Help! Micromanager Monster at large!

I have a client (large international B2B company) who I work for mainly at home and sometimes at their office. When I began the job 2 years ago they said the hours would be from 18 - 25 hours a week and I just needed to tell them the hours worked at the end of each week.

All fine, until a new manager starts a month ago and he started asking for a spreadsheet which I would need to update with every project, job request etc and mark down time spent on each one. Painful, but fair enough I suppose.

Two weeks into that system he now wants me to use a program such as top tracker so he can track my time spent in real time… ugh, the amount of extra admin time now to manage time is adding extra hours to my day, plus he questions time I spent on a project… ‘are you sure you spent x amount of hours on this x project yesterday?’

I really hate the feeling that he’s following my time as I am working. It’s also a pain to keep starting and stopping the tracker as I just from project to project, email to email… Just wondering if this is an unusual or common procedure these days and should I be putting up with it or just putting up with it?

Thanks for support or advice!

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One more thing - how do other designers manage time spent ‘on call’ for a client. This guy wants me ‘available’ for deadline ads etc, so I am waiting at home for hours at a time for ads to get approved, or small changes made but it’s not considered ‘design time’, so I would maybe charge an hour for design time but 2 hours are spent waiting…

Umm No … just no. But, that’s just me. I’m way too old school for this new tracker BS. If you are so paranoid that you can’t trust me to do what you have paid me for… then fire me. Because you don’t own me. You pay me for a service. Others may have another opinion. But, I would be looking for something else asap. Again… that is just me. I don’t want to jeopardize any employment given the current environment.

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Yep, that’s my gut feeling too…

I’m not in a situation where I’m working by the hour as an independent contractor, but here’s what I might do if I were you.

How about setting up an in-person meeting with this new guy to go over the working relationship? He’s obviously concerned about something, so this meeting could be about demonstrating your attention to those same mutually shared concerns.

In the most cooperative way possible, you could express concern that the extra time tracking, waiting, spreadsheets and emails actually takes more time and makes you less efficient. If you show genuine concern, a proactive approach to reassure him, a willingness to consider his ideas and toss in a few well-considered ideas of your own, he might let up and begin trusting you.

Then again, he just might be an anti-social, narcissistic, micromanaging weasel who’s unfit for his job. It’s not like I haven’t met plenty of them. If that’s the case, well, you can’t fix him. And you might just have to adjust or find another similar position somewhere else.

Thanks, good advice! I think The Monster is also just trying to make a good impression to his manager, so I’m hoping he may calm down after a few weeks.

My supervisor tried this. More than half the office didn’t comply for the exact reasons you described. Eventually, he gave up and told us to write out 5 goals for the year. We all basically wrote down things we’d already accomplished. That seemed good enough for him. For some hairy reason, he felt like he needed something in his hand that showed we work.

Maybe you should go over your accomplishments with him. It worked for us.

I would voice this concern. Tell them you have to charge for the extra time spent.

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I wouldn’t say tracking time is micromanaging. It shows a lack of trust, which isn’t a great way to start or maintain a business relationship. I know I wouldn’t work with a client I didn’t trust.

That aside, I would track all time spent working for this client, from actual work to any correspondence to “on call” retainers to time spent tracking time for them so they get a clear picture of how much time you spend working on anything that’s related to working on their projects. Then I’d give them the option to pay the tracked time price or the quoted price, if they decide to proceed without further tracking requirements. This will attach a value to trusting your billed hours.

Are you paid by the hour?

If you are not paid by the hour, then tell your boss that he doesn’t need to worry about what you are doing with your time because extra time spent cost yourself, not your boss or the company. The only thing your boss needs to worry about is if you can get your work done on time and as specified.

If you are paid by the hour, tell him that tracking your time will add to the hours and make the job cost more. If you are doing creative work, tell him that the time it takes to be creative doesn’t look good on paper because it’s more time spent thinking than actually doing. If he doesn’t accept that, then he doesn’t understand creative work and shouldn’t be your boss. If he accepts that, then accept the extra pay that you will get for the extra work. In the mean time you will learn more details about how you work, and how you could work more efficiently.

I once had a boss who had us tracking our times in a spread sheet. I exceeded his expectations when I made the spread sheet automatically tally everyone else’s time including my own. Then I moved the information to a database with scripts that generated efficiency reports. He stopped micromanaging when I gave him more information than what he knew to do with. I was then promoted to production manager.

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