Resiliency and Reflection: Managing Workplaces of Micro-management and Discriminatory Behaviours
Updated: May 18, 2022
Original Post Date: May 16, 2022 | Craig Maguire, IMPRESSIONS FCS Inc.
For the majority of us, entering a new workplace environment can be a very exciting and refreshing experience. Accepting new and meaningful employment opportunities allows us to demonstrate our skills and abilities, as well as, our devotion, ethics and passion for what we can produce and sustain. These experiences can often be invigorating and rejuvenating. But, what if this is not your experience. Instead, what if early on into your new employment position, you feel unwelcome, unheard, and worse yet, de-valued and demoralized within your new organization?
For many career professionals, the characteristics of a micro-manager are almost immediately discernable, given years of previous experience and exposure to such individuals who, by all accounts, are impervious and seemingly oblivious to their inflated egos, profound insecurities, and insatiable need for power and control of others. Make no mistake about it; micro-managers are very talented and knowledgeable people - and often are people we actually like and enjoy interacting with. Part of the problem, for these people however, is that despite having two-and-a-half tons of knowledge, many simply do not possess the wisdom to apply that knowledge in building effective, competent and cohesive relationships and teams needed in their organizations.
Their passive-aggressive nature often serves to confuse many as, these people are typically very sincere and genuine in wanting to assist others and to be "all they can be" within their leadership role.
When these individuals are encountered within a professional medical, social or legal environment, the consequences can be far more damaging and consequential than what some may imagine. This need for power and control quickly becomes engrained within the organization and gradual but definitive signs of its wide-ranging effects are quickly and easily noted by all in the office, although unlikely to ever be spoken outright. While certainly not an exhaustive list, here are some tell-tale signs of workplace environments often dealing, and struggling to cope, with leaders who employ their role and influences with a micro-management style of conviction:
observation of profound office and staff deficiencies noted throughout the workplace;
an unfriendly atmosphere for which new staff do not feel welcome, and are not made to feel welcome by other staff in the office;
an aurora within the office that it's "every man/woman for themselves";
an existence of "back-room gossip" prevails, regardless of degree, whereby people would much rather speak about others behind their back rather than address their issues with others directly in a professional and respectful manner;
same or similar practices observed in other leadership personnel as that known and displayed by your direct supervisor;
a forced labour of "happiness"; while it may take some doing, most days you can function and manage to put a smile on your face despite what you have endured;
a lack of clear and meaningful direction and guidance by leadership in providing answers to questions, solutions to dilemmas and a level of safety and comforted security in knowing someone very skilled has your back;
being assigned "grunt" work: in-other-words, being assigned meaningless make-work assignments that serve no benefit to your individual learning but rather, only serves to keep you busy (and out of their hair) for a degree of time;
feeling disassociated from the office as a whole; it's almost like everyone else has found peace with these conditions - despite their harm and destructiveness; yet, you continue to experience shock and awe in light of these conditions now faced with;
recognizing very early on into your tenure that you are not likely to ever receive any praise or acknowledgment for your performance demonstrated on-the-job or for any historical specialties and experiences you bring with you to your new position. Remember, micro-managers often possess similar characteristics to that of the narcissistic personalities and so it is never about YOU, but rather, about how the micro-manager can keep you in a place where THEY feel safe and secure;
an awareness of fairly substantial staff turn-over but, even more concerning, staff leaving within their initial 3-6 month probationary period, for no apparent reason, and they are never spoken of again in the office, as if they had never existed in the first place; and,
a clearly defined expression that if "not born and raised here", you do not possess the insights and ability to relate to the community or its residents; along with a combined inference that you cannot possibly possess the knowledge and skills required to perform your duties adequately or in significant fashion. While this appears to be more prevalent in rural community settings, it can exist where-ever micromanagers exist and often used to present you as inept and requiring specialized supervision to "enlighten" your professional skills to effectively deliver services to your agency's clientele. It should be noted here that, naturally, every community is different and has it's own autonomy for which new staff need to become familiar with. This takes time and a gradual introduction to the new community. This is not what is referenced here. Again, the assumption presented is that you have arrived at this new employer with no applicable knowledge, skills or abilities to possibly present as a qualified and skilled professional - despite your historical training, previous experience or specialized skills achieved throughout your career - respectfully, the message is most clear - you have no applicable value or worth as a new worker, and accordingly, you will not receive any "credit" or "merit" of acknowledgement of any kind. This is repeatedly reinforced with you in supervisory meetings to ensure that you continue to be cognizant of your obvious deficiencies highighted. In short-form, you are viewed and reminded you have no applicable assets by your supervisor and any commodities of value or worth you believe you possess in your new assigned role is immediately and entirely dismissed. This is typical of most micro-managers in their efforts to assure their insecurities and to establish their dominance and control over you as a new employee. It can also be a clear indicator that they feel some-what threatened or intimidated by you and your assets, thus it is in their best interest to ensure you know their dispositions accordingly.
Again, these examples are some simple generalizations to consider. There are far more indicators that can and do apply to workplace dysfunctions and the benefits they serve to the individuals who employ such tactics of power and control.
Certainly, with such a discerning realization early on into your tenure with your new organization, concerning this "here today, gone tomorrow'" demeanour, you have now crossed over into a new and disturbing reality that will continue to shape and exacerbate all your future experiences; WHY? Simply because you now realize there is no inherent value assigned to you, or to anyone in the office. You are simply a chair-holder, and an assignee of duties; other-than-that, you have no intrinsic value or worth to your new employer.
