Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Return of Micro-MAN-ager

I joined the Navy right out of high school. I served from 1992-1998, from the ages of 18-24. Then I got out and got a “real job”. I’m glad I served, and I’d do it again, but I’m also glad I left active duty when I did. I have a lot of reasons for that.

The military seems geared toward micromanagers. I ran into a lot of micromanagers. I don’t know if it’s just the personalities that stay in the military long enough to make it into managerial positions, or if it’s just the culture. Maybe the military trains its managers to micromanage. Also, I’m willing to bet that the fact the military is made up of younger individuals with little experience plays a part too. I’m sure it’s a combination.

In any event, I resented the micromanagement. There’s a difference in being told WHAT to do and being told EXACTLY HOW, STEP BY STEP to do it, especially if it’s a task that you’re already familiar with.

I used to enjoy doing a little bit of drawing. When I was on watch late at night, trying to stay awake with nothing to do (seriously, manning a weapons console at 0300 off the coast of California with no weapons on board is very taxing) I would draw. Most of my drawings were stabs at people on board the ship, or at Navy life. I thought they were funny, and most of my friends liked them too.

At one point, I created a character that I named “Micro-MAN-ager”. Imagine saying it like an overacting Saturday morning cartoon supervillian: “Miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiicroooooooooooooo-MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN-ager!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Micro-MAN-ager’s job was to walk around the ship or base and tell sailors how to do what they were already doing. “Run the paint brush side to side!” “Sweep the broom in front to back motions!” I have no idea if I’d heard of Dilbert at the time, but Micro-MAN-ager was what would happen if the Pointy-Haired Boss was a Chief Petty Officer (E-7) in the Navy.

I’d forgotten about Micro-MAN-ager for years. I never thought about him at all in at least a decade.

Until I started being micromanaged again.

I told you what happened in November. To rehash, my customer decided not to fund my contract anymore for various reasons. I’ve never even been told exactly why, but when you’re working as a contractor to a government agency, it happens. I know people who were cut loose from their contracts just because a new manager didn’t like our company. My company kept me around, which was nice of them and I appreciate it.

But they put me on a very frustrating project. Not stressful; frustrating. I can handle stress. Frustration is harder. I’m also working for a micromanager, and it’s driving me nuts.

You think you’ve been micromanaged? OK, answer me this: have you ever asked your supervisor a question about how the final product should look, only to be SHOVED away from your computer and been SHOWN how to copy and paste from Excel into Word? Especially when that isn’t what you asked? I go through it a minimum of 3 times a week, and I’m not far from losing my temper over it. It’s been going on since November.

Oh, by the way, the micromanager I’m working for is a retired E-7. That doesn’t surprise me, and only goes toward evidence of my theories about the military and micromanagement.

In any event, I didn’t spend 2 years and a buttload of money getting an IT degree to be shoved away from my computer and shown how to copy and paste when I ask a question that isn’t related to copying and pasting.

Yesterday, I was so close to just walking out of the office and never coming back that I took out a notebook and brought Micro-MAN-ager back from the cobwebs of my imagination. You can tell how hard I’ve worked on my drawing skills since I left the Navy 12 years ago.

Enjoy the return of Micro-MAN-ager, and if you believe in it, please pray for me, that I’ll have the patience to endure this present micromanaging, or that something better will come along, very very soon.


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