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Dealing With Dumb Decisions

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‘JT & Dale Talk Jobs’ is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country and can be found at JTandDale.com.

Dear J.T. & Dale: I recently read your comments about “micromanagers.” I work for one. During the cold winter months, while traveling within the metro area, he ordered me to leave the motor vehicle unattended with the motor running. I once had a battery removed from my own vehicle, and the thought of a whole vehicle being stolen is too real for me to ignore. Would I be on safe ground to say “no” without being accused of insubordination? — Damon

Dale: No, no, no — you mustn’t say “no” to a micromanager. It’s insecurity that causes a manager to go “micro,” so any direct challenge would end poorly.

J.T.: Instead, “suggest” to your boss that leaving the car running is not a good idea. Perhaps something like, “Maybe I’m just hypersensitive, but I had a car battery stolen, and I’d hate to see the whole car stolen.” The key is to frame it in such a way that your boss can change his mind without looking foolish.

Dale: I would go further because, to a micromanager, changing his mind IS looking foolish. Two suggestions:

1. Learn the art of ignoring idiot instructions. The key to this is to have a good excuse prepared so that if you get caught, you can explain that you were NOT ignoring the rule, just making an exception. Thus, if the boss discovers that you shut the car off, you say, “I always leave it running, but there were some creepy-looking guys hanging around, and I thought I should take the keys.” That’s safe ground.

2. Wait for the right moment, and lead your boss to a revelation. For instance, the next time employees are asked for suggestions on cutting costs, you mention that UPS and others cut the engine whenever leaving the truck as a way to save fuel.

J.T.: I like that second option — you aren’t disagreeing or arguing, you’re just putting the boss in a position to make a new and better decision. That’s a great example of learning to “manage up.”


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Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, jtodonnell.com, and of the blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com.

Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2010 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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