While numerous resources exist today, more than ever before, on toxic workplace environments, more and more often, many simply throw their arms up in defeat and move along. After all, most of these micro-managers have spent years and years cultivating their environments, and those within their reach. You are best to accept that you will never change what has been established by these individuals. You will either learn to adapt to it successfully and genuinely, or you will become known as the office "complainer" (or worse) and will soon find other more stringent bullying measures applied to you which will only serve to debilitate you further and eventually have you all too happy to walk out the door.
Often the movies present excellent examples of such horrible and degrading examples, in their truest representations. The sad reality is that often the circumstances and realities of these blockbuster series and movies are based on, in part or in full, actual real true-to-life conditions.
Now, it would be easy to continue on and to describe, in greater detail, all the numerous facets and characteristics of these micro-managers, however, if you are someone dealing with such circumstances in your work environment, there is relatively little more I can share with you that you don't already know for yourself. For this reason, let's cross over at this point and look at how one can safely, securely and confidently survive under such conditions and do so without becoming the very essence of what you're trying to escape.
Resiliency and Reflection - two very basic words with huge and dramatic impacts.
One of the greatest dangers in working within a dysfunctional workplace environment is succumbing to, and becoming, the very thing that you swore you could, and would, never become: unrealistically complacent and sculpted to a nonsensical acceptance of yourself and negating your personal convictions and professional standards.
Here are some recommendations on what you may wish to consider in surviving workplace toxicity and managing workplaces of micro-management and discriminatory behaviours. Again, this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, nor is it intended to represent every workplace condition and experience. It does however, offer some very important key considerations in your pursuit of minimizing the negative experiences realized, and those yet to come.
GET OVER YOUSELF: First, it makes absolutely no sense to emanate the very same qualities which you find disturbing in others. Regardless of how many degrees, years of experience, specialties, and so on you may possess, you are no better and no worse than anyone else. Period! While you may conduct yourself in a far more professional and acceptable manner, your professional accolades are your own and do not rely on, or exist, in the embodiment of acknowledgment, acceptance or appreciation of others. They were never truly intended to. So , let's be clear right from the beginning. Practice what you preach. And, more-over, practice what you expect from others. In this day and age, Degrees are commonplace and everyone has one. The Degree does not make the person valuable. It's the person's ability to utilize that Degree to demonstrate their personal style, creativity, competence and passion in their field that is truly the valuable commodity they wish to highlight. So, be very aware of yourself and don't be easily hurt or disappointed when others don't see the value and worth you bring to their organization. Truthfully, their fears and insecurities barely allow them to see their greatest "gifts" anymore, with realistic and reasonable perceptions. They will continue to be oblivious to your accolades for as long as they remain unable to see beyond their own.
BUILD A NETWORK OF TRUSTED CO-WORKERS: Toxic workplaces are filled with people who are selfish, judgmental, and manipulative. They also contain other staff who think and feel much the same as you. Rather than jump from job-to-job, these co-workers have resolved themselves to finding methods and means of survival that work for them - and work well. Build positive relations with these folks, observe their interactions and style of interaction, and learn by way of their example. Most always, these folks are willing to support others, provided that you do not set off any sirens or warning flags that catch their attention.
STAY FOCUSED ON IMPORTANT GOALS: While there exists a million reasons why we search for and eagerly accept gainful work experiences, the harsh reality is that we all NEED to work simply to survive. Putting aside all the other rationales and rewards associated with our career aspirations - it really just boils down to making a living. So stay focused on this most primal need of survival. Keep reminding yourself that you are there for a pay cheque and to provide for yourself and your family until other opportunities may arise for you. This may seem a very dismal and pessimistic view for one to assume, however, if you have ever been unemployed, I'm sure you have experienced far worse "views" than this one, which at the very least, will sustain you and your family till new opportunities come your way.
BE NICE TO EVERYONE (even toxic co-workers): That's RIGHT! No one is expecting you to roll over and let people walk on you but, make no mistake here, you can never relinquish your accountability to positive workplace behaviours. Remember that saying, "two wrongs don't make a right"... well practice this religiously! Again, you cannot set a different standard of behaviour for yourself based on other people's inefficiencies, insecurities and misplaced convictions - no matter how much you may want to at times.
STRIVE FOR STRONG WORK-LIFE BALANCE: Just as it takes a bit of elbow grease to accommodate your survival "game plan" at work, it is equally as important to make sure you have a plan to clear your mind and escape the gradual degradation of your spirit for the purpose of rejuvenating yourself, in every manner. You can then return to work refreshed, renewed, and ready for the next round of challenges.
KNOW THAT NOTHING IS PERMANENT: In the end, remember something you might have forgotten till now. This is only a job! At any given moment, and for any or no specific reason, you CAN simply decide to walk away from it all. For sure, there will be consequences, mostly financial, I assume, however, if you have truly reached your breaking point and don't believe you can walk another step, then do yourself a favour and find that inner strength to say, "no more". While it may have been some time since you felt it, you are and always have been in CONTROL of your own life.
FIND BETTER: There is always something better out there. It's a BIG WORLD! Take your time, do your research and find those opportunities which excite you and drive your professional career passions.