Hi guys,

I've recently listened to the "High  C Manager Simple Downfall" cast and it really struck me how this was all about my boss. Now I had "official" justification for feeling that I had a problem. Alas that cast did not address what one should do as a direct...

So the problem is this: my boss always finds irritating faults and improvement suggestions for anything that I or his other directs do. This is causing me (and others) to invest valuable time in fixing things where the ROI is occasionally terribly low (and I feel confident about saying this).

To put this into context, my boss would usually point his directs to such faults using sentences such as:
"Let me also suggest that you..."
"I think that you should also..."
"It's good but we should improve it by..."
"Also, you can..."

Here is a practical example: I've recently sent him a document covering some new internal process. The formatting of this document, which was pretty good, is meaningless IMO since it would only circulate internally between <5 people pretty much at my level. My boss's feedback was that we need to change the bullets to Word headers and then consolidate a few sections. Technically he is right. The document would be improved AND it's a complete waste of my time to be investing any more time into these syntactical formatting minutiae.

This kind of feedback happens repeatedly in other fields: asking his directs to rename or reversion documents, update insignificant fields in some DB tracking internal records, etc, etc.

Up until now I have been following his implied requests, even when they were implicit, because he is my boss. The cast has helped me realized that his behavior is wrong and reinforced my feeling that I am wasting valuable time, which often is the case.

Please advise me on what to do. I know I'm not supposed to give feedback to my manager (plus he's never asked for any), and beginning to ignore his nitpicking suggestions will be noticed and possibly taken the wrong way, not to mention disagreeing about them. Should I just keep biting the bullet?

Thanks in advance



timrutter's picture

....he's your Boss so he gets to make those calls and set the standards. His behaviour is not wrong, you just don't agree with it, which is totally different.


stephenbooth_uk's picture

These things aren't important to you, but they clearly are to your boss.  Maybe there's something you don't know but your boss does, hence the attention to detail.  Maybe your boss wants to be sure that a certain minimum standard of quality will be maintained regardless of the audience for a document so that when quality is important it will be there by default, hence the attention to detail.  Maybe your boss just likes everything a certain way, hence the attention to detail.  Which, if any, of these is the case doesn't matter.  Your boss has given you a lawful, and apparently quite reasonable, instruction which you then have to follow.  It is up to your boss and their boss as to whether they should have given that instruction, if their boss disagrees with the instructions then they're in for a difficult conversation.

If you get made boss then you can give the instructions you want, and face the consequences.




Skype: stephenbooth_uk  | DiSC: 6137

"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack


afmoffa's picture

I'll add only that it does sound as though you're right, that your boss is not allocating his time (or your time) effectively. I'm sure that behavior can be frustrating, particularly if his prioritization of minutiae pulls you away from more fulfilling projects. Is it possible your boss has a clearer sense of the big picture? Sure. Is it possible he's ineffective? Sure. We on the forums would need to spend several days as flies on the walls of you and your boss (and perhaps your boss's boss) to be certain. I know only what you've told me, but spending time fiddling with headers and bullet points on a memo destined for five people seems pretty silly.

But, and here's where I agree with the two posters above, you still have to go along with silly. You're only allowed to countermand your boss in three situations

  1. Clear ethical violations or professional misconduct. Very, very rare.
  2. Emergencies when your boss is not around and immediate action is required. Very, very rare.
  3. Your boss has asked you for honest feedback about a specific behavior of his, and you are confident in your ability to give criticism and in his ability to hear it. Very, very rare.

Beyond that, the Manager-Tools ethos is that you have only two appropriate, professional responses to any instruction from your boss, even the silly or counterproductive instruction:

  1. "Yes, I will get right on that."
  2. "I quit."

I hate this part of Manager Tools, frankly. I think the "Yes" or "I quit" binomial is a bitter brew, indeed. It's the worst career advice I can think of...other than all the other advice I've ever heard for addressing this problem. Your boss is your boss, and the only thing you can do in the face of a frustrating, ineffective, counterproductive boss is quit your job. I'd love to offer some more optimistic advice, but M-T is right about this.

All I can offer is sympathy and the hard truth.

naraa's picture
Training Badge

I agree with all comments posted, your boss knows staff you don't so most times you just have to do what he says even if you do not agree. Remember what is important to your boss is important to you. If you are getting overwhelmed with too much important Things to do, there is nothing wrong with actually giving your boss a list of your committments and asking him to prioritize them for you or letting him know that something also important will be delay if you will dedicate your self time to get The details done with attention. These way you are not desagreeing with him but you are actually sharing information with him perhaps he doesn't have. He/she may (i) actually agree with you that in the face of all others this is not important, (ii) may let you know that something you think is important is actually not and no longer needs to get done or can be delay or (iii) may decide you should have somebody working for you looking after the details and you do the bigger picture staff. Of all Things, don't say you will do it and them don't, that is by far worse than disagreeing in my opinion. While i do agree one should do as told and should not ever just complain about the boss behavior for the sake of complaining, in this case it is better to leave, i tend to disagree on the black and white recomendation of do as told or leave. I agree giving feedback to the boss is not possible, but what we can do is show him/her something perhaps he/she is not seeing. How many of us managers would actually welcome the point of view and feedback of our directs rather
Than having them just leave? I hád a boss once that was promoted to manager when her boss was promoted to director and one of the reason she was was because she dared to Tell him what nobody else would. Don't take this advice blindly as i do not know your boss or your situation is, but there may be room for you to decide what is worth making the point to your boss and what is not. Those that are not important just do as told and never complain about it again. Those that are important (those that you thing really decrease efectiveness or those that would make you leave eventually) make your point, perhaps you will still need to do them anyway but you also may get to a compromise that is good for both sides or you may come to a solution in the long run.

RaisingCain's picture

I decided to let my inner D take over.  I read your first sentence and the last and we all know the stuff inbetween is you making a case why your first sentence is right and your last sentence is important.

You asked for advice, so here we go.  In the same breath you complain about your boss you let us know you are quite sure how he communicates, "C."  You already know everything you need to know, change how you communicate to how your audience is communcating and you will be more effective.  Do your job and let your boss's boss worry about ROI.




EDC's picture

Thanks everyone for your inputs.

Tim/Stephen - I do believe my boss is wrong about this and I agree with you that he's the boss and I should "bite the bullet". This is what I've been doing so far and based on everyone's feedbacks, this is what I should keep on doing, which I will.

AFMOFFA - I think you've summarized the MT approach on this perfectly. This is what I thought was the situation albeit hoping to be wrong...

Naraa - As a high C my boss is always right. I never won an argument with him (all attempts at this were personal) and it's been a long time since I last tried arguing. I've also never seen someone "below" him winning an argument. Asking my boss to prioritize my tasks is not a smart move in my opinion. He rightfully expects me to have a wide enough perspective of what I do and how it connects to the org's needs to be able to figure these things out myself. On the contrary, he's a smart guy and would likely figure out very easily what my hidden agenda is. Leaving is not an option because I like my work, my colleagues, my directs and my boss as well (despite these annoyances), I'm just looking at ways to make it even better.

RaisingCain - I communicate to my boss as a "C" and he really likes me for it. Occasionally I stumble and communicate to him as a "D" (my native tendency), and he seems less excited about this. I think I have no problem acting as any other DISC profile and also do this frequently (depending on the "listener"). My only problem is that inside of me I'm still a high D and am irritated by having to invest too much time in low yield goals (as per my evaluation).