are better managers … ever actually worse?

A reader writes:

I have a big-picture workplace question. I was at my previous company for five years, three years with Jane as my boss, and two years with Jack as my boss. Jane and Jack had very different management styles. Jane was extremely hands-off, while Jack fit the textbook definition of a “good manager” much better (at least as I understand it), but his style actually left me and others feeling more burned out than when we worked with Jane.

To give a bit more detail, I noticed that Jane’s hands-off style allowed good employees to thrive but also allowed bad employees to fester. I was able to focus my time on achieving my tasks and guiding my team, and I’m extremely proud of what I achieved. I felt frustrated, however, that Jane had little awareness of what I was doing (she was struggling under her own workload) and sometimes spent my annual review just catching up on my achievements. Even worse, at one point she allowed a toxic coworker’s behaviors to continue for far too long because she was barely aware of them. Overall though, she was a kind and understanding, if detached, supervisor.

When Jack became my boss, I was initially excited to work with someone who would manage us more actively than Jane. Jack did a lot of the textbook things a good manager should do, like scheduling more frequent check-ins, goal-setting and reflections, revamping the review process, keeping current on the status of our projects, etc. To my surprise, work ended up feeling worse … a lot worse. The new processes and additional meetings that Jack introduced ate up a huge amount of time. With no decrease in the rest of my workload, I was often working longer hours to get the same amount of work done. I wasn’t the only one; a coworker told me he was on the verge of quitting for the same reason. We tried to push back at times but it never seemed to stick.

All this made me wonder … is being a “better manager” sometimes worse?

I wrote back to this letter-writer and asked, “How much time per week would you say Jack’s management took up from your schedule?” The response:

I would say it averaged an hour per day at a minimum, but some weeks it would be double that.


Well, that’s why.

Jack almost certainly wasn’t a good manager.

Adding an hour a day of “management” to your schedule — sometimes two hours — is excessive. It would be bizarrely over-the-top in the vast majority of jobs.

If he’d added a one-hour weekly check-in to give feedback, talk about priorities, and be a resource to you, that would have made sense. Some people do these every other week and that can make sense too. If he’d added a bit more time for other things here and there (for example, a monthly team meeting or brainstorms — ones that actually led to better work product, not ones without real outcomes — or occasional meetings to review new processes or initiatives), that would be reasonable too. But those should account for a couple of extra hours per month, on average.

An extra one to two hours a day is way too much. It’s really heavy-handed, and of course work felt worse!

And when you tried to talk about it with Jack, nothing changed — and it sounds like he didn’t do much to help you understand the value he saw in using so much time that way. Sometimes managers do need to use employees’ time in ways that might not feel super valuable to the employee — but are valuable to the manager (because it helps them stay in touch with what’s going on / ensures they’ll spot problems or obstacles early / creates a forum for feedback / etc.). But when an employee questions how the time is being used, a good manager needs to be able to explain the value that comes from it — and needs to be open to discussing better ways of achieving the same thing. It doesn’t sound like Jack did any of that.

Good managers also need to adapt their management to fit the people they’re managing, and the context they’re managing in. That means things like looking at how much guidance and support each person actually needs and considering each person’s skill level (which can vary by project) and the relative importance of projects (it makes sense to be more involved when a particular project’s success or failure has enormous ramifications, and less so when something is more routine). But it sounds like Jack came in with a set idea about how he would manage and didn’t deviate from that, regardless of what the context required.

So you’re not comparing a bad manager (Jane) to a good manager (Jack). You’re comparing two bad managers. They were just bad in different ways.

Read an update to this letter here

{ 184 comments… read them below }

  1. Spicy Tuna*

    Even my most micromanager boss takes up 15 minutes of my day at MOST. I can’t imagine any more than that.

    1. IfOnly15*

      My current boss has daily 1-hr meetings with me. I’ve been working here in a contract basis for 6 months, I was hoping this could be just for my first month, but nope. She actually used to do an additional 30 min check in meeting on Fridays but not anymore, thank God. Even when she’s supposed to be on PTO she calls me. The funniest part is, she has told me many times she hates to be micromanaged and would never micromanage lol. She has also never told me anything negative about my performance, so the meetings mostly consist of her talking to me about her personal life with the first 5 mins being about my teapot reports. Every. Single. Day. I’m in my early 20s and she’s close to retirement age and I’m her only direct report. I feel like it’s weighing me down and not letting me show to the rest of the company that I’m capable and experienced.

      1. Meep*

        I have been there. I was with someone like that for 3 years. It definitely set me behind and frustrated me that my coworkers were getting cool projects and I was being paid to be her therapist. Depending on how big the company is (I am guessing small like mine) it might be useful to express interest in other projects if you are invited to those meetings. I managed to get out from under her and still work for the company.

      2. Julia*

        Channelling Alison here, have you thought about saying something to her? Like asking if she’d be open to chatting once a week rather than every day since you’re finding yourself crunched for time to get work done?

    2. John Smith*

      Not wishing to get into a contest, but I’ve spent hours with my manager. Daily. Every day. For weeks and months. Mostly him talking, and he then wonders why so little work gets done. He also engages in email ping-pong. I have literally spent whole days dealing with his emails and little else.

      I eventually realised he just likes arguing, so I stopped arguing and simply agreed to whatever he said. And also I never respond by email. Just face to face as he doesn’t like that. Now he hardly ever communicates with me (or anyone else) at all.

      In those times, I would have loved a manager who just spent an hour a day “managing” me.

      1. John Smith*

        Forgot to add, best manager I’ve worked for had maximum two minute catch ups daily, a ten minute catch up weekly and a one hour monthly meeting. He was always available as well if needed at any time and always sent a sincere “thanks for your time at work today” voice message. I’d bend over backwards for him. My current manager…. I would waste water on him if he was on fire, but I’d charge him for it later.

        1. Software Dev*

          What—useful information can be imparted in two minutes? Genuinely curious. Is this just “here’s what I am working on” kind of thing?

          1. Your local password resetter*

            I imagine it’s just a quick “is there anything i need to know/make time for today” kind of meeting, With longer followup as needed.

          2. SnappinTerrapin*

            It’s amazing how much useful information can be conveyed in a couple of minutes, when both parties are effective communicators AND effective listeners.

          3. John Smith*

            It’s just quick catch ups. “Everything ok? Anything I need to know about or that I can help with? How’s your workload?” That kind of thing. And if there was something, he’d listen and get back to you.

          4. Birch*

            I do this with my boss too (not every day, but often, in between the weekly team meetings). It’s something like “a problem came up with the platform so I’m focusing on that today” or “I’m finally reading the proposal so I’ll send you some comments on it in the afternoon” and she’ll respond “oh can you also check into the ad budget if you have time” or “ok, I won’t have time to look at the proposal until Friday, so put the comments in our Discord channel and I’ll have a look after I’ve read it.”

            It’s great for communication because she can easily check that I’m on track and gets a good idea of what I spend my time on and how I prioritize daily, or she can give some small news or adjustments to my priorities without having to have A Whole Meeting. And people often leave out this “I won’t have time to look at the proposal till Friday” stuff in meetings, and I find it really helpful to get an idea of her work pacing too. It helps me figure out what to focus on day-to-day and I also learn how she prioritizes her work.

      2. Meep*

        Oh! Mine was like that! She would eat up my time from 9 AM to 3 PM every day (no lunch break) and then complain nothing gets done. I would work on her marketing work rather than my engineering projects and she would often sit 20+ minutes on her phone giggling at her multiple boyfriends’ text messages. I learned if I picked up my phone she would get pissy and demand “we” get back to work which moved things along.

        When she wasn’t in the office, I got more done, but not significantly because she would call me only to say “I will call you back in 5 minutes” and hang up. It would be a good 30 minutes before she called back and if I didn’t answer on the first ring, I would get an earful about how I wasn’t doing my job.

        She is a literal nightmare. I don’t think I have actually hated another human being, but I hate her with a passion.

    3. Meep*

      I… had a manager who would chew my ear off for a minimum of… four hours a day. Six was the mean, though.

      She would trap me in the conference room and refuse to let me even go to the bathroom. I don’t know if I would call her a micromanager as she didn’t actually know anything that was going on in the company, but I definitely did all of her work and none of the work I was actually paid for. I ended up coming in early and spending two hours after she left to pick up her kid getting caught up on my own work.

      My career certainly suffered on top of my mental health. I am extremely grateful she is mostly out of my life now.

    4. Chauncy Gardener*

      Oh my gosh, this is excessive! I have a standing weekly one hour checkin call/meeting with my direct reports and it rarely takes the whole hour. I have the same with my boss, and since we run the company, it usually takes the whole hour, but not always!
      We’ll also do targeted meetings to address a specific issue, but that maybe an hour or two a week max.

    5. Gnome*

      I was accused of micromanaging. I had a weekly team meeting for 10 minutes, but went up to 30 when we were doing a project kickoff. I had 15-45 minute check-ins with my employees every 1-2 weeks (new hires were weekly, senior staff every 2 weeks, only over 20 minutes if there were issues or feedback, new projects, or we had missed a few for whatever reason).

      1. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

        Not saying this is/was you, but being a micromanager isn’t just about how much time you schedule for meetings or check-ins. . .

