managing an anxious, micromanaging boss
April 15, 2010 9:19 AM Subscribe
How do I remain emotionally stable with a highly anxious, micro-managing boss?
posted by rainydayfilms to work & money (12 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I am calm under pressure, due to some early training with highly irrational bosses and clients. However, I think this is the first time in my life I have worked for someone who is literally constantly anxious and stressed, and it is really getting to me.
I very much enjoy the actual work of my job. I like my department, and really love the overall company. I am paid well, and I am challenged and engaged. I don't see a ton of upward movement because my boss is not going anywhere, so I am looking for new opportunities within the larger company. My preferred timeline is about 6-8 months (due to bonus timing) and in a few years I plan to start my own business or try to run a small business.
I would like the next 6-8 months to be more pleasant than my day-to-day currently is. How do I handle my boss better?
The good: He's a good person. He definitely means well, and while he is very critical to his direct reports he always praises us behind our backs. I have a good reputation in the company, and I know my boss really values me, especially because I am very even tempered and can handle him. I am also good at pushing back on others nicely and firmly, which is something he cannot do (and often specifically asks me to do - which is amusing.) He relies on me for ideas and 90% of the time decides my idea is the right way to go.
The bad: Constant anxiety. He is a micromanager, to the level that he tries to micromange even MY direct reports. He has to know everything that is happening, all the time. His need for my reporting on everything that is going on takes up a lot of time that could be spent working productively. He feels the need to control and dictate what I am doing with my time. He needs to attend every meeting and dominate every conversation with clients - which also holds up progress (and my learning curve).
More upsetting to me is the constant fire drills - which are driven by his tendency to turn every molehill into a mountain. There is always a lot of blaming involved (sometimes towards me directly) and a lot of CYA that I find ridiculous. I have determined this freak out mode is driven by a constant fear that his boss will be mad at him, and I am confident that fear is irrational. I spend a good 80-90% of my time trying to put out these fires that are flared up bigger than they should be by his anxiety and subsequent knee jerk action (usually alerting some other anxious person and fueling the flames).
While I can handle the anxiety effectively and usually end up solving the issue, this pattern of behavior is taking a toll on me. Through absorbing all of his stress I am getting stressed when I am normally somewhat calm and don't find my actual work stressful (for example, I have probably gained 20 pounds since working for him, and I think it's stress related since I eat and exercise the same way, if not more in an effort to relieve the stress).
He was recently on vacation with no contact with us - I took this time as an opportunity to evaluate my job without him. It was such a pleasure and I was so productive that it was shocking. I probably doubled my effectiveness without the constant fire fighting and managing of him.
His other direct report feels the same way. My colleague has tried to address it with our boss, and there have been periods when my boss has improved, but he always returns to this pattern of behavior.
I have hinted to my boss' boss that I find working for my boss difficult, but I hesitate to throw him completely under a bus (I see that as unprofessional). No one outside our immediate group really experiences the same level of anxious behavior and micromanagement (I know because I used to work closely with him, but not for him, and it was an entirely different experience).
Any tips to get through the next 6-8 months would be very much appreciated.