Does your boss sit beside you while you do edits?

Hello everyone. I just need to get your advice on what I’m experiencing in my career. I am drained and no longer feeling the joy I once did for graphic design as a result of the environment I’m working in. I will set the stage a little and then you can tell me if this is how it is, or if I am insane for putting up with this.

I work in communications which involves a few other tasks aside from graphic design. In the past 15 years I’ve worked for this company I have had 7 managers. All have been fired. With this constant change, it makes it really hard to get any momentum going since they all come in and want to make their mark. I also find that they tend to have huge ideas but no plan on how to actually implement them in a practical way.

Most recently my former coworker’s job (admin, social media, event planning, promo item inventory) was amalgamated into my job, which was predominantly graphic design until this new manager came along 4 months ago. I thought I was just temporarily covering these tasks until they hired a replacement but they are not hiring. There was no consultation on this and no increase in pay - it just all got plunked onto my role.

With my new manager coming on board, I’ve tried keeping an open mind once again and adjust to a new leadership style, but how she reviews my projects is driving me up the wall. She thinks that the best way to review my work is to come and sit beside me as I design, telling me to move something here or try that there. I do not work this way.

Even though I’ve asked for the content to be reviewed prior to putting it in the design layout, that doesn’t happen so there are edits upon edits upon edits. I might add that these edits are mainly just wordsmithing, which can go on for eternity, and are not actually correcting any errors. There are also multiple people reviewing the documents which is always the problem of too many cooks in the kitchen. This often leads to my whole initial design having to be reworked so I’m essentially designing the same document more than once which I feel is highly inefficient.

Since she started, all of the projects have been last minute which has put a huge stress on me to finish in time and get it to the printing company to meet the deadline. I realize that sometimes things come up last minute, and I am always able to accommodate this, but that is not what this is. She has known these things were coming up and just doesn’t get to it in good time.

This last project we did, the manager, myself and our assistant had a brainstorming meeting. It was just a gong show and the whiteboard looked like a football play with arrows and symbols and abbreviations all over the place. She sat at the back of the room and each time she had a brainwave, walked the length of the room around the tables and chairs then back to her laptop. This must had happened 25 times. Then instead of just telling me to print on 11x17, single page, booklet style, she actually drew an 11x17 piece of paper, with measurements that each side is letter-size and numbered the pages 1-4. I walked out of there in a state of bewilderment. By some miracle, I pulled content together and the resulting infographic conveyed the necessary information, but holy man, was that ever painful.

I don’t know how much longer I can survive this. Is this how it is or is this just an exceptionally dysfunctional work environment?

If I were you, I would be looking for a new job. From what you described, the people hiring your managers are inept and hiring the wrong people. A huge problem that plagues many in-house creative teams is the people hiring the creative leads know nothing about who to hire and end up hiring whichever person manages to impress them with the most irrelevant bullsh*t. I’ve seen it happen over and over.

I’ve spent most of my life leading various communication and creative teams — both in-house and at agencies. Micromanaging NEVER works. Experienced employees so incompetent that they need to be told precisely what to do are employees that should not have been hired in the first place.

The job of a communication or creative director is to coordinate the work and the team, set overall goals, lead by example, encourage teamwork, share one’s experiences, be a mentor, help people when they’re struggling, listen to and consider the team’s ideas, reward people for their work and initiative, be a champion for their goals, encourage experimentation, and let them explore their own way of doing them. Do this the right way, and it will be a rare situation when a manager needs to step in to tell experienced people how to do their jobs, look over their shoulders, or discipline someone. Arrogant managers who think their ideas are always best are fools.

If you take my advice and begin looking for a new job, remember this: in any job interview, you’re interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you. If you’re offered a job, ask them about their management style. Ask if you can speak to your co-workers before you accept the job. Ask those co-workers what it’s like to work there. If your gut instincts tell you there’s a problem, don’t accept the job.

1 Like

Thank you for taking the time to respond. You are 100% correct in everything you said. The people who hired the communications managers don’t actually want a communications manager. The senior mangement knows the message they want to convey and when the comms manager explains that’s not how it should be done or expresses another way of doing it, they are brushed off. All of the managers I’ve had have been micromanagers who can’t let go for some reason. It is creatively, professionally and emotionally stifling.

I have started applying for new jobs and will definitely interview them as much as they interview me to ensure I’m not getting into the same situation I have now. I think I need to take some time before leaping into a new job and recover from these years of dysfunction.

Thank you for your feedback. I appreciate it.

I’ve been involved in a few places and I’ve had people that have micro/macro managed, and I’ve dealt with people who are incredibly hands off. Sometimes, if they just tell you what they want and you can do it. They will be happy — you get paid and thats it.

Sometimes people don’t think creative work is actually work but it is

You’ve pointed out one of the difficulties of being a good manager — the manager is also an employee who has a boss who might be a jerk, a micro-manager, a manipulator, or a know-it-all. The dysfunctional situation usually does start at the top and becomes part of the company culture.

When the CEO or president has these kinds of traits, he or she usually hires people who will fall into line. They, in turn, expect their subordinates to fall into line. It continues all the way down with everyone being stifled, feeling uninspired, and always second-guessing their managers who are, in turn, second-guessing their managers.

This top-down style of management might work to a degree in the army, but it’s entirely inappropriate for a communication or creative team whose job involves coming up with new and exciting ways of engaging and communicating with people. Creativity is all but impossible in a team that spends most of its efforts dealing with frustration and following top-down orders.