        My current boss is absolutely a micromanager, but he doesn’t necessarily have us on his calendar constantly. The issue is that none of us have any autonomy to make decisions and he wants to not only give final approval on everything, but be involved in every project from the beginning, which means that I can’t decide on a subject line for an email to our clients without his say-so, which takes several days to get because he’s constantly swamped and drowning in emails. That is, unless I catch him in a 2 minute window between meetings he has with other higher-ups in our organization and corner him in his office about getting the subject line approved for the email I was supposed to send the week before. . .

  2. ThatGirl*

    Yeesh, yeah, that’s too much. I’m 10 months into this job, and my manager has weekly 30 minute 1-on-1s with her three reports, plus a weekly team meeting that’s often pretty short. She’s got visibility on what we’re working on, but for the most part she just lets us do our jobs – and she’s gotten more hands-off as I’ve been here longer, as it should be.

    I agree that Jack was also not a good manager – just in a different way.

  3. Американка (Amerikanka)*

    My current manager is more like Jane. Although I wish I could have a monthly checking with my manager, I would take Jane over Jack any day. Jack sounds like a time drain.

    1. Coder von Frankenstein*

      Agreed. The overly hands-off manager is frustrating once in a while, when you need them and they aren’t there. But the overly hands-on manager is frustrating *all the time*.

    2. bschool grad*

      My favorite manager was a lot like Jane. She was definitely busy, but we did have semi-regular check ins and regular team meetings, and she definitely did know what was going on! Sometimes she would randomly ask you about the status of ap project or what the issue with something was and you better have an answer. In a “demanding college professor” way, not a mean way.

    3. Anonymous Pygmy Possum*

      I agree! My current manager is absolutely a Jane, but he’s extremely busy so it makes sense. As much as I would love to have a manager that checks in with me every couple of weeks, or weekly like my past internships worked, an hour a day is excessive.

  4. Sparkles McFadden*

    That’s just two different flavors of bad management. I, personally, prefer a hands-off bad manager to the performance art bad manager for all the reasons the LW mentions.

    1. Jack(ie) Straw*

      “performance art bad manager” is the best phrase I’ve read in awhile. Such a good description.

        1. Quiet Liberal*

          This right here! My manager is a Jane. I prefer her to a Jack because I am a good, conscientious worker. I get my work done with no supervision. I do have an issue with my Jane not addressing bad workers whose crappy work spills over into my area and makes my job harder. I wish managers were trained better.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Exactly. As OP writes, “textbook good manager.”
      Meet with employees. check.
      Discuss project: Check.
      Set expectations. Check
      Post mortem on project. Check.
      Yeah, he checked off the list, while OP did the work. Not the work of the project (that too) the work of managing. Jack offloaded the decision making on OP and then bombarded her with follow up and hand holding (of him). She was his personal assistant, project manager and individual contributor.
      Jack was bad at his job.

    3. Junior Assistant Peon*

      At the bad job with the boss who completely ignored me, my day-to-day wasn’t too stressful as I quietly interviewed for carefully-chosen opportunities. I’ll take that over a bad boss who makes my life unbearable and makes me want to take any job just to get out.

  5. Thursdaysgeek*

    But even good managers can have areas where they aren’t good. For instance, I had a manager that gave me work, expected me to do it and be professional, and generally kept out of my way. But he was there if I needed him, protected me from management above, made sure I had the tools I needed. All good things.

    But what he didn’t do well was play politics. That sounds like a good thing too, but when management said “no-one is getting more than 5% for raises,” he believed them and acted accordingly, and no-one on his team got more than a 5% raise. Other managers (including my spouse at the same company), put in for raises of 10%, 15%. Management would look at that, and say “10% is too much, so it can only be 8%; 15% is too much, we’re cutting it to 12%.” He had to know that was happening each year, but still refused to play the game.

    1. Elle*

      Yeah, I had a very hands-off boss once which was usually great. Until there was a huge project that meant he needed to show up to meetings in order to go to bat for his team, and actually needed to understand what we did day-to-day so he could make sure we got what we needed. That was a total let-down, and 75% of our team left when the project was finished. After dealing with a few micro-managers I often miss his style and wonder if I should have never left (once the project was over, he was probably perfectly adequate again).

    2. NeutralJanet*

      My current manager is something like that! Our time clock calculates your hours worked down to the minute, meaning that if you clock in at 8:57 and clock out at 4:58 every day, you will end up getting 5 minutes of overtime pay. Apparently some people were routinely going over by an hour a week without approval, so TPTB said that non-exempt workers had to work EXACTLY 40 hours a week, with not even one minute of overtime. Every other manager has taken this to mean “don’t let your team go more than ten minutes over or so” but my manager has taken to making sure we don’t go even one minute over. She is good about understanding that that might mean that an email that would legitimately take a minute and a half to answer and would make much more sense to address immediately might not get handled until the next day, but still, super annoying to have to watch the clock down to the minute, especially knowing that the rest of the company doesn’t have to.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I now understand why many companies round to the nearest 15 minutes! I always thought it was a holdover from the days when someone would manually calculate times stamped on a paper card, and no one ever figured out that a computerized system no longer needs this workaround.

    3. Американка (Amerikanka)*

      My manager is like that as well. He prefers to stay out of politics. One time, we interviewed an internal candidate and an external candidate for a position. My manager and team wanted the external candidate. However, my manager met with the CEO about the candidates, and the CEO wanted the internal candidate. And what the CEO wants the CEO gets.
      I understand that my manager maybe did not have much power compared to the CEO. However, I doubt my manager gave the CEO much pushback and advocated for the good qualities the external candidate would have brought. My manager has had his job for 20 years, so would likely have at least some political power , if he would just use it.

      1. Cold Fish*

        That is one of my biggest frustrations with my manager. She takes things extremely literally and Big Boss does not, nor does he seem to understand this about manager (even though they have worked together for 15 years). Big Boss says: “I’d like to do this project.”
        Big Boss means: “This looks like a good project. Let’s look into it, if good, let’s do it.”
        Manager hears: “You HAVE TO do this project.”
        Manager looks into projects. There are several reasons we don’t want to touch project with a ten foot pole, proceeds with project, bends over backward, works herself into a frenzy, breaks down crying at her desk. You ask her why? “Because Big Boss wants it done.”
        After months of frustration dealing with Project, now Big Boss is also frustrating because it is taking a long time. Finally Manager will state one of initial big reason why not to do project. and…
        Big Boss “Oh, OK. Let’s forget about this.”
        I have been in multiple meetings where this exact scenario plays out. Months of frustration could have been avoided if Manager would just push back a little bit initially.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          For those folks wondering if the Leap Year Birthday manager just had something against OP or was just too rigid, well, here we go.

        2. Coder von Frankenstein*

          Oh dear Lord yes. This is a whole *thing* in my world. Some offhand comment by a bigwig gets overheard and turned into a Dictate From On High, and everybody drives themselves batty trying to figure out exactly what the bigwig wants and how to make it happen.

          And then when somebody finally musters up the guts to *ask* the bigwig, a month later, the response is usually something like “Oh, it was just a thought I had. Would have been nice at the time but I don’t need that any more.”

          1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

            If they remember at all. Sometimes the comment was as meaningful to the Big Boss as their lunch selection that day..

          2. Guacamole Bob*

            This describes the reaction to every idle remark that comes from a Board member, at multiple organizations I’ve worked for.

            Often it’s not even dictates or things we should actually do, it’s someone asking a question that launches a big round of analysis for something that was idle curiosity, and where the person almost certainly did not mean to take up hours and hours of staff time.

            1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

              Or the meeting notes include, Board Member wants to ban color printing from all office printers.
              Two years later, Board Member asks for something in color and is told that the option is deactivated, per meeting blah, blah blah.
              Turns out “Don’t use the color printers in the office (for event mailing)” trickled down with only half the facts.

            2. Andy*

              I think that these happen when bigwigs don’t communicate enough and don’t make clear what they want. People under them are then unable to put things into context, because they don’t have context.

              When people have enough info about what is really needed, when leadership is transparent, the above happens much less.

              1. Jennifer Juniper*

                I’m guessing these managers are too scared of the bigwigs to question authority. That is trained out of many, many, many people before adulthood.

        3. Sparkles McFadden*

          Oh yes, this. I had a boss I really liked, but he looked at every offhand remark by a higher up as an opportunity for him to wow upper management. If we were working on a project and a C-suite person casually said “Sure would be great to have this done six months sooner” my boss would say “Yes sirree! We’ll get right on that!” If the new target date was impossible, I’d have to be the one to go see the exec and explain why we needed to go back to the old timeline. It was exhausting.

          1. The OTHER other*

            I had a (very good) manager who was confronted with exactly this. His instant response was “double the budget or cancel all our other projects and it might be doable”. It was awesome.

            Ridiculous shortening of timeframe for long-planned deliverable merits ridiculous other changes to make it happen.

            1. Lab Boss*

              That’s how I became a manager in the first place- confronted with a literally impossible set of goals, I opened my mouth in a meeting with bigwigs and said “Give me my own lab, my own budget, and a dedicated team of 3 and this might happen” and they all looked at each other and said “yeah, OK, we can do that.”

              My takeaway was, always tell management their ideas are absurd, out loud, in front of an audience :D

    4. Janey-Jane*

      I had a manager who I overall liked. But similarly, he had no political capital. I never could figure out if it was the department as a whole, that he inherited, or if it was him specifically. Others could get things moving quickly….but he never could.

