I'm not going to CC you on this
January 26, 2010 10:12 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to respond gracefully to perceived micromanagement at work?

I do (mostly) business development work for a small IT consulting firm. I'm an educated professional with several years of experience in similar roles, and I've worked here for a year. I communicate with subcontractors, clarify requirements for proposals, etc. -- I don't generally work directly with clients. Today one of the principals (whom I work with closely) told me that he wants me to CC him on all of my emails related to business development. Practically speaking this is pretty much every external email I send.

I already copy him on any emails that seem of sufficient importance to require his review. I'm not perfect, but I know that I do good work and I work hard. Am I wrong to feel that his request demonstrates a lack of trust in my work? Is there a way to communicate the way I feel about this without seeming obstreperous?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The best way to deal with a superior acting this way is simply to not comply with his requests, because they are indeed irrational. Just keep doing what you're doing already, because presumably he doesn't know whether you've sent an email out or not unless you cc: him. There's no need to confront anyone or raise any sort of stink. You just don't take shit from anyone, and this is clearly shit, so you're not going to take it. You can apply this reasoning to other, also shitty requests.

There's a saying we have in Quebec, that goes roughly like: "I don't eat shit anymore, 'cause this one time I was eating shit, and I found a 5 inch hair in there. It was disgusting!" As an independent contractor myself, I find much solace in repeating this mantra to myself.
posted by Mons Veneris at 10:21 AM on January 26, 2010 [9 favorites]

I've worked with micromanagers before, and they seem to be micromanagers more for their own purposes than for business purposes. It's a temperament thing, in other words, and usually has less to do with you than it seems.

There's really only a single way to approach this non-confrontationally, which is to sit down with the principal and ask if he has some particular concern about your work that he feels needs to be addressed. You can say the reason you're asking is just because he now wants to be CCed on everything, where before it seemed sufficient to you to judge the importance. He'll either bring up something you can address, or he'll handwave it away as just being a good boss or something. Either way, you're not challenging his prerogative to closely supervise you, and you're demonstrating that you'll work within whatever strictures he applies.

Then one of two things will happen: He'll either see that the need to micromanage you has passed and tell you to stop, or he'll start ignoring the flood of emails from you. Either way, he's taken on the responsibility for knowing exactly what's going on with you, and you can use that to your advantage if you need input from him (e.g., "About that question I raised in that email yesterday..."). This is how you punish micromanagers: if they want to be involved, they become a barrier to you getting anything done unless they're extraordinarily efficient, and they have no excuse for not being aware of what you're doing.
posted by fatbird at 10:21 AM on January 26, 2010 [9 favorites]

Is there anything else that principal has done to indicate a lack of confidence in your work?

That request, by itself, does not indicate much of anything to me. There can be entirely innocuous reasons he would like to be CCed. One possible reason would be archival purposes; in fact, he may not even intend to read the emails. Another possible reason might be related to legal requirements in case anything you do is strictly regulated. Don't necessarily assume CCing an email is only done when something needs to be reviewed.

Best response? Comply and indicate that you'd be happy to exercise more or less judgment on what to CC him at his request.
posted by saeculorum at 10:22 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't know how to respond gracefully, but if you want to respond passive-aggressively, I would start sending a LOT more emails and CC him on every. single. one.

More helpfully, did he tell you WHY he wants to be CC'ed? On the surface, without any other information, this sounds all sorts of alarm bells for me... like, he needs to know the details of what you're working on so there won't be too much disruption when they lay you off. :(
posted by Jacqueline at 10:22 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Is it possible that he doesn't want to keep tabs on you or review your work so much as to be in the loop about outgoing communication with clients? Anytime I've ever worked in client service, if I was the head of a team, it was expected that I'd be cc'd so I'd be in the know and up to date on any communication I might have with the client. For example, if Fred and Barney are counterparts at my company and our client's company, and I am Fred's manager and I work directly with Barney's manager, when I'm on the phone with Barney's manager and he says "Barney told Fred that the files were already uploaded", I can know whether or not that's actually true.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:24 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you sure he's trying to interfere in these emails? Maybe he just wants to be aware of what is going on. I cc my higher-up on a number of matters that don't require his intervention purely as an FYI so he knows about the situation.
posted by Billegible at 10:25 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

To line is for people who've got a task.
CC line is for inform.

It's not micromanaging to want to stay informed of communications to external clients. I get that you feel threatened and micromanaged. However, the guy isn't asking to read every email you send. He's asking to stay informed of client communications. You said you don't generally work directly with clients. When the client calls with an issue - do they call you or the principal? Probably the principal and he needs to be informed.
posted by 26.2 at 10:42 AM on January 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

Doesn't sound like micromanagement to me, at all. You should just comply and not think twice about it. As others above have said.
posted by Perplexity at 10:48 AM on January 26, 2010

Yeah, I would change how you're reacting to this. It's likely not going to be too cool with your manager to just stop complying with his request to cc him.
posted by sweetkid at 10:48 AM on January 26, 2010

It sounds to me like you have pre-existing reasons to distrust your boss/principle. Although I usually do cc my boss on all my external communication, If my boss asked me to do so, since i trust them, I could just as easily assume they want to see my email so that they can help Cover My Ass better, or maybe they're getting heat from *their* boss about knowing details from their subordinates. If the latter were the case, wouldn't asking you to CC him be the least obtrusive way for him to stay abreast of the day to day details without interfering with you?

