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We've recently (48 hours) had a minor change in management, and also a minor change in task priority. I've already learned that the new manager (who is not officially managing my team) is a serious micromanager.

On two occasions now, manager has come to me with questions regarding information they were not privy to. The first: "Please summarize your meeting with x and send it to your team". I won't go into why that summary is absolutely unnecessary, but this was within hours of manager being appointed, and they were never made aware of the meeting I had scheduled (the invite was sent only to me, and the only other contact the external engineer could have BCC'ed has left the company). The second was to take action and make changes to a lab setup again as a result of an email from the same external engineer.

Regardless of whether or not the world is on fire (which it is not), I don't feel that it is acceptable (or efficient) to take it upon oneself to find this information out. Asking to be copied on all correspondance is another thing altogether, but that was never mentioned.

I guess it's somewhat irrelevant which method a micromanager is using to be overbearing, but I'd still like to know if it's a blatant and intentional violation of my privacy, or just an overbearing know-it-all. How can I figure out if this is actually happening?

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    In general, you should assume you have no privacy over the inbox your employer has let you use as part of your duties. That doesn't mean this behaviour of your manager is helpful, but it is not "your inbox". Nov 17 at 12:45
  • @JoeStrazzere That person has left the company Nov 17 at 12:47
  • @JoeStrazzere The manager above the one who left, however it is a small company and "official" doesn't really matter. We've already got a req out for a new manager and our team is perfectly self-sufficient in the interim (though this new manager may not think so) Nov 17 at 12:52
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    Have you considered that the new manager was given access to the prior manager's work email so that they could do the task they were asked to do? Typically when managers leave a company their email is forwarded to whomever is taking on their responsibilities. I think you're being too hard on someone who has had to take on a lot of new responsibilities in top of their current role with not a lot of notice.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 17 at 14:09
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    What calendaring system are you using? It's possible your calendar is automatically being shared. In my case, I had shared my calendar 9 years ago, and I didn't realize that Google was still sharing that calendar until very recently. Nov 17 at 22:48

6 Answers 6

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it's a blatant and intentional violation of my privacy,

No. You have NO rights to privacy when using corporate communication tools. All you write is property of the company and they have full access to it. That doesn't mean everyone can read your stuff: the rules are typically spelled out in your employee handbook. I suggest reading it.

In most cases, the manager can not just log into your account and read your e-mail. They have to ask for permission (using a good reason) and IT will need to give them access.

How can I figure out if this is actually happening?

By reading your company policies on how e-mail access works, who needs to approve it, what constitute reasons to grant access, who needs to be notified. Then ask the person who is most likely to give you an honest answer.

It would be somewhat unusual for IT to give your manager access just to figure out what meetings to go to. So chances are you are being overly paranoid and if you ask you will come across as such. It's up to you to decide whether the risk is worth it.

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How can I figure out if this is actually happening?

You can always ask your company's IT department, but that doesn't mean that they have to give you an answer or even give you the truthful answer ( in the case that management wants to keep this sort of surveillance secret ).

Always assume that anything you say or do on company property or using company equipment, systems, applications,....etc is being monitored.

Of course, your "new" manager could have simply gained this knowledge by asking the other parties involved and you are being paranoid about nothing.

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One way to prevent being micromanaged is to proactively share status on the things you know about, explain what your high-level plan is for the work, and assure the manager that you will keep them in the loop.

If the micromanaging is happening because someone is trying to quickly understand what a team is working on, letting them know they can trust you to keep them informed should take you off their list of things they need to worry about.

You should set up some sort of regular status update or dashboard so that the manager they hire to replace your old manager won't have to dig for information either. People new to a job will typically try existing processes before changing too much; this is an opportunity to get the process you want in place.

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Your company email has no right to privacy towards your company. But there is a big but. It is entirely possible that your email account contains company confidential information, or customer confidential information, that is none of your managers business whatsoever. And while your manager may have the right to access your email, doing it in a way that looks very much like hacking is something different.