    5. That one crap manager*

      Right. I had a manager that just wasn’t handling a situation well, but if I raised any concerns, my skip-level immediately told me what an excellent manager she was. She was very good in ways – we had a high trust team and she was very talented in tech management. She cared, but she couldn’t handle squishy human things that weren’t on her script. I tried to address an issue I had and was told repeatedly that everything was fine, until suddenly I was let go. (To be honest, her mistakes echoed the ones I’d made as a young manager… I fully admit I was not good at it )

    6. Guacamole Bob*

      On another dimension, even managers who are good managers in some organizations and for some types of teams may not be good managers in other contexts. Someone who thrives in my bureaucratic government agency might be stifling to work for in a startup. Someone who’s great at the moment-to-moment management of a team working in real time and managing coverage, like a service desk, might not do so well managing a team doing more long-term strategic work.

      There are organizations where your manager’s approach to politics might have worked fine; it’s too bad you didn’t work for one of them.

      1. Lab Boss*

        And you could have a manager who’s a great fit for the environment, and an employee who should be a great fit for the job, but their respective quirks/weaknesses don’t match well and that particular manager is a bad manager for that particular employee.

    7. Anonymous this time*

      Yup. I have a manager who is great in many ways – he’s pretty hands off, but checks in every couples of weeks or so (depending on what’s going on, could be weekly) and is responsive if we have questions. Most of the time that’s all we need.

      On the other hand, he’s rarely willing to push back in a meaningful way on things that hurt our department and is so timid about getting us what we need that a manager from another department actually stepped in to advocate for us on multiple occasions because the lack of funding to our department was affecting what we were able to provide to her department.

      In a different company I think this might be a bigger problem. Here the work around is just to casually mention the issue to someone else who will eventually see that it gets resolved.

    8. Hannah Lee*

      Thursday, that’s the problem I had with my previous “good” manager.

      He did so many things well, but he was not good at playing politics …and politics, manuveuring were a big thing at that company. Our entire 30 person department was doing good work, though we weren’t a profit generating department, we implemented tangible projects that had measurable positive impact on the bottom line. He was a VP who reported directly to the CFO, so we had direct access to C-suite management and were well-respected in many areas of the company, both as a department and as individuals. But he would not push back on edicts like “raises are capped at 5%” or the use of GE-style performance rankings where a high-performing team had to grade a fixed % of employees as “poor performers” subject to PIPs or RIFs … every single year … even if their “worst” performers were better performers than the middle or even top performers in other departments.
      While brilliant in some ways, he couldn’t read the political landscape, and was sidelined when an ambitious VP jockeyed for more turf and subsumed our group under his … bumping us down one level in company hierarchy and throwing our department into chaos by absorbing teams and projects into his other groups while still expecting the same output from what was left of the department.

      For a while, it seemed like our department was a little bubble of sanity in a back-stabbing, chaotic, white-sports-sales-bro-dude worshiping company. But our “good boss”‘s lack of aptitude for office politics, power-wielding eventually left us vunerable to others’ moves. I probably should have left that company years before I did, but the little bubble made it seemed OK for a while … until it didn’t.

      1. Thursdaysgeek*

        Oooh, that is WAY worse than not getting as good of a raise as others in the company! And points out so well why being able to understand and deal with the politics is a very important skill for a manager.

    9. SparkleBoots*

      That was my former manager as well. He really hated the politics and just refused to play. And sometimes the politics are pretty dumb, and I can get why you wouldn’t want to play them. But I feel like he could have taken a little more diplomatic approach sometimes to things. He tended to be really forgiving with our team, but not forgiving with anyone else.

      I have stepped into his role since he retired, and I’m getting a much more up close and personal view of the politics, for better or worse. Several of my manager peers have said to me that they are thrilled that I am taking over our team and have made comments about how it’s going to be easier to work with our team now…..and the really cynical part of my brain thinks, “Are you just saying that because you think I can be manipulated more easily than my last boss?” Who knows. I’m happy to work towards the common good but I’ve got to keep a sharp eye. :)

    10. sofar*

      A previous manager I had was EXCELLENT at playing politics, advocating for us to our leadership, helping us navigate the treacherous waters, and making sure we were all making the connections needed at our very large company. This was the manager who quickly understood I was underpaid and advocated for me to make me more visible and get a pay bump and promotion after my previous manager had done “all he could.”

      But man, oh man, was this person daily time-sucker. Like, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and in the middle of the night, I’d get Slack messages from them with, “I have an idea!” Then the “[manager is typing]” then a stream-of-consciousness brain-vomit of the “idea” sent over 10-15 messages. If I didn’t reply within the hour, I’d get a message that said “?” and then an upside-down smiley face emoji. And then I’d have to dig into the data to respond in a tactful way that the idea wasn’t the right move. Or that it was actually a GREAT idea and then try to come up with a reasonable turn-around time. And then negotiate about whether it could be done sooner, and which other projects could be bumped for it. Oh, and the “hey can you jump on a quick call?” requests. For two years, I spent about 3-4 hours a DAY trying to keep up with this person’s hamster brain.

      1. Thursdaysgeek*

        I had a boss who said that she had ADD and was scatter-brained. She didn’t over-communicate like yours, and was generally pretty wonderful. She would tell me what she wanted me to do, then tell me something different the next day. I told her that because she couldn’t remember what she’d told me the previous day, that I would work on what I thought was important, because by the next day, it probably would be. In other words, I openly told her that I was ignoring the hamster brain part of her leadership, and she was good with that.

    11. marvin the paranoid android*

      Good bosses are all alike; every bad boss in bad in their own way. Obviously a great boss would be able to tailor their approach to each employee, but those seem vanishingly rare. I do think certain people can be an okay fit for certain flavours of bad boss, though. My bosses have always been somewhere on the hands-off to totally AWOL spectrum, so I can operate pretty well under a Jane. I don’t think I would do well with a micromanager or a boundary-challenged manager, but some people might find that easier.

  6. Pam Adams*

    Let’s hope that he’s focusing an hour or more per day on those bad employees- that’s where he needs to focus!

    1. PollyQ*

      Unless they’re bad because they need remedial training and lots of it, that’s still far too much time to spend in those kinds of meetings. Assuming a 40-hour workweek, 1-2 hours per day is 12-25% of their time. If the employee needs that much management or hand-holding, then they’re not right for the role.

    2. Polly Hedron*

      That’s the only area where Jack might be better: managing those bad employees out (still not the best management, just better than Jane’s).

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      I would guess he probably does spend that amount of time with the problem employees but doesn’t take any actual action to deal with the issues.

    4. The OTHER other*

      I was going to say, when I put people on PIP’s the time required to coach them goes up. I had one guy where it was 1 hour per day with him and a weekly check in about it with MY manager, and it just about killed me. I can’t imagine doing this for multiple reports, or endlessly.

  7. Guacamole Bob*

    Ugh, yeah, too much of this stuff can be a real drag. I work in a big bureaucracy, and there is definitely creep towards too much of this stuff – we have at least 3-4 different project tracking systems that need occasional updates, for example (they each track against different things, like where in the budget the project is funded from versus department goals versus staffing). And there are team, department, and division meetings at various intervals, meetings for just the managers in our department, meetings for the managers with the division head, planning meetings…

    It’s a constant balancing act for all of us to keep everyone involved and informed but not to let everything get too bloated with overhead tasks.

  8. StoneColdJaneAusten*

    I love how Alison always knows exactly the right question to ask. That’s why she’s the expert and I’m not.

  9. Andy*

    Jane is better manager and Jack is not a good manager. Having choice, I would pick Jane any time.

    I think that those expectations about perfect feedback and managers knowing everything what you do are unrealistic. When managers try to fulfill them, they inevitably make everything worst.

    Also, contemporary management theories don’t care about people’s motivations or psychology. They tend to be very technical and process oriented. Consequently you get 1:1 meetings that are nothing but rituals, without any improvement in mutual understanding.

    1. Jack(ie) Straw*

      For me it depends. Early in my career, I’d 100% choose a Jane given the chance. Later in my career, she’d drive me up the wall and I’d pine and long for a Jack who would just let me do my job.

      1. Andy*

        Jane is the one that let’s people do job, her fault was that it took more time till she fixed issue. Jack is the one who asks frequent updates, one on one’s etc.

    2. OP*

      OP here–“meetings as rituals” is such a good way to put it. That did indeed describe a huge number of the team meetings Jack put on our schedules.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        The flaw was in the implementation: the belief that if some check-ins is good, more check-ins is better. This is the American Way.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Problem: 10 hours daily of meetings limits productivity.
          Solution: will be discussed during the new 2 hour meeting scheduled at the end of the existing 10 hours.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          My personal Bugaboo was the daily tier meeting. Intended to give each person two minutes to say three things they want to accomplish during the day, and identify a specific issue or 2 where they need help. But each day each hperson’s 2 minutes turned into 10 minutes, and more than one manager did not rein it in. Those of us who tried to keep it short? We got lots of minutia questions. I’m still trying to get back into the short summary habit.

      2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        OP, I am curious what Jack got out of these meetings. It appears they didn’t help you do work better or enable Jack to provide useful guidance or lead more effectively. Could they have been merely a way for Jack to fill his day?

        1. OP*

          That’s a good question. Jack put a very high value on what he saw as everyone’s voice being heard. He believed that through endless meetings, he was giving employees a chance to weigh in on decisions. He saw this as a democratic and flat style of management. Possibly he was not even comfortable making decisions without hearing input on them first.