Re: what 26.2 said.
posted by judge.mentok.the.mindtaker at 10:57 AM on January 26, 2010

I know it might not feel like it, but this could be an attempt to micromanage you less.

Perhaps he found he is spending too much time monitoring/reviewing your work before it goes out so he is letting you have your freedom (sending your e-mails unreviewed) while still keeping an eye on it to maintain quality and calm his own anxiety?

Even if this isn't the case, I would still comply with his request, at least for a while. Who knows, he may never make a change/comment/complaint about any e-mails you send.
posted by citywolf at 11:13 AM on January 26, 2010

What 26.2 and citywolf and everyone between said.
posted by lhall at 11:26 AM on January 26, 2010

Oh...*THIS*??? This is not micromanaging. Post here again when your boss asks for a diary of everything you do everyday and then sits with you and critiques how you spend your time...every day. I've seen that happen.

THATS micromanaging.

You have the task of doing a "cc".

This is coming from an HR pro who hates overbearing bosses...you don't have anything to complain about...it actually could help you in the end if your client is a liar to your boss.

Maybe it would be better if you bcc'd your boss. That way, the client doesn't know. Thats what I'd do.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:36 AM on January 26, 2010

Another vote for "this is normal procedure for a lot of clients." It's a lot more to do with keeping everyone in the loop than it is with watching your every move. I'm on two or three email lists at work where I'm not even a part of the project at the time, but I see every correspondence back and forth. It's annoying, but in the event that I need to create some sort of timeline, it works out great.
posted by june made him a gemini at 12:41 PM on January 26, 2010

Yeah, although annoying, it's really a good thing for you in almost every way. He probably doesn't want to read and second-guess every email you send, just to skim over the whole folder once in a while to keep up on what clients have been told. That's just smart, from his point of view. Clients cannot bullshit him on what "someone" promised them. In the probably-never-happen case that you flip out and send someone a poorly considered nastygram, he'll be able to back you up on that.

Super bonus: you now have more room to consider that "no objection means permission" to some extent. If he wants to be up on what you do to that level, he can hardly claim to be surprised by anything later. If he had a problem, he should have brought it up when he got that email, right? (Do not take this too far.)

If having a giant folder of unread cc's from you makes him less on edge about what "might" be happening by knowing what IS happening, then how's that a bad thing? And if he often intervenes with the way you do things, email print-out in hand, well it's better you have the how-things-should-be-done shootout now than at performance review time anyway.
posted by ctmf at 12:41 PM on January 26, 2010

I'm with those who say this is not uncommon and is not micromanaging.

You said these emails were for business development - in other words, SALES OUTREACH. Of course he wants to know who you're talking to and what you're talking to them about.

I guarantee you he's got a rule set up in Outlook and your emails will go in there, and he'll read one out of every 25. But when Bob Jones from WidgetFoo calls him, he'll be able to do a quick search on WidgetFoo and find the email you sent them and sound like he's totally on top of things. This is why he's asking to be cc'd.

Don't be passive aggressive. Don't not cc. I get in some cultures - especially tech ones - cc'ing is considered a dick move, or you cc because you can't handle the issue yourself. But in this case, it's none of those things.
posted by micawber at 1:47 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Clients will say all kinds of shit and try to pass the buck. This is possibly largely for your own protection, as well as keeping manager in the loop.

Also, if the principal is being micromanaged by the Big Boss, it's just easier to know everything that's going on in real time, so that they can defend their processes and their direct reports' work without having to scramble for answers to silly questions.

The best way to deal with a superior acting this way is simply to not comply with his requests, because they are indeed irrational.

If an employee refused to comply with my request to be cc'd, I'd figure they were trying to hide shoddy work. Every time I've asked an employee to cc me and they've "forgotten," it turns out that in fact, e-mails had errors, were inappropriate, or were sent long after they should have been.
posted by desuetude at 2:25 PM on January 26, 2010

This happens where I work. I manage 2 people who directly contact our clients and they cc me on everything. So I know what's going on and when a client calls me I know why, or when my boss hears about something I know about it, or who to assign new work to, or if one of my employees is sick I know to follow up on x, etc......

I only ever step in if they totally mess up, or are out (like I said).

If this boss is suddenly criticizing all your emails, then you've got micromanagement problems.
posted by grapesaresour at 3:05 PM on January 26, 2010

My boss does this. I don't mind cc-ing him on stuff, because I know that it leaves a trail (I can say "Look, I did xxxx on date xxx!").

It has the added benefit of making me far more polite in my external emails, too, since I know he could be reading them at any time, although he probably isn't. (I have sent him emails before that say things like, "If you read this before xxx date, I'll buy you lunch" and he hasn't opened them, ever.)
posted by vickyverky at 7:47 PM on January 26, 2010

This is pretty standard procedure in my department. I cc my supervisor on a lot of my correspondence just to keep her in the loop. That way if I'm out or there's a situation with a vendor or if I'm having trouble getting needed information from someone in another department and she needs to step in, she knows what's going on. It's also good for her to have the trail if something gets elevated to management.
posted by SisterHavana at 8:46 PM on January 26, 2010

« Older Yet Another Landlord Horror Story   |   TMI on TMJ Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.