Sooner or later every one of us will run into somebody who tries to give you a bunch of work which you don’t want to do. Or will try to control you. Here is what you can do about it.
My client is a team leader in a big corporate. This instance was a nice surprise, you will read in a second why.
The team leader himself has a "top-down", means a hierarchically thinking boss. There is no glimpse of a coaching attitude in this guy. Officially, the organization is agile.
"Either as I want it, or not at all!” That was a quote from my client's boss that stuck in my head.
But read it yourself. I'm curious what you will say afterwards.
(Names are of course changed.)
David sat in his little windowless office and reached into the chips bag. It's the only quiet place in the big open-space-office when the door is closed.
He finally stood up after a long calculation and while licking the chips flavorings off his fingers he walked around in his office. With crossed arms and his chin resting on the right palm, he stood at his oversized table looking at the drawings. "How can I solve this fucking problem?" - shot through his head. He was under time pressure because his main project was about under death line. Only two days left until handover.
The last thing he wanted was to be disturbed.
He was brutally pulled out of his thoughts when the door handle was pushed down with full force. There is only one man who does that. His boss Bob. David's stomach tightened immediately.
He fixed David with a stiff gaze as he came into the office.
"I have something urgent here. You gonna make this your top priority.
As you know, our machines are usually running 24/7. Our biggest customer ChanXen doesn't work on weekends. At the beginning of each new week he has to wait half a day until our machine warms up. That's a no-go for him. He loses precious production time. We need a low-temperature solution for this problem. You have to fix it - now."
Taking a step back and swallowing before speaking, David asked. "Why is this suddenly a problem? We've known that for years."
"David - that comes from the very top. You know what that means."
While he scratched his temple and still avoided eye contact, David continued. "I know what that means, but again, why is that a problem - now?"
"David - with a strict posture and raised voice - just do it."
Standing and stuttering, David answered. "Bob " he cleared his throat. "E-Each product owner decides for himself what is important for his project. Not the guys on the top and also not - sorry - you. I wouldn't tell you either what to do in your project."
When David refused to break eye contact, Bob replied insultingly with a red face. "Look. It doesn't matter if you as a product owner think it's important. I say, it has to be done."
Bob closed the door closed with a loud bang.
The day after, I saw David dragging into the gym.
Sometimes we train together. It's always fun. Today he looked exhausted.
I approached him and asked. "Hey, how are you?
David mustered a smile.
"I barely made it here."
"What's going on?
"It's pretty stressful at work again. And my boss is a pain in the ass. He really makes my life at work miserable. Sometimes I wonder if I want to work there at all. And now I have also got sleep problems. I hardly close my eyes at night.
I was already seeing the doctor because of the sleep problems, and he said that my blood pressure is bad. Plus, I am a stress eater. Now I have it in writing. I gained five kilos in four weeks! Look - he lifted his T-shirt and tapped his belly. I got to turn things around - quickly."
David apologized for showering me with his problems out of the blue.
"It sounds like your boss is really adorable. Let's do a quick workout together and then talk about that afterwards while grabbing some food. Ok!???!"
"Ok, but for me only salad."
We barley sat down in the restaurant when David instantly started railing about his boss again.
"There is only his way or no way. You know. He simply doesn't accept the new structure. He tries to control every step I take, gives me work and loads me with shit.
It sucks. I can't sleep well anymore because I can't turn off my head. And the problem is, when I come home from work, I have neither the time nor the energy to play with my kids."
I rejoined: "That sounds awful. So, what is it that upset you most? Tell me what happened."
By the time he finished telling me about the meeting with his boss the day before David was back in the state of rage.
"I have the feeling that he just wants to control me and hurt me. He just wants to show me who the real boss is. I know better what is important for my project. He is so old-fashioned. It feels like 1999."
"How do you feel about it, David?"