The Red Flag of Micro-Management

In my interview yesterday (for a very cool job that I would love to have), I was asked the following questions and given the following pieces of information:

  1. How do you deal with a micro-manager?
  2. How to you give criticism to a subordinate?
  3. This is not a 40 hour a week job, especially during the “busy season.”
  4. If you work more than 55 hours in a week, you accrue one “flex day” (a vacation-like day).
  5. What Excel functions do you regularly use?

So, let’s attack this last one first, since it was SO embarrassing, when the answer that popped out of my mouth was, “Uh, well, I don’t know, I don’t know the names. I mean, the normal stuff like sums. And the recently, a lot of statistical functions, like averages and so forth, because I have been working with evaluations. It’s something to work on, I guess.” Oh my God. Not okay, self. Get it together. In all honesty, I have never taken an Excel class. I learned to use it in science class in 8th grade. Everything else has been self-taught.

But now back to the top. The more free-form description they gave me of the office was quite heartening. But to specifically include a question about a micro-manager, doesn’t that indicate that there is a micro-manager in the office who will micro-manage me? Yuck. My response to that question was to try to diagnose the reasoning behind that type of behavior (trust issues, boredom, fear) and then to offer that person the opportunity to make strategic decisions about a project instead of letting them do the project for you. It’s always a red flag to hear that word uttered aloud. I left my last job in part because I was not able to work due to my supervisor’s overbearing, controlling nature and her serious trust issues that prevented anyone else in the department from producing work. Sigh.

55 hours a week to qualify for “comp” time? WHOA girl! Doesn’t this sort of posit that you would work a full weekend day? That’s way harsh, Tai. Anyway, best that I would have a 15 minute walk to work, so that when I go home at 9pm, I don’t have to commute very far!

Now , my answer for offering support and feedback to a subordinate was definitely more finessed. I have a very “flat” management style, in that I give my “people” the benefit of the doubt until they prove me wrong, and I like to work with smart, capable people who have expertise in areas that I do not. We work as a team, each contribute our own elements, and I manage the timeline. That way I manage their work more as a coordinator. This is a project management strategy that I learned very early in my career. I never wrote my authors’ books for them, I offered encouragement and helped them meet deadline. However, I have worked with people who need more intense supervision, and my first question is always, “How can I support you better? What do you need from me to do a better job?” This usually goes well, as does setting clear and measurable deliverables. (In a theater context, that means setting deadlines to get actors off book, and then forcing them to put their scripts down and call for line. Worked (almost) every time.) In a project context, it means having a clear calendar and deliverables associated with that calendar, as well as a clear understanding that these dates and deliverables are not arbitrary, but rather that they reflect an appropriate division of labor and schedule.

Anyway, I hope I get to the next round so that I can meet the famous micro-manager and judge for myself.

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