          Ironically, this style of management ended up being disliked by most of the people it was supposed to be helping. Perhaps if we’d had our workloads lessened at the same time to allow time for all these meetings, it would have been fine–tedious, but fine. But without a decrease in work, it was just stressful.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Yeah, he missed the point. I have run meetings, such as the two years I was president of my church council. The trick is to fine the right balance. You need to let people have their say. Do that and most will accept a vote that goes the other way. Don’t let them have their say before that vote and they will have a grievance, and understandably so. On the other hand, you have to keep the meeting moving or you will be there all night. Some gentle prodding is often required, and a willingness to cut things off once people begin circling back around to stuff they already said. It is an art form. It sounds like Jack was all about the letting people have their say, but didn’t get the second part.

          2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

            Yikes! OP, I’m sorry you were stuck in that time sink. That’s bad managing because:
            (1) Many decisions–especially small ones–do not require that everyone’s voice be heard.
            (2) Being heard does not equal long discussions. It may not even require a meeting. For many decisions, Slack/Email/Google Docs are an efficient way to collect feedback.
            (3) Managers get paid to make decisions. Delegating them to the team does not make the organization flat and democratic. Moreover, team members often want the manager to make the decision so the team can can get their jobs done.

            Jack was doing a lot of things. Managing well was not one of them.

          3. tamarack and fireweed*

            Yeah, that sounded like the key point to me, too: If Jack wanted to add an hour and a half (on the average) of meetings and coordination per day to your task list, then either these meetings and coordination would have to dramatically increase your efficiency to the point of 8 h of work now being able to get done in 6.5 h, or he’d have to reduce your workload. The latter of course would raise the question of the value of all this coordination if it’s not getting more work done. (Maybe there *is* value – like better efficiencies elsewhere in the company, better input from your team to, say, the product development process, that is, better products. Or of course eliminating obstacles like the ones that Jane let fester. Even if *your* work gets more stressful there might have been a justification if the *team’s* work as a whole had improved, but it doesn’t look like this was the case.)

          4. SlimeKnight*

            I had a manager in the past who had meetings like this. They didn’t like making decisions, and none of their employees wanted to be responsible, so no one would do anything except complain about how nothing is getting done.

          5. bschool grad*

            That’s interesting. I also place a high value on everyone’s voices being heard but I also (in part due to AAM) think that no meeting should be longer than 30 mins without a good reason. So hopefully it balance out.

            1. OP*

              It depends on the context…there were certainly times when I was glad to have the chance to get input, but many others where the decision was so small I honestly didn’t care about the outcome. Or, the decision that needs to be made is in someone else’s area of expertise, so I can’t contribute anything meaningful.

      3. Observer*

        That is actually not the textbook definition of a good manager, but the textbook definition of a bad manager.

    3. Lady_Lessa*

      Even though I am a chemist, I tend to be more creative, and idea leaping. (I’m a formulator and have a ball doing it), I detest things that are heavily process driven. Some things have to be, such as aircraft companies, but I don’t have to work for them.

  10. Rachel*

    I had a manager very similar to Jane who recently left. I now have a new manager, whom I like very much so far. I would like to do what I can to encourage him to fall on the spectrum somewhere between Jane and Jack. Do folks have suggestions for what to do to foster a more hands-on approach from a manger, without it turning into micromanagement? I would love more direction and feedback, but like LW, things have been OK under the status quo, and I want to tread carefully when seeking more input from my new boss.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Maybe be specific in what you ask for? If you want more feedback about projects, ask if you can schedule a meeting for feedback on project X, and come prepared with questions on what worked well and where you could improve. If the answers tend to be “oh, it was all good, I don’t really have any suggestions,” then ask more specific questions. “I debated handling [thing] like this instead, but chose to do it this other way for these reasons. What do you think about those two approaches?” And maybe you could also have a meeting about professional development and career goals. Talk about where you want to be in a few years, and ask for suggestions about skills you should develop or improve in order to make that goal.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I was going to say a variation of this – think about what level of management you want, and find ways to point your new manager to that level. If there’s no sign of a regular checkin, ask for one, on the frequency you think you need. If you’re getting micromanaged, respond to some of the questions by asking if you can put that item on the agenda for your next checkin.

        My manager is generally excellent, but occasionally when I need more structure on a long-term project I have to ask for checkins or interim deadlines to keep myself on track. I’m generally a high performer, so my manager is happy to trust my judgment on that kind of thing and help give me the structure I need.

  11. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    I interview next week for my retired boss’s job (and all signs point to management’s plan to give it to me, although I am not counting too many of my chickens yet).

    We’re not a meeting-heavy environment, but the team includes 1 person who learns quickly and has a lot of natural ability, and 1 person who is steady but needs a lot of careful encouragement and coaching. I’m really interested to hear how supervisors can juggle the needs of multiple types of staff members. Since we’re a tiny team it’s going to be both easier and harder to customize the supervision. I’m hoping for 1 or 2 informal huddles during the week, and then the occasional real meetings for dealing with process/training.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I had a situation like this with some interns 2 year paid internships) I managed. One you could give a description of the project, goals, and deadline and she’d run with it, only checking in when she had technical questions. Other intern wanted to have my feedback before taking each step. I ended up tailoring my management to each. I asked the The Runner what she needed and she said a check in every other week to review progress and answer questions would work for her. The Planner asked for weekly check-ins, so he got those. I let both know that they could ask for more/less time whenever they needed it. Eventually Planner decided that every other week was better than weekly check ins. The Runner stayed every other week until the last month of her project where we met weekly. Overall, it worked pretty well, but I might have just been lucky

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        I think your flexibility and availability crated your luck.

        You showed your interns you were willing to trust them, while also ensuring they knew you were available for coaching as needed.

        It’s impressive that they were also adaptable, and were willing to alter their preferences as circumstances changed.

        It looks like the three of you were an effective team. That looks like success to me.

    2. Hannah Lee*

      DGA has good suggestions. One thing I’ll add is that depending on the dynamics of who you manage, whether they are peers who are aware of what their co-workers are doing, it may make sense to set up a consistent structure for all of them, for example standing 1×1 meetings every week or every other week, with obstensibly the same rough agenda – status updates, progress towards goals, potential issues and workarounds, how you can guide, asssist, etc. But the actual meetings themselves would playout differently, where self-directed employee might give you a quick high level update, flagging a few key points and you asking a few questions to probe, but then moving off to more in-depth discussion of a particular area, or more strategic, forward looking discussions, but the meeting with the employee who needs more direction, hand-holding would be more nuts and bolts.

      From the outside, they, and anyone else, sees you having standing weekly status meetings with all your direct reports … which keeps everyone on an even keel and sets expectations for all employees: they know they’ve got to update you and that they’ll have your ear for input, guidance, whatever every week. But you can meet each employee where they are at and give/get value based on what they are doing, their needs are.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        Thanks to both of you. I think that’s kinda how I’ll play it. I’m on a mission to have lots of collaboration and transparency of process (in part because we may need to split tasks differently to play to the strengths of the team members) so open meetings on process, 1-on-1 meetings on how it’s going.

    3. RosyGlasses*

      The way I juggle it is by scheduling different cadences. I have one team member that I meet with around every 2 weeks or so for “formal” 1:1s – in that it’s a structured conversation but I obviously communicate via slack on day to day items, and another team member that is weekly. It’s all about adapting to folks and how they work best in achieving goals/project KPIs (some people need more frequent check ins to stay on track) and how intrinsically motivated they are. It’s the managers job to know how to adapt and how to ask the questions of how you get the most out of your workday.

    4. Cat Tree*

      You don’t have to manage them the same amount out of some sense of fairness, if I understand what you’re asking. If one person needs more check ins, then schedule those with that person. Of course the intent isn’t punitive, so if they notice that the other person has fewer check in meetings, you can explain why. It’s not an insult to tell the person that they work better with more oversight.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Another idea is to schedule both for the same number of 20-minute one-on-ones, and just let one of the meetings be incredibly short if that person doesn’t need the full amount of time.

  12. Vlad the merry impaler*

    (Perhaps not really surprising) both the question and the answer are heavily process-oriented. That’s ok, but not nearly enough to understand the stuff “good managers” are made out of.

    Google has been collecting data on its own teams and managers for years. As a profit-oriented business that it is, it tried to find out what sets apart “great managers” from “good managers”, “exceptional teams” from “okay-ish teams”. Their research identified 10 core manager behaviors that correlate with exceptional performance (based on both business metrics and employee feedback). Out of the 10 behaviors, 1 is technical, 3 are organizational and the rest of 6 pertain to the Emotional Intelligence domain.

    Google’s exceptional teams outperform good teams due to 5 essential traits (as identified by Google). 70% of the difference comes from a trait called “psychological safety” inside the team, the rest of 30% stemming from dependability (of coworkers’ work), structure&clarity of own role, plan and goals, meaning of the work and feeling the impact of the work on others.

    (All data and some ready-to-use instruments are available for free)

    I made this long comment to underline the idea that OP might need to rethink the definition of a “good manager” and include lots of soft, “warm and fuzzy” stuff because “warm and fuzzy” has a clear and immediate impact on the company bottom line *and* employee wellbeing.

    (Plus, Gallup’s own research points in the same direction, so…)

    1. OP*

      OP here–you really hit the nail on the head here. My question was definitely based on a set of assumptions about what makes a good manager, and reading Allison’s answer of course meant I had to question that. I’m now realize that I’ve probably never had a good manager. I’m not managing anyone right now but I have in the past, and I hope that before I start managing others again, I’ll have some better models to work off of.

