update from the reader asked to watch her manager’s grandchildren

Remember the reader whose boss kept asking her to watch her grandkids while she parked her car in the mornings? Here’s her update:

Well, I did get up the nerve and told the boss, “No, I really don’t feel comfortable watching the kids.” We then had a bit of a stare down and I walked away and sat down at my desk. Afterwards she was very short with me for about 3 days. It was uncomfortable, but she didn’t ask me again.

I learned that silence works wonders with her. She is a micromanager and will walk up right behind me and look at what is on my computer screen and just stands there. I no longer say anything; I just keep working. Or if someone is in my cube and we are working on something, she walks up to the cube and stares at me with a fierce frown on her face. I used to explain what I was doing (training, etc.) but now I am just silent. She will finally walk away.

The good news is that shortly after that I was offered a new job, which I have since started. More money and the benefits are awesome. And the last 2 weeks I was at the old job, she told me how wonderful I was and she didn’t know how she was going to do without me. I tried a couple times to explain what I didn’t like (the micromanaging and her giving preference to my coworker, who is her friend) but she would change the subject. I haven’t gotten a read on my new boss yet. Who knows what fun stuff I will experience at the new place.

{ 30 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous

    Glad to hear you found a new job. I’m glad you spoke up about the grandkids but it sounds like the situation didn’t actually get any better and it was probably unsustainable in the long run.

  2. LizNYC

    Good for you for standing your ground on not wanting to watch the grandkids (totally understandable)!

    I used to work for a micromanager and if I had bothered to tell her that her micromanaging habits were one of the (many) reasons I left, I don’t think she understood. So don’t worry that you didn’t get a chance to explain that to her. Plus, you may need her as a reference one day and it sounds like you left on a relatively good note.

  3. Lindsay

    I’ve found silence to be my best relationship tool at work! I have a senior coworker that used to make me really uncomfortable by telling me too-personal information. I would respond to her endless stories with silence. Got her to stop, literally, without saying a word.

    1. PPK

      I agree. I’ve used it in many situations.

      It can be used for good too. I had a team leader who tended to be confusing trying to describe a new problem or situation. It was tempting to jump in and fill in the blanks on what she was trying to say, but that often made things more confusing. I finally figured out that patience was of utmost importance (aka silence on my part). I would listen and wait. Eventually, enough would come out that I could put the pieces together and summarize. Some people found her frustrating. I enjoyed working with her in the long run — she had our backs as a team leader.

      1. Chinook

        I remember Jamie and I agreeing that we learned the power of silence from our cop spouses. The average person really seems to be unable to handle “uncomfortable silence” and will fill in the empty space (often telling you anything in order to get a reponse). If you have teens, I recommend trying it with them!

        1. Jessa

          Exactly, works really well. Just sit there and let them talk. Or ignore them and they’ll walk away. If the boss doesn’t ask a question, why volunteer information.

        2. Rana

          Yup. Getting comfortable with silence was one of the very first lessons I learned as a TA, and continued to use to good effect as a professor. If you sit quietly long enough, someone will eventually say something!

  4. ChristineSW

    So glad you got out of that nasty environment! Sounds to me the manager was trying to get back in your good graces as soon as she knew you were leaving. I say “pfffft”. lol.

    Good luck with the new job!!

  5. pghadventurer

    “Or if someone is in my cube and we are working on something, she walks up to the cube and stares at me with a fierce frown on her face. I used to explain what I was doing (training, etc.) but now I am just silent. She will finally walk away.”

    WOW. What’s even more crazy is in her mind, this is probably a totally justified management technique.

    Hope you’ve moved on to sunnier pastures.

    1. PPK

      I suppose she could think she was dropping in to get a feel for what was going on? And has an unfortunate frowny face when she paying close attention?

      1. Cruella Da Boss

        About the walking up to your desk and staring at you: So if she had a legitimate question, and was waiting to be acknowledged (rather than interupting), how would you know?

        Hope you are happier in your new position.

        1. fposte

          Why is she waiting to be acknowledged before she manages her employees? I think there are situations where managers do legitimately hover to wait for a good moment, but they don’t just walk away silently if they’re not invited in, so I’m not convinced that’s what’s was happening here.

        2. Ruffingit

          It sounds to me like the OP had a pretty good feel for what the manager was doing here, which wasn’t to ask a question, but rather to intimidate. The fact that OP says she used to explain what she was doing to the manager makes me think the manager just wanted to intimidate her and force her to explain herself. Also, if the manager had a question for the OP, it would be weird of the manager not to say so and rather to just stand there for a long period of time and then walk away. A normal person would say “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I needed to ask you about the Wakeen File.” The standing there, staring, and then walking away thing says to me the manager was just being a crazy biatch.

          1. OP for this one

            I think you have it exactly right Ruffingit. I believe she was trying to intimidate. She wanted to know everything I was doing at all times which didn’t make much sense since she gave me 95% of my work. The 2 managers above her (Vice President & Director) would give me work and it drove her crazy. So she’d wait until they walked away and ask what I was doing and then try to tell me how to do it. Not a good use of her time or mine. Especially since it was stuff I knew how to do. And many times she would walk up and ask me for this or that like a normal person.

            1. Ruffingit

              She sounds really weird in a number of ways. I’m glad you were able to get away from her. I can’t see working for someone like that on a long-term basis. Control freak to say the least.

  6. OP for this one

    My manager ended up bringing the kids in, dropping off her purse and turning on her computer. Then she took the kids to daycare and then went back out to her car for her other 2-3 bags. 2 of the bags were for the kids so every day about mid-morning she’d have to take the kid’s bags to daycare. Such a waste of time to me, but she refused to drive up and leave her car in the turn around. She had so many excuses for why but the only one I remember is that she was sure someone would hit her car while she was in the building dropping off the kids. Now I wonder if the person who replaced me will go through the same thing.

    1. Ruffingit

      Were you able to tell the person who replaced you to be on guard for this woman’s craziness? Don’t know if there was overlap between you and the replacement, but I always feel sorry for people who walk into situations like this not knowing these kinds of things.

    2. Clever Name

      This seems so inefficient. I assume the kids are too little to carry their own stuff? Like under two? I make my six year old carry his own backpack and lunch box to school.

      1. Ruffingit

        I have to wonder what is in the bags for the kids that she has to bring it every single day to daycare. Why not bring a week’s worth of stuff for the kids and leave it at the daycare – extra diapers, set of clothes, etc. What do the kids need that each of them has their own bag every single day? Seems odd to me.

        1. Rana

          Agreed. Clearly she’s not the most organized person (or maybe she’s paranoid about leaving the bags there in the same way she’s paranoid about leaving her car parked outside).

  7. Josh D

    I’m kind of wondering if it might have gone down better if the OP had sought out the manager to say she didn’t feel comfortable watching kids, rather than waiting until the manager next made the request.

    By waiting until the request was made, the manager was more inconvenienced because they had to a) deal with the unexpected response, and b) think of another way to deal with her kids.

    All moot since they have a new job now, but just a thought for similar types of event in the future :-)

    1. Ruffingit

      I agree that telling someone at a time when they are not making the request would be helpful as a general rule, but the OP did that. Repeatedly. In the original letter, she says I’ve told my boss each time that I was sorry, but the child does not seem to be comfortable with me and maybe she should take the baby with her next time.

  8. Vicki

    I’m a big fan of attaching a small mirror to the side of my monitor or to the wall just in front of me. I started doing this back when I had a manager who would walk in, stand silently behind me and just… stand there.

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