Everything considered, every good manager in a functional situation needs to tailor his or her management style differently for each team member. There are some people who need and appreciate more help, sideboards, and direction than others who are highly competent and who want to take the ball and run with it.

IMO, that’s the norm. It’s inefficient and a waste of resources, but it’s how most people work. Unless you’re a magazine or newspaper. They have more experience working with hard deadlines, and know better than to waste staff labor laying out stories that are going to be rewritten. But I don’t care because I get paid regardless of what their workflow is. If they ask for advice on how to save money, or make things go faster, I’ll tell them. But I’m not going stress if they don’t take it. I’m sure there are hundreds of ways they waste money. Inefficient publishing workflows is probably very low on their list of priorities.

I spent about 17 years at newspapers and magazines. You’re right; deadlines aren’t missed — especially in daily newspapers. Press time is scheduled in advance, and missed deadlines are expensive.

The daily newspaper where I worked had a joint operating agreement with another daily newspaper. The newspapers were separately owned and were competitors, but they jointly owned the company that handled both newspapers’ printing, advertising, and delivery.

If we were late getting the finished newspaper to the printing company, the newspaper was fined $1,000 for every minute it was late. Consequently, we never missed a deadline — ever. Since the same routine was implemented every day, all the bugs were worked out, everything ran like clockwork, and each day, the newspaper was written, produced, printed, and distributed on time without exception.

The magazines where I worked weren’t quite as efficient since they were monthlies, but even there, deadlines really were deadlines.

At my subsequent jobs, I kept the same philosophy of deadlines being deadlines. Writers wrote stories; then they were done. Those stories were edited by copy editors and passed along to designers. There was little room for revisions unless there were factual changes, significant mistakes, or easy-to-fix corrections that didn’t affect the workflow or result in wasteful redos. This is the one area where I really can be something of a pain in the butt.

Definitely a pain in the butt. I take it as not respecting my time when they leave things to the bitter end because they know I am going to do whatever it takes to get it done on time (e.g. come in two hours early to have something ready for a meeting that day with the Board, just as a random example, lol).

I wish there was a fine or an increased cost for last minute rushes, but the printing company we use is amazing and always comes through for us/me. This last project was so last minute, they said they would go directly to print without a proof, something they have done in the past but they always let me know this. I’ve worked with them for nearly two decades and they do great work and know they can leave it to me to make sure everything is correct. So I submitted the project after getting the approval and gave them the okay to go straight to print. Then my manager saunters out of her office knowing I have just submitted the file and says we should change the order of our social media icons on the back … I said it’s already been sent to the printer. She was like oh, we will just edit it when the proof comes back, which I’m sure is also a pain for the printing company once they have it set up. In my head I was like, woman, they have two days to print this, but instead just informed her they have gone straight to print due to wanting to meet OUR deadline. Well, she was not happy and now wants to have a meeting with this company. I am hoping she forgets this completely because she is going to ruin our relationship with them, chastizing them for not giving us a proof when they bend over backwards for us other times. Sigh.

Thanks for listening to me vent, everyone. I’m just tired of the whole thing and having to get used to a new micromanager every two years.

Yikes. The design world is stressful enough without a micromanaging, distrustful of your competence manager. I’m lightly toying at the idea of working in design again but have been hesitant. After taking many months off from working a toxic design job I realized…. the greatest thing I care about is finding an employer I can feel safe and good working for every day.

Good luck to you! Gain the experience, build a portfolio and step up and into a new role elsewhere. :+1:

Here’s what I did.
I was in the same situation.

Let it be late.

Not your fault. Don’t put yourself under pressure to have it at the printing company.

I was in the exact same posiiton you’re in - it happens. Do your job really well.
And if someone is not doing their job that’s not your fault.

If it’s late it’s late.

Too many edits, not your problem.

Excellent advice which I took on this last, last-second project I am currently working on. It helped reduce my stress exponentially and, as a result of their endless edits, the deadline had to be pushed back. Now my manager wants to have a meeting with the printing company to “discuss concerns with their processes.” I thought she would have seen the light and realized their responses to us are directly related to us never getting things submitted in a timely manner, but no. I fear she is going to tick off a great vendor, but that will be on her if it happens. Thanks for taking time to respond. I appreciate it.

Thank you so much for helping articulate what is going on in this situation - another micromanaging boss. SIGH Each of them looks a little different in their approach, but it all comes down to the same thing once you take a good look at it.

I’ve given it my best shot -15 years worth. Hopefully the new year will bring a new opportunity away from this madness.

Appreciate your feedback.

1 Like

15 years? Have you ever considered taking the top slot?

With such a volitile history for that position, I did not want to go there. It also doesn’t involve any graphic design.

I have an interview for a new job but I am fearing leaving the flexibility and comfort zone (I use that term loosely) of this job.

I guess i will see what happens at the interview. Thanks for responding.

Don’t let fear become a regret.

1 Like

I think regret is my biggest fear. I’m envisioning staying where I am, continuing to put up with all of these shenanigans and, at the close of my career, seeing how I missed all these other opportunities for real growth.

When I’ve managed creative and communication teams, I’ve always continued doing some hands-on design work, even when my predecessors didn’t. One of the perks of being a manager is assigning the work in ways you think best. Why wouldn’t you take on some of the assignments if that’s part of your skillset?