      1. Sea Anemone*

        So what do you believe about what a good manager is? A good manager is not a fixed set of traits. A good manager is the manager who makes you the most effective in your role.

        You don’t have to be a passive observer, though. You can try managing upwards. You won’t get everything you want, but you might have some success at getting some of the things you want.

    2. Sharon*

      I would caution against “warm & fuzzy” = “good manager.” I’ve seen plenty of people who are very pleasant, ask about your kids, etc. but are also very disorganized, can’t make a decision, poor understanding of the work, no sense of boundaries, etc. Definitely a manager needs to be approachable, but they also need to be able to take appropriate action when approached. Just being nice doesn’t help.

      1. Vlad the merry impaler*

        Oh, I used “warm and fuzzy” as a shorthand for “high EQ and adept at managing multiple people’s emotional states to help them be their best”, which is kinda clunky and way too long. But this set of abilities and competencies is way overlooked still, when you see the science.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Eh, I understood what you meant. Managing people actually requires managing people, not just processes.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, this. At my current job, my first manager was a micromanager who lacked empathy. I later realized that she probably lacked confidence as a manager, because she seems to be thriving as a senior independent contributor. The second one was warm and fuzzy, and her empathy was so high that she struggled with making unpopular (but necessary) decisions. At first, I really enjoyed working for her, because for the first time at my current job, I felt heard. In the end, though, she became more of a friend than a manager, and that backfired when I refused to accept her management and actually yelled at her at work. I was lucky not to be fired, although I was put on a PIP. She was stressed and unhappy in her job for other reasons than me, but I’m rather afraid that my behavior was the last straw that convinced her to get out of management before retiring. Then I had a really great intermediary manager, whom I’d known as a peer before her promotion. She got the mix just right, and I never had any problems accepting her authority as a manager. She was friendly and professional rather than a friend. One of her good friends (to the point they went to each other’s weddings, not something mere coworkers do here) switched to another department around the time of her promotion, to conserve the friendship. My current manager was hired from outside the organization, and we’re friendly and professional as well. Initially all of us were very sad to lose the interim manager, but the new one’s so good that I’m not really missing the interim one anymore.

    3. Cat Tree*

      This is really interesting and I’ll look into it. I’m at a point in my career where I’m thinking of moving into management but I’m not completely sure what I should be working on to be good at that.

      My company has trainings for managers specifically on managing. I’ve never had a bad manager here so it’s probably good training. But I’ve had some good bosses and some great bosses and I want to be great at it.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Training on management for new manager, from the company. I didnt know tgat utopia existed.
        Whoever runs that program at your employer, I’d love it to read an interview with them on the subject. Or even better, the old-timer who started it and how they got corporate to agree.

        1. Cat Tree*

          I work at a gigantic company, literally 8,000 people at my site (pre-covid) and dozens of sites around the world (although mine is one of the largest). That means a lot of things are very standardized. There are thousands of managers in the company. So there isn’t really one person running the program.

          My current company really takes a different approach in general compared to other places I’ve worked. They view employees as an investment, not just an expense, so they do lots of things to retain us. I know that the perks like 20 weeks of paid maternity leave are ultimately a tactic to make me stick around longer – but it works. And things like manager training are also done because it ultimately saves the company money through lots of intangibles like efficiency and employee retention. Sometimes treating employees well can benefit a company, who knew?

        1. Cat Tree*

          Oh, only at this specific company. I’ve had plenty of terrible bosses at other places. But now that I’m here I’m planning to stay until I retire or get laid off.

  13. Eldritch Office Worker*

    This is also a matter of taste. Some people would take a Jack over a Jane if they had to choose because some people thrive from an active relationship with their manager and constant feedback and would find Jane really demoralizing. Other’s thrive from a sense of independence and would find Jack exhausting. Most people could learn to live with either, at least for awhile. I’d up-manage the hell out of both of them until I either made the situation bearable or got myself fired, probably.

    Not that either is GOOD because they’re more to your taste, but it sounds like on paper you preferred Jack’s style over Jane’s. Lesser of two evils. Others might go the other direction. Your coworker sounds like he might be in the opposite camp. But neither of these people is a “textbook” good manager, they both have major flaws to work on.

    1. Observer*

      Some people would take a Jack over a Jane if they had to choose because some people thrive from an active relationship with their manager and constant feedback and would find Jane really demoralizing.

      That’s only partly true. Neither of them is a good manager. Some people will do better with one or the other. But Jack won’t be GOOD even for someone who needs high levels of feedback and connection with their manager.

      Which goes back to what Alison said – they are BOTH bad, just different types of bad.

      1. Sea Anemone*

        But Jack won’t be GOOD even for someone who needs high levels of feedback and connection with their manager.

        We only have input from people (and only two people, only one directly) who hate Jack’s style. I don’t think that’s enough data to draw your conclusion.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          I’m just one person, but I can safely say that in every place I’ve ever worked, having a manager who wanted standing daily 1 hour 1×1 or staff meetings would not be a good thing … at least anywhere where employees are to some extent individual contributors or managing projects that aren’t 100% lockstep with everyone else on their team.

          Maybe at a construction site, or rocket manufacturing or launch planning operation, or highly-logistics dependent business, where a daily synch up is essential for safety, work planning, overnights results reviewing, knowing what resources are where and whether things are on-target/schedule to establish that day’s work plan? But that’s less about an individual employee’s work preferences and more about the nature of the work in an interconnected workgroup.

        2. Observer*

          We only have input from people (and only two people, only one directly) who hate Jack’s style. I don’t think that’s enough data to draw your conclusion.

          Yes, we do have enough data. Because the key information is not how the OP *feels* about it, but the factual description of Jack’s management process. And there is simply no way to consider what he is doing good management outside of some very narrow circumstances.

        3. Lance*

          It’s not really a matter of ‘hating’ his style. The pure and simple facts are, he’s burning a pretty healthy chunk of time through the week, and being dismissive about it when it was pushed back on at all. Those are already points against him, however you look at it.

        4. Seeking Second Childhood*

          1 hour of every day = 12% of OP’s work week, without changing the workload so they have to work longer days to stay caught up. That’s pretty concrete data.

    2. OP*

      OP here–I’m not sure I preferred one over the other, but Jack was doing what I thought a manger “should” do (realizing I was wrong about that now).

      I do think at least one coworker thrived on the frequent meetings Jack was providing. That doesn’t make it good, but I agree that it would fit some people’s style better.

    3. Merrie*

      My boss is the worst of both of these. He doesn’t provide any positive feedback or moral support AND he has these extremely specific things that he drills us on. But, he’s a corporate stooge. His idea of how I should run my department is right in line with the corporate playbook. My idea is in line with what I feel works in practice, but he always pulls out some “oh, corporate has studied this and they say you need to do XYZ, so you need to do that.” Corporate isn’t in the trenches every day!

    4. Sometimes supervisor*

      Part agree. Would strongly argue neither Jane nor Jack are good managers. But if I was asked which one I thought was the better manager (read: which one would I prefer to work with if I had to pick one and, oh, you know, couldn’t find another job and walk out on them both), I would pick Jack.

      Sure, that whole meetings for the sake of meetings thing is not going to have anybody at their best but I’m the sort of person who quite likes checklists and processes so I think I could deal with that much better than I could deal with Jane’s hands-off nature. I don’t have a problem with hands-off managers per se, but like OP I’ve been in a situation where it’s played out in a way that it’s allowed toxic employees to fester and drag down whole teams. I personally can’t stand play politics and find in situations like this that’s all you end up doing.

  14. Allornone*

    I have one half-hour weekly meeting with my immediate boss and his other direct report. The other report and I have very, very different jobs despite being on the same team, so it’s good to see what everyone is doing.

    I have one monthly meeting with my team (finance) and the heads of our programming teams. We’re a non-profit, and we have to make sure the grants I write cover what the programs actually need and that things get spent the way we promise funders. This is necessary. It can be boring, but necessary.

    Another monthly meeting of management (though I don’t actually manage any people, I just manage grants). I’m new to these and I think they’ll grow on me since I’m nosy and want to know everything that’s going on in my organization (it also helps make grants easier to write). So okay, cool. Besides, they kind of make me feel important (struggling with imposter syndrome).

    Usually one brief meeting before lunch and one toward the end of the day (both 5 minutes max, usually closer to two) where bossman checks on me one-t0-one.

    Meetings to review written grants I submit as needed.

    It seems like a lot typing out, but I’m happy with the setup. Especially since I’m new I don’t mind having some checks and balances.

  15. Dust Bunny*

    My supervisor’s managing takes 30-40 minutes a week in a department meeting. And that’s with all of us giving quick updates, etc., so she’s not even the one doing all the talking. We almost never meet one-on-one unless she has a specific reason, although she’s available if we need her.

    1. OP*

      OP here–I am now realizing I may never have had a good manager, and also really hoping I find one. FWIW I’m switching fields and I’m excited to see how others manage in a totally different setting.

      1. Cat Tree*

        One thing you might consider is a very large company that has management training for managers. Even people who are naturally skilled at managing can benefit from good training. It’s not a coincidence that my two best managers ever were at a company that trains their managers.

  16. Murphy*

    One of the best things I was told at the interview for my current job is “Nobody here is a micromanager because nobody has time for that.” (And this has been true.) How on earth did he have time for an hour or two of meetings per day? With multiple reports?

