updates: managing a micromanager, using volunteers in a store, and more

Here are three updates from people who had their letters answered here recently.

1. I manage a horrible micromanager

Thanks, Alison, for prompting me to speak directly to Fergusia about her micromanagement. I did as you advised: took her aside to discuss how her tactics were leading to poor morale, bottlenecks, extra work, and wasted time. She immediately asked who on her team had complained. I replied that “several people had expressed concerns.” She was initially defensive but eventually listened. And she remained focused on employee mistakes. I explained that, while employees sometimes make mistakes, the important thing is that they recognize their errors, understand why they made them, and if needed, come up with their own plan as to avoid further issues. In that vein, I suggested that she and I work together to come up with a management coaching plan to help her learn new tactics and navigate problems. Unfortunately, after our conversation, she ran straight to CEO who then talked to me about “singling out” Fergusia. He basically told me that there would be no management plan for her unless all other project managers had one, too.

So I tried Plan B. Thinking that perhaps she’d be more open to advice from cohorts, I arranged a one-day retreat for all project managers working under me. The idea was to share tactics that work/don’t work. Everyone was asked to bring three effective strategies for efficiency and one issue they needed to work on; it resulted in robust discussion and exchanges of ideas. The other PMs were floored by Fergusia’s policies of everyone copying her on every email and the litany of checklists/procedures. Several other PMs pointed out that she was creating extra work for herself as well as making her team feel distrusted. Others suggested strategies for allowing employees to evaluate themselves and create their own management plans; she somewhat reluctantly agreed to try that. It was all very positive, but Fergusia seemed close to tears at times.

In the end, all the PMs created their own management plans. Fergusia’s goals focused on learning to trust her team and create efficient systems. The checklists have become voluntary and she only has to be copied on specific emails. As far as I know, there have been no new retraining efforts. I check in on her several times per day and have noticed that her team appears noticeably happier. Best of all, we’ve established open dialog between the all PMs (and myself) so that now when anyone has an issue, they (including Fergusia) feel more comfortable asking for advice. It’s certainly not perfect, but it seems all I can do right now.

2. Is it ethical to accept volunteer help at my local business?

The shop is still going strong and I’m still the sole owner/employee. You’ll be pleased to know I’ve managed to keep everything above board! I said in the comments that I would absolutely not break the law under any circumstances and that was the end of the discussion for me, and I stuck to that in the past few months. (I’m still mortified at my mistake, but I did learn from it.) I made it through winter, a notoriously slow time for this kind of business, and we’re relatively unscathed. I managed to get a second round of funding from the investors. And I must be doing something right, because several people have expressed interest in buying into the business. I’m currently in talks with two of them and they intend to become full business partners with roughly 40{986d44274747a5c76dc1672921bbe0dd933450491f05a8d42739aa242512160b} of the business split between them, leaving me with a very comfortable majority share and all the much-needed help I could possibly want.

Of course things are still rough professionally and personally, but there’s definitely light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve managed to get my feet back under me. Although there is still a lot of surreptitious bathroom-crying, the growth numbers are good and the future looks bright! It’s been a very long winter, but the worst looks to be over now.

Thanks again to you and the commenters, your help has been invaluable.

3. What to put on a resume when you have zero work experience

First of all, I cannot thank you and the Ask A Manager community enough for publishing my question. Some of the readers really hit the nail on the head so-to-speak, and it was encouraging for Jordan to hear that there were others who had been in their position before. I wanted to thank you all for the suggestions and “tough love” I couldn’t give Jordan myself.

There were so many suggestions and ideas that neither myself nor Jordan had even thought about! As it turned out, Jordan’s resume wasn’t as “empty” as we had initially thought.

Second of all is the good news: Turns out that my network ended up helping Jordan find a volunteering position. They had been hoping to volunteer at a shelter that shut down shortly after they found out about it…But somebody whom I knew through work ended up helping to re-start the shelter and Jordan was first in line to volunteer.

Though they still do not have paid employment, Jordan is loving working at the shelter and it’s helped build up a lot of confidence for them. They’ve been looking into other volunteer opportunities in the mean time, and their resume is looking far less empty and sad.

Thank you so very much!

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