3 min read: I once worked for a boss who was a micromanager. Lots of his behaviours were frustrating, but one that drove me to distraction was his obsession with correcting my written work.
Every month, I would prepare at least 10 reports for different committees. These reports could range from updating members of the committee on a particular project, to asking for approval for additional funding. I would submit my draft reports to the Director for approval two weeks before the deadline and then the fun would begin. The report would come back the next day with page after page covered in red ink with suggested changes.
So, I would dutifully make the changes and resubmit, and it would boomerang back again with even more changes, some of which changed the text back to the original submission – grrrrrr!
I knew it was irrational as it was something really petty, but every month when I sat down to begin each report, I did so with such resentment, that it impacted on the words I chose, and it was putting a strain on my relationship with him.
In an effort to check that I wasn’t blowing things out of all proportion, I decided to analyse his behaviour, by collecting the data on the previous three months changes he had made.
These were the results:
1080 corrections in total
57% were due to changes made to my style of writing
28% were due to incorrect policy direction
12% were corrections to my grammar
2% were spelling corrections
1% were corrections to the figures
These statistics told me that I obviously needed a conversation with the Director.
He was surprised by the data I shared with him, as he genuinely didn’t realise the impact he was having on me and the team. The data gave us a comfortable way to have what could have been an emotional discussion, because we could focus on the facts. During the discussion we explored whether or not some of the style changes were critical to the success of the report at committee or not. For times when the style wasn’t critical, he agreed he would give me the space to develop my own voice.
The fact that 28% of the changes were made because I had headed off in the wrong policy direction told us that we urgently needed to set up a 30-minute planning discussion each month so that we could agree the outline of the report and save hours of abortive writing.
The following month there was a 75% reduction in the number of amendments made, and most of these were minor. The behavioural problem was fixed, with our relationship intact.