    1. Paulina*

      Yes! That was my first thought. Meanwhile Jane had been struggling to manage OP and her other reports, in part due to own high workload. So at this company, Jane was expected to manage on top of her other considerable duties while Jack seemingly had lots of time to manage and expanded his meetings with his reports to fit that time. Maybe the company switched dramatically between organization styles, but if not, the workload was extremely unfair. Maybe Jane could have been a good manager, or at least a better one, if she hadn’t been so overloaded.

      1. OP*

        Yes, I think that’s probably true. The wider company had a lot of issues that probably impacted Jane–there was intense pressure on her from above–and those happened to have been smoothed out by the time Jack joined.

        1. PT*

          This sounds typical.
          Female employee: My workload is too high. I need an assistant/second in command/another person on my team to help handle it.
          Company: No you will have to do all of it that’s not possible.
          *female employee leaves and gets new job*
          Company: Huh I guess that job was too hard. Let’s give it an assistant and add someone else to the team to make it easier, then hire a man to do 1/3 the work at higher pay.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, and it also depends a lot on the number of reports. A manager who only has 2 or 3 reports can probably do daily meetings, but my manager who has 18 reports could never do that. Especially as she’s involved in multiple strategic projects across the organization that necessitate a lot of meetings. Even so, she has 1:1 meetings with all her employees, usually 3 times a year, a full team meeting every two weeks, and ad hoc meetings when they can be scheduled and are necessary. To say her calendar is full is an understatement. This wouldn’t work if she had multiple reports who need more hands-on management, but we’re an expert organization, and being able to work without constant supervision is a necessity.

  17. Sea Anemone*

    Good management isn’t about managing in one particular way. It’s about managing in the way that makes the employee most effective in their role. Sounds like Both Jack and Jill need to tailor their approach to the employee.

  18. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    My boss and I have a 1:1 call (we are in different states) each week where we go over any current or potential issues on our project and review any work I have done that is easier to review verbally on shared screen rather than with e-mail/track changes. We also have a 1/2 hr Team check in with her boss and everyone who falls under her and their staff. This one is slightly less useful because the group I work with is on a stand-alone project and everyone else is more ongoing operations, but overall it is interesting because we are all the same specialty, just working on different topics. It is also a great way to hear about how useful some of the organization’s trainings are/are not to pick which I want to enroll in.

  19. That One Girl*

    Oh boy. I didn’t write this, but it could have been written by me for sure! I also once left a job with a terribly ineffective manager and took a job with a nice, seemingly great manager instead. Only I quickly learned that the seemingly great manager was all of these things: A time suck… didn’t empower us to do our work without micromanagement… needed to be constantly told the same information over and over again because she only retained it long enough to report to her superiors on it, but then once again got lost on where the project stood following that report out. It left me yearning for my previous incompetent manager who offered no support and had no idea what my accomplishments were, but hey – at least I was free to do what I pleased and wasn’t bogged down with needless extra meetings and reports. Obviously the best option is something between an overworked/unresponsive manager and an overly involved micromanager, but I’ve rarely experienced that middle ground in my career.

    1. OP*

      Hello, glad I’m not alone! I also hope to experience a truly good manager at some point in my career–I don’t think I ever have.

    2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      Ooh, I like the phrase “ineffective manager”. Someone can do all of the “right things”, but if they do it badly, they are clearly ineffective. That’s who Jack is.

  20. zebra*

    I don’t think there really is such a thing as a “good” manager in a vacuum. What works well for some companies and some employees doesn’t work well in others. And while “bad” manager traits are easy to identify, a lot of those “bad” managers would probably do fine in another context or with a different team. A micromanager boss and a hands-off boss can each be good or bad depending on which style their employees respond better to. And in my experience, even my worst boss had at least one or two people who were really on their side — clearly whatever wasn’t working for me was working fine for them.

    OP, what’s important is identifying the kind of management style that YOU like best, and learning how to recognize what that looks like in different contexts. The more you can understand what kind of management you want, the better you will be able to describe it to future employers and tease it out during interviews.

    1. PT*

      Yeah, this is important. I had several managers who weren’t managing serious issues on their teams because their boss had effectively banned them from doing so.

      Every once in awhile someone new would come in and be like, “But how can she not fix this!!!” and we’d be like, “Yup we know. That is a problem and it definitely needs to be fixed. But Grandboss won’t allow it. So…”

  21. Leela*

    This makes me wonder about how (and if) your company trains managers and makes their own objectives clear to them, I’m guessing from this, not very well! I see both of these managers a lot having worked in HR across a variety of big companies and this happened a lot: someone’s a great data scientist, or programmer, or artist. Now they get moved into management because due to salary banding, that’s the only way to promote (and likely keep) them. But they don’t give them good management training, or good job shadowing with a manager or anything like that. They’re just expected to sink or swim (and the team they manage with them) and if they’re a “good manager” they’ll figure it out. Honestly, no poorly supported manager I’ve ever seen has been a good manager, even if it was obvious they were thoughtful, empathetic, good at delegating, doing everything they can, etc. There’s only so much you can do when you have no idea what boundaries you have, what goals you and your team are supposed to be accomplishing, and aren’t getting good leadership yourself, so people tend to either excessively micromanage to feel like someone’s at the helm (jack) or totally back off and hope that what kept the team running will just continue because you have absolutely no idea what to do (jane). I have also been in positions where I was in charge and had absolutely no direction or anywhere to turn with questions, or I was allowed to ask one extremely busy person a few quick, contextless questions every month or so or they’d get visibly frustrated from being taken away from their own work.

    Not saying that’s what happened with Jack or Jane of course, they might just be performing like this despite solid backing from the company, but I almost wonder if the company didn’t get the feedback that Jane was too hands off so Jack should be “more hands on” and wasn’t given any guidance about what exactly that meant. Or he’s just like this! In either case, I’m sorry…up to two hours PER DAY some days? I would even find ten minutes every day an awful lot, unless you actually need to check in that often for something, or if a manager was heavily coaching a struggling employee on specific areas, no wonder you’re finding this unpleasant! Best of luck to you

  22. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Textbook good manager is like textbook skilled anyone. You can learn how to fly a plane from a book, too, but if you get in a pilot’s seat you can’t expect the copilot to do everything and you just sit back for the ride, asking an endless list of questions.

  23. Lenora Rose*

    My manager is a bit of a overtalker – that is, she can take 15 minutes over a 5 minute question (though she stays on topic). And she still spends maybe an hour on an average week (broken up across the days) actually *managing*, and that includes touching base. The only weeks that involved more, we were working through a minor crisis or a new-to-us-both process together, and it was always a net boon. I feel generally well managed, not overwhelmed but always able to access her and ask questions.

    An hour a day sounds maddening.

  24. middlemgmt*

    This is a great question. I’ve had similar experiences for different reasons. my previous SVP (grandboss) was difficult in a lot of ways. They wanted a lot of reports (like constant formal reporting on campaigns, initiatives, etc. that took up a lot of time), they played favorites (and I was not one of them) and was generally very hardline, and even resentful if you were on their bad side. they left and new SVP came in and I thought it would be way better. In some ways it is – I’m definitely more personally well-regarded by them – and they don’t make us do the same level of reporting and stuff. but the new person wastes way more of my time – it’s just in different ways. Like they want 3 scenarios for a proposal, not jsut one. they want only 1 report, but they want 5 pages worth of data and on a weekly basis, just to have in their pocket at a meeting in case asked. But worst of all, they don’t advocate for us effectively with other senior management, so we are now overloaded with work and unfilled positions. The importance of an SVP who will push back on their co-leadership can’t be overstated. I have a much better relationship with this person, but I feel less valued and more overworked.

  25. Shiba Dad*

    Every hour of meeting time = an hour and a half away from productive work (YMMV). If you are meeting an hour or two DAILY it is no wonder you can’t get anything done OP.

    1. middlemgmt*

      tell this to my office. an average day has at least 50% meetings. it’s not unusual for me to have days where the entire day except for lunch is all meetings. (I know, I know. its not my choice. and every time someone asks why we aren’t getting our tasks done… this is a large part of why.)

  26. anonymous73*

    A hands off manager like Jane isn’t a bad thing, as long as she makes herself available when needed and checks in with her employees periodically (sounds like this Jane was as hands off as you can be). If bad employees are festering, then either their direct supervisors or colleagues are covering for them, or they’re not asking for help. And unless these issues are reflected in productivity, Jane isn’t going to be aware that changes need to happen.

    1. Observer*

      Part of being a good manager is having some way to have visibility into issues. It sounds like she had no ways to do this – no meetings, no check ins, no status reporting AND no clarity on how / when / what to report to her.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      My Jane had been informed of a bad employee, but chose not to investigate anything properly and formed her own conclusions, which often turned out to be wrong. That was how this employee was able to fester for three years.

  27. Still Queer, Still Here*

    I feel a bit in the same boat as OP. I’m in a new job, and have only been here 3 months, so this may just be how she is with new employees. But given my background with the organization (I have been an active member of the community they serve for more than 10 years, already knew about 40% of the staff -entire staff is close to 200, so that’s a large chunk of the community), I’m not *exactly* a newbie.

