Micromanagement and mistrust ruin a dream job

A tech pro lands an ideal position -- aside from the demanding, second-guessing boss

Micromanagement and mistrust ruin a dream job
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To get ahead in your career, you need a supportive, encouraging manager who lets you learn and grow. Instead, some of us get insensitive, tone-deaf micromanagers who can't leave well enough alone. IT departments are certainly not immune.

I joined the company as an IT support analyst. It was a short commute from my home, and the pay was good. I was thrilled to have landed the position and thought it was the role for me. I planned to stay there for a very long time.

I was working in a team of three: myself, IT guy "Jim," and manager "Jane." At first, the job was OK and the people were fine. But it changed rapidly.

Cold, hard reality

For the first few days, Jane came across as a nice person, but soon became more and more intimidating. She would belittle every action I took, as tasks had to be done to her standards. Every issue I resolved, she wanted to know what I did, how I did it, whom it was for. Finally, after enough days of this I told her to look at the call history in the helpdesk log. She did not like that at all.

She watched my every move. Once, I installed a PC in a meeting room and connected a network cable to it over a radiator pipe. About 30 minutes after I told her the job was completed, she went into the room to double-check my work.

Of course it wasn't: She told me to reconnect the cable under the pipe, though it was safely linked.

In another instance, Jane asked me to connect some desk phones with a network cable in two rooms. I went into one of the rooms and discovered she'd already put phones on the table, along with a network cable curled up against the wall. She hadn't told me that she already had acquired the supplies.

I got started with the job, and right then, Jane came into the room and put a how-to guide on the desk. Why was she turning a one-person job into a two-person job?

This was a recurring event. She would give me a job to do and either start it herself or complete it without telling me. Calls would come to the help desk, and before I could assign the issue to myself, I'd find out Jane resolved it, and no update was added to the call log.

Time to take action

As the weeks went by, Jane's micromanaging grew worse. I dreaded going to work. The week would start off with the awful Monday morning meetings where everyone was grilled and interrupted. I learned quickly to plan my answers; if a question was asked, Jane would turn it around and follow up with multiple questions. It was more like giving us a riddle to sort out.

I confided with Jim and told him about my interactions with Jane, and he confirmed that he experienced the same treatment. It had gotten so bad for Jim that he made an ultimatum to HR that if no improvements were made, he would leave. As a result, Jane had toned down her micromanagement with him a little. He advised me to speak with HR to sort out the issue.

One particular day, Jane had really been on my case. I knew I couldn't take this much longer, so I stayed back to speak with her. She acknowledged my point of view and told me not to worry. I noticed a guilty expression on her face, and she apologized. I went home thinking we had made strides in our relationship.

Wrong -- I eventually went to HR, who took down notes and set up a meeting with HR, Jane, and me. All the issues were spoken of and a plan of action written down.

When all else fails...

Jane's interactions with me started to improve, especially in the morning meetings. She was more jovial, which was rather strange. This facade continued for a month until eventually, she turned back to her old ways. A subsequent trip to HR fixed it for a time, but I realized no long-term changes were on the horizon, so I stopped going to HR.

One can only take so much, and that time came for me.

One day, Jim's phone rang, but he was away from his desk. I was in a quandary: Should I take the call about a problem I very probably knew nothing about, as Jim dealt with Linux issues, or should I let it ring? The second option was a no-go as I knew Jane was lurking and would ask me to answer the phone.

I picked it up and spoke with the user and made notes about the issue and reconfirmed the problem. I advised the user I would get this resolved and emailed Jim about it so that he'd be up to speed when he got back.

Jane was listening attentively and asked who called. I told her the name, and there was a moment of silence. Shortly afterward she emailed myself and the user that she had resolved the issue -- she didn't even give me a chance to follow through.

I asked to speak with Jane in private and told her to stop micromanaging me. Of course, she did not like this term, but I didn't care at that point. She stated the phone call had been for an urgent issue that had to be resolved immediately, but failed to acknowledge that I hadn't requested her assistance. I further mentioned that I did not want her help as I knew she would interrogate me. She was very annoyed with my comments, but I had to speak up. She was silent the rest of the day and continued to be temperamental in our interactions.

I made it my plan to not be in the same room as her whenever possible. Eventually, after a year I handed in my notice. I knew my health was more important than putting up with this.

Looking back, it was a bold decision to leave a role that paid very well, but I learned from this experience that I should have fought harder with HR. Standing my ground would have been better.