on the topics of leadership, managing change, time management, reaching goals and stress management. His consulting firm, Chris Frings & Associates, is in Birmingham, AL.

2004: Vol. 36, No. 1

2003 Nelson Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.