    Anyway, my manager, (we’ll call her Jackie) has been mostly great. I can tell that she’s probably a good manager in a lot of ways. I come from a long line of hands-off managers who then act like it’s entirely my fault when I’ve failed or completed a project in a completely different way. I once had a project that I worked on for 7 months; but never had a 1-to-1 with my manager about it. She avoided every request. The finished project was not what she wanted, and I was blamed. Jackie, on the other hand, is very hands-on. To the point that I think she might be a micromanager. She’s leaving at the end of December, and from what my coworkers say, it’s a little worse now because she’s leaving. But basically, last week I met with her one on one 3 times, each for about an hour. That was in addition to the 90 minute team meeting and 60 minute sub-team meeting. It doesn’t look like that’s happening to others. She also has a really unrealistic understanding of how long the things she’s asking me to do take. Gives an assignment, then wants me to share the completed project a day or 2 later. Example: Completely re-design a 20+ slide presentation adding higher level design elements and changing about 30% of the content, and have it ready 1 work day later. When I tell her that’s not happening, it’ll be a couple of days, she starts anxiously spinning out about how long this is taking and maybe we should just not upgrade things (we HAVE to upgrade in order to stay relevant). Her work boundaries suck, too. She’s working on the weekends and sending emails all the time. She doesn’t expect us to work the weekend, but it feels like a bad precedent.

    Anyway. Advice?

    1. alynn*

      She wants to have the work done faster but (somehow) seems unaware how much time the meetings consume. Would she be open to being told the amount of time you are spending in meetings is directly impacting your ability to do you work?

      If nothing else, you say she is leaving at the end of December so there is end in sight.

  28. Meep*

    As someone who has been Jane and Jack and has worked with Jane and Jack (sometimes rolled up into one), a good manager manages based on the employee’s needs and skills. They acknowledge some people need a little extra handholding while others thrive just being left alone.

  29. Alex*

    Ugh this sounds like my boss! The funny part is, she started off as a Jane, and then took a bunch of management courses and turned into a Jack. We used to have one department meeting a month, and one review a year. Now we have meeting meetings meeting meetings, meetings ABOUT how to have meetings, meetings talk about what kinds of meetings we should have. There are diagrams, charts, lists, checklists. A lot of color coding has entered our lives.

    Not only does it take up so much of MY time….now HER time is totally engulfed by this “management.” She is so focused on ticking off “motions I have to go through to be a good manager” that she doesn’t have time to address actual problems or needs, and loses track of questions I come to her with, avoids making decisions about important stuff, etc. It’s INFURIATING.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      You are giving me flashbacks to my time at VERY BIG CORPORATION™ when we would have rehearsal meetings for the actual meeting, the actual meeting, and then the debrief meeting from the actual meeting. It was awful.

  30. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

    LW, you say about Jane: “Even worse, at one point she allowed a toxic coworker’s behaviors to continue for far too long because she was barely aware of them.”

    But did anyone let her know about the problem behavior? If you knew that she was fairly hands-off, it’s not very fair to fault her for not knowing about a thing if nobody brings it up to her.

    1. OP*

      She definitely knew about the behaviors. She did not realize how toxic they were, if that makes sense. The behaviors were ones that apparently she could personally tolerate but literally everyone else found them toxic. To her credit, once she realized how unhappy everyone was, she did take action. I am still kind of in disbelief that anyone could find those behaviors tolerable, but it did teach me the value of speaking up.

      1. OP*

        Rereading the letter, I probably should have said that she was “barely aware of the impact they were having” not “barely aware of them”, re the behaviors.

  31. None*

    Yeah I feel for this person I had a boss that refused to set formal meetings for the team but would then call people randomly to her office and force long ridiculous meetings. Like oh you are literally in the middle of a time sensitive task well I need to meet with you for 2 hours to discuss things like “what’s your love language so I know how you show your appreciation?” “ if you had unlimited funds would you quit your job?” (I got coached bc I said yes I would quit my entry level crappy pay with no benefits admin job). Honestly the best jobs I had did just didn’t have middle managers like the one above. She was hands down the worst boss I’ve ever had.

  32. YL*

    Kudos to those who decide to be managers. It’s always been a mysterious balance to me. How do you be a good manager? How do you not be a bad manager?

    In classroom settings, I’ve had too many teammates think manager = mom. It’s why I never ever want to be a manager–even of an intern. I’m not mom. I’m also not a mind reader. I need people to communicate when there’s a problem. I don’t need them to tell me what I should be doing if that “should” is more of a personal preference rather than correcting something that’s not working.

  33. Lucious*

    I realize sharing this is likely to get me some nasty comments – the title is “Ask a Manager” after all – but my thought is manager selection at most companies is irrevocably broken.

    We don’t as a business world select managers who can motivate people to perform. That’s not just my two cents- a Gallup poll stated over 80% of manager hires are poor fits. If 80% of the entry level hires were poor fits HR would get called on the carpet!

    We select people for management who are socially compatible to the senior leadership, great execution level staff, or both. That’s not even getting into the political motives of the executives, who may have very deliberate reasons why a poor candidate is picked to be a manager. Like keeping a rising star from outshining them.

    It creates a situation where employees read about great managers ,but look back at their career spent around toxic bosses and wonder just what museum these great managers hang out at. We can and should collectively do better, both at picking and actually training managers.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      No, I think you have a very valid point.

      There are other problems too.

      People aren’t trained in management. If you promoted someone to a job that involved using new software, employers will often spring for formal training to get them up to speed. Promote them to management, and they have to work it out on their own, using their direct reports as test subjects. Often their own management isn’t able to train them, because they’ve fumbled their way to a style that works for them (or doesn’t) but can’t articulate it or adapt to it.

      The system is also strongly designed to push people into management regardless of competence or inclination. You reach a point as an individual contributor and your career stalls out – you can stay employed, but your salary hits a cap. If you want to earn more money, or have input into higher level decisions, you have to move to management.

      I’m in academia. People get tenure track jobs, and promoted thorough the ranks of professor, primarily based on research output. At some point in the process, as they become senior faculty, the job becomes mostly management and they don’t have time for personal research any more. Being a great researcher does not automatically make someone good at management or teaching or supervision, and most of them went into the field because they love research, not sitting on committees and wrangling budgets. Being an individual contributor or contract based lecturer in an academic setting generally pays significantly less than being tenure track, and comes with much less job security.

    2. marvin the paranoid android*

      I think it’s been raised before on this site that it would make a lot of sense to have a separate management career track, building out of administrative and executive assistant type positions, where developing management-relevant skills and experience would be the prerequisite for, you know, management. I’d be really interested to see what would happen if an organization decided to try this out to see how it works.

  34. Ace in the Hole*

    I’ve had good managers and bad managers. The good ones are definitely better. But “good manager” isn’t a set of tasks they go through every day… it’s more of a general set of guiding principles. Here’s what I see as the essentials of a good manager:

    – compassionate and genuinely thoughtful… treats their employees like humans they respect. This includes being sensitive to the power dynamic that exists between a boss and employee.
    – Willing to stand up for employees to make sure they are treated fairly. Whether it’s safety equipment, protection from harassment, professional development/promotions, better working conditions, etc. a good manager will be an advocate and buffer for their team.
    – Good understanding of professional and personal boundaries, and willingness to enforce those boundaries for themselves and their staff.
    – Able and willing to address problems (work quality, behavior, etc) promptly, including follow-up
    – Good at communicating with a wide variety of people and has interpersonal skills to resolve most normal conflicts between staff members. This includes actively soliciting feedback and input from staff.
    – Not too rigid. Understands and adapts to differences in work style, needs, environments, etc.
    – Willingness to take (appropriate) criticism/feedback from people below them on the hierarchy without getting defensive
    – Good ability to plan, prioritize, and organize work assignments, deadlines, etc.
    – Takes the blame but shares the praise. A good manager stands up for their team and takes responsibility for things that go wrong, but will always acknowledge the contributions/work of their staff when things go well. This includes interacting with clients/customers as well as internal leaders.
    – Has REASONABLE expectations of employees… which account for the employees’ training level, available time, resources, other assignments, and input from employees on feasibility.

    How this manifests varies widely depending on the job, the manager’s personality, and the individual employee’s needs. I’ve had jobs where talking to the manager 10 minutes a month was plenty, and others where checking in multiple times a day was absolutely necessary.

    1. allathian*

      I must say that I agree with every point you made!

      I would also add that a good manager treats their team fairly and equitably, and never plays favorites. It’s only human for a manager to personally like some reports better than others, or is able to relate to some reports better than others, but that shouldn’t affect the opportunities they offer their reports. This is particularly important if the team includes people who aren’t white cishet men… Decisions on which opportunities to offer which report should be based on the employee’s contribution at work and on their eagerness to learn and to advance, not on anything like an old boys’ network.

      Some of the things you mention are also dependent on how functional the organization is. Even a brilliant manager can only do so much if they don’t have the budget for the resources their team needs. But in such cases, truly brilliant managers will probably start looking elsewhere…

  35. EvilQueenRegina*

    I could have written this. The easiest way for me to explain the problems with my previous two managers has always been with a Harry Potter analogy – my “Jane” had the nickname Cornelius Fudge because she was very hands off, had the same way of burying her head in the sand, not investigating properly when concerns were brought to her and would form her own conclusions and act on that without actually trying to get to the bottom of what was really going on, and then would only realise her conclusions were wrong when this was staring her in the face. Like OP, she allowed a bad employee to get away with a lot because she’d assume that complaints were things like someone else trying to get herself out of trouble, or rooted in dislike of that employee, and didn’t dig deeper and question others and ascertain that there really were performance issues there.