You could just inform IT that you think someone has been hacking into your email account. Without accusing anyone.

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new manager (who is not officially managing my team)

You need to be clear on your relationship with this temporary manager. I'd probably start with a conversation with your former manager's manager. What is the interim reporting line? Has the temporary manager been asked to keep an eye on any important projects until a permanent manager is found? Once you understand what your manager's manager expects from your team, you'll be better placed to respond to this temporary manager.

Somebody should be managing your team until a permanent manager is found, even if they don't have the time to. This person may be your manager's manager, this new temporary manager or someone else.

[My new manager has asked] "Please summarize your meeting with x and send it to your team"

A manager is responsible for all the work that their team does, and ensuring that the team members are working together well. They can only do this if they understand what the team is working on.

You've agreed to a meeting with x. That means you had something business-relevant to discuss with x. If it's relevant to you, then it is also relevant to your manager. They don't need to know every word that was discussed in the meeting but a summary is relevant. That could be as simple as "I explained bugs BUG-123 and BUG-456 to x. They are going to come back with some suggested fixes." That means we someone else runs into BUG-456 they know it's already being dealt with and can move on.

If the company wants the temporary manager to oversee the project, and you don't want them to be constantly sticking their nose into what you're doing, then you need to make sure that you're pro-actively keeping them informed about your status. That way you get to control when and how the information is shared, and your manager has confidence that the project is on track.

Of the 4-5 apartment sized fires our teams are currently handling, the one that is being overmanaged is a warm summer breeze

This is either an indication that the temporary manager doesn't have a good understanding of your teams' status - in which case, why not? If you think that you shouldn't be switching attention away from the apartment sized fires than you need to highlight those larger fires to your manager.

Or it's an indication that they are paying particularly close attention to a specific project or client. Maybe your company is trying to win a new contract with a client and they want to make sure that the existing projects are running super-smoothly. Maybe it's the only project that your manager's manager has asked the temporary manager to keep an eye on. This comes back to understanding the reporting lines. Ultimately there needs to be one manager ultimately responsible for 100% of your work, so that they can make the tough decision of ignoring one client/project so you've got time to deal with another one.

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While the company may have access to everything you type for the company, that does not necessarily mean your manager does or should have access. My personal opinion is the manager is (for want of something less polite) "an unpleasant person" and deserves what's coming to them.

My solution is to give them more than they want to know or give them something to be embarrassed about.

My (US resident Indian) friend was with his wife while waiting in line and his wife made a comment in their language to which he responded. It was not a significant remark but the obnoxious woman in front of them in line said, "This is America, You should talk American." My recommendation was to apologize for speaking in a language she could not understand and loudly say, "THE DOCTOR SAYS THE CIST WON'T HEAL AS LONG AS IT IS DRAINING LIKE THAT."

In the case of this snoopy manager, communicate with a colleague offline that you will be sending some goofy emails to trip up this manager. Then send an email, "Mr. BigBoss asked me what I think of the job this new manager is doing. I told them that I thought they were excellent but Mr. BigBoss said he was thinking of dismissing them because there have been reports of them snooping in places they should not be." (Will that get them worrying or at least thinking about being unpleasant?)

Another idea would be, "I heard Mr. BigBoss's wife died. I sent flowers and I think we all should." (What would happen if the manager tells Mr. BigBoss that they are sorry about his wife? Or sends "Sorry for your loss" flowers when he did not have a loss?)

One place I worked, we had this annoying person to spied on everybody and reported everything to the boss. We had this particularly expensive test equipment. We "allowed" the spy to overhear us,

"Do you know what happened to that equipment?"
"No. I have not seen it in a while."
"I have not either. I hope somebody did not steal it."
"What are we going to do if it does not turn up?"

Sure enough in 20 minutes to boss came charging in,

"Where's that test equipment?"  
"It's right here."
"Oh... Yes... Never mind."

If you know they are snooping and they do not know that you know, you can use that to your advantage.

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