The fall guy

Wilson’s world

David Wilson is editor of Engineeringtalk and Electronicstalk and associate editor of The Engineer

John Smith had never heard of micro-management until he joined the design department of the Small to Medium Sized Enterprise.

At his former employer, his role had been relatively straightforward — he had been given a series of tasks and deadlines, and had worked assiduously to ensure that all targets were met, without any undue interruption from his senior management. Smith was given plenty of freedom because his management were well aware of his outstanding abilities to deliver projects on budget and on time.

But after several months at his new job, Smith quickly realised that he had not been offered the same level of autonomy that he was given by his former employer. This time around, it was all very different.

The problem was that his direct line manager appeared to have a lot of time on his hands — time that he spent micro-managing the senior designers that reported to him instead of managing their work in an expedient fashion.

Indeed, it seemed as if not a day went by without Smith’s manager calling him to get a status report on the project on which he was working. The regular calls served no other purpose other than to interrupt Smith’s important design work.

What made matters worse was that Smith found himself being constantly called into meetings by his manager to meet with a variety of individuals from the marketing and sales development, despite the fact that he was rarely asked for his opinion. He was simply there to provide support for his manager who seemed incapable of representing his own department without one or two of his senior designers present as a back-up.

In one such meeting, however, one of the senior management of the company called upon Smith’s boss to personally take responsibility for a new research project. So, for a few months at least, Smith heard little from his boss, as the project consumed much of his time.

But, I’m sad to say, the research project wasn’t managed very well and it soon became clear to all and sundry that Smith’s boss had taken on more than he was capable of and that the project was heading for disaster.

The wily micro-manager, however, could also see the writing on the wall and, realising that the project he had been given would never be completed on schedule, called upon his new hire to help out. But when John Smith saw the state of the project, he realised that not even an Act of God could deliver the project on time.

Initially, Smith tried to wriggle out of any involvement, but after several endless meetings, his manager convinced him that his input was essential and, despite his heavy workload, he was the only man that could be trusted to help out.

You can imagine how delighted the micro-manager was when the beaten Smith finally acquiesced to his demands. At last he could share the blame for his incompetence.

Sadly, of course, when he was inevitably called into another meeting to discuss the project with the rest of the management team, it was Smith who inevitably took the fall for his manager’s ineptitude.

Needless to say, Smith didn’t stay at the company much longer after that.

Dave Wilson

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