    In fairness, what I understand now a few years down the line but didn’t at the time is that the structure in place at the time contributed to the problem. Fudge had a lot of staff on various teams to manage, all based in different buildings while Fudge for whatever reason was based somewhere else altogether, but she never spent any real time with the employees and didn’t have enough of a sense of what really went on on a day to day basis. This meant that when the CEO said she needed to make budget cuts, she didn’t have the knowledge to be able to make a case to him why she needed to keep the staff, and eventually approved a restructure that cut too many posts. This was admin support to children’s social care teams, and she’d cut it to what was considered an unsafe level of service. By the time a year had gone by, temps had been brought in and a new structure drawn up to recruit to those posts again, and Fudge was removed from post.

    My next manager had also previously been managed by Fudge and seen her hands off management for herself, and was also involved in cleaning up the mess and drawing up the new structure following Fudge’s removal from post, so she was determined to avoid making Fudge’s mistakes and become a better manager. Unfortunately she went too far in the other direction, becoming a “Dolores Umbridge” strict micromanager going through everything with a fine tooth comb, talking to people as though we were back at school over minor things, and couldn’t quite see that that in itself could be a mistake, even as people kept quitting on her. This eventually resulted in one employee making an allegation of bullying against her, she was investigated and eventually quit. I do believe she was genuinely trying to be a better manager, but just didn’t know how to (she was an inexperienced manager, and for various reasons never received any coaching) and ended up being a bad manager in different ways.

  36. Zona the Great*

    This was so so validating to me. I am six months into a new role in my same agency. I met with my former boss several times daily on top of a weekly team huddle and a weekly program meeting and daily journals of every single thing done that day. On my last day she gave me some “free advice” that I needed to communicate with my next boss more. I told her I don’t think it would have been possible even if I lived in her house with her. She was totally shocked that I said that but I was shocked at her assertion. What a loon.

    Don’t be Jane or Jack (or Sara).

  37. LGC*

    …holy cow, LW.

    Jack needs to learn that he doesn’t need to be omnipresent to be effective. There were weeks where he was spending ten hours managing you? Never mind you, how did he have time to do anything else?

  38. Anony4839*

    I don’t think that better managers are actually worse. I think that it comes down to the individual’s preference of management style. I know plenty of people who excel when managers let them be and don’t micro manage. Then there are those who need to be constantly checked on to make sure that they are getting work done.

  39. upsidedownsmileyemoji*

    The pattern I’ve observed in these comments is that the managerial styles in question are both bad in different ways, the Jane model was better for this employee and this organization compared to the Jack model, & most importantly it seems like upper management is wholly disinterested in problems farther down the chain.
    Unfortunately that’s just how it is sometimes; the hiring or selection or whatever process yields the “best” candidate available and their style either meshes with everyone else they work with or doesn’t.
    Different organizations, workflows, and people have different tolerances for different kinds of dysfunction in this regard. Sometimes the company is circling the drain, sometimes the team is independent enough to weather any storm, and sometimes they bring someone in who is so toxic they force out everyone they come into contact with. We don’t have a choice in most of these situations. In the end it sounds like your hiring process tends to yield managers that are incapable of adapting their presumptions and truly understanding their reports.

  40. Sonia*

    Thank you for sharing this. My manager has two official 1:1s a week with me but I end up touching base with him daily. I’ve hated work since starting with this manager a couple of years ago and this made me realize why.

    As an introvert, I physically feel ill at the thought of having to talk to him every single day. It also feels like I have to run every last thing by him which slows me down significantly.

  41. Varthema*

    I imagine this isn’t the case, but just wanted to throw out there – is there anything that has improved on the product side since management changed? Less abortive work? Fewer miscommunications? If there have been improvements in that kind of thing, it’s possible that the new system IS necessary, it just takes longer, and then the main critique is that deadlines need to change rather than everyone working longer hours. You thrived under hands-off management, but if other teams were in the tank, it’s possible that that level of management is necessary overall to make sure that everything is working as it should.

    I say this because I’m coming from another perspective – my formerly-startup-now-mature(ish) company is working closely with a startup which used to be part of us (long story), and I think that my contacts on the startup side get frustrated with all of our processes which they see as red tape. They would rather pop in, say, “Hey we need this, can you do it? Cool! End of next week all right?” but at the scale we’ve grown into, these processes are *necessary* – to keep things running, to ensure so many things: that if my manager or I ever quit that someone else would be able to step in, that we have steady workflow and not fits and starts combined with dry periods, that we’re keeping the big picture in mind and not just chasing after the latest butterfly. That’s why we plan each quarter, that’s why the contact between my manager and me can easily add up to an hour a day many days (not all together, just throughout when things come up). But in the end it’s worth it. And we adjust our timelines accordingly!

    But if there have been no tangible improvements in exchange for the extra time spent, then… yeah, what Allison said!

  42. singlemaltgirl*

    i incorporated all those things that jack did. but it does not constitute an hour/day. it’s maybe an hour a week. and part of the check ins are to see about burn out, workload, re-prioritizing when there’s too much on people’s plates and adjusting so that people can manage. i think jack may have started with some of the right things….but he wasn’t doing the other things that make those things work and be effective. it’s a shame he wasn’t open to changing things or adjusting when his employees were indicating levels of burn out or being overwhelmed and exhausted. i’m a demanding manager – and i still make sure everyone is managing a workload that they can actually do without working after hours or longer hours and that they’re not burning out. and even if someone is not saying it, you can see it – in their productivity, ability to meet deadlines, in their demeanour. that’s all stuff a ‘good’ manager would also be looking out for. we’re not mind readers but we should be attuned and aware of how our teams are doing.

  43. El l*

    I’ll add this comment: Depends on the situation. A hands-off boss is great when you have a team that is competent and just needs a little strategic direction every week. If the team is new, there have been trust issues, or the team has been on the wrong track – then lots of time spent on management is necessary. (Though I doubt many situations require an hour + a day)

    Also depends on a boss’ skills – I’ve seen supervisors who were great when one competency was required utterly fail when the organization’s needs required a different mindset.

    Also – what were Jane’s responsibilities compared to Jack’s? If she had her own heavy workload but Jack clearly didn’t, why was that?

  44. berto*

    There is a continuum of manager engagement that spans from totally absentee to micro. Depending on your role, seniority, personality, you will enjoy some variation on that spectrum. Personally I hate receiving constant feedback, praise, criticism or otherwise job-related engagement from my manager. I want my manager to trust me and leave me alone. Frankly I would rather they manage my incompetent and ineffective colleagues. I use tools to keep my workload and progress transparent. Occasional 1:1’s are really all I need or want.

  45. no phone calls, please*

    Several years ago I went to work at a company that was fanatic about meetings of all kinds and we had shared community calendars and *anyone could book a meeting with you for anything anytime* that wasn’t blocked off. In addition to those lovely scheduling surprises, I literally had a regular *scheduled* meeting every day of the month except the last Wednesday, so I set a recurring full day appointment for that day every month and it felt like a guilty pleasure!

    I quietly asked around about the excessive meetings and was warned it would never change, so I started looking for a new job in 3 months and left on my 6th month anniversary. I’ll admit to a luxuriating in a bit of schadenfreude when they had to sell the company to a competitor a year later.

  46. no phone calls, please*

    Hello, my name is *no phone calls, please*, and I am a Jane. I try, I really do to have regular check-ins and all the warm and fuzzy stuff, but it sure doesn’t come naturally.

  47. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    Hmm. I’ve had a micro-manager: I had to tell him to back off because he wanted to dictate “please find attached your translation” to me.
    I’ve also had a detached manager who didn’t even remember to include me in emails for his whole team, because I was off-site. He literally only contacted me when there was a problem with my work, so hardly ever. Yet the few times he chewed me out, meant that I dreaded seeing his name when my phone rang. And then if he had to talk to me, he’d say, oh well while you’re here we might as well do your annual review, so the annual review took place right when he’d been thinking of stuff about me that pissed him off. Not the best circumstances at all.
    I still think that it’s better to be more detached than on your employees’ case all the time. To avoid bad stuff festering, bosses do need to check in regularly and encourage their staff to speak up when there are problems, and listen and deal with them. I had one boss who would either have lunch, coffee or beer with each of his reports at least once a week: we’d talk about work, but also politics. I knew that any problem I might have at work, I could bring it up with him, and we actually had some really animated discussions together.

  48. Nectarines*

    I’m a couple days late to this, but am in an eerily similar situation to OP. I disliked reporting to my “Jane” because she was so disengaged from the actual work I did. Six months ago, I changed roles, and was at first thrilled to have my “Jack” down in the trenches with me. I thought I would learn and grow so much with an engaged manager like him.

    But it’s really not working out with Jack. We meet 4 days a week, along with the constant slack check-ins and him being copied on absolutely every email conversation I’m a part of. At first I thought having a manager who would work with me on things would make me more productive, but I’m in fact the least productive I’ve ever been! In part because of all of the meetings and the sheer time they take, and in part because I can’t so much as blow my nose without him assessing the output for flaws. This paralyzes me; I’m scared to do anything because I’m not going to do it as well as he’d do it himself, and he’ll let me know. He will take time out of his day to correct the absolutely most trivial things, I don’t know where he finds the hours.

    Anyway. I’ve tried to discuss this with him and it’s like he has this weird sort of amnesia. He honestly doesn’t seem to know how much time he spends micromanaging me – I don’t think he believes he’s a micromanager at all. Even when I point it out in explicit terms (we met X hours, and you went in behind me and fixed X thing in the project instead of letting me own it, and I don’t even get a chance to respond to emails before you do it for me), he seems to think I’m making things up. I find myself almost longing for Jane’s neglect these days!

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