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Brief description of me

I am in the electronics department of a medium sized engineering business, among my other five co-workers. I've been working for 4 years here in the same position, but the mileage in the team is 8 years average, with no previous experience. Our boss:

Brief description of our boss

-Our boss joined 12 years ago, and more than 25 years of experience in many different areas inside electronics.

-He is a very smart and pragmatic person with a lot of experience, but selfish when it comes to achievements, quite condescending at times and a person who seldom admits its mistakes.

-He'll cut off your question/explanation and will propose a solution that is no good because he didn't take the time to listen to the additional details.

Stating the problem

Even though we put up with the behaviors stated, I am concerned about the way these behaviors affect our morale and our development:

During his entire course in that position, he has never given a chance to take responsibilities and duties others than getting done the work he has previously explained you point-by-point. This means, "In order to provide product B, you have to first take AAA, then request quotes from BBB, design CCC and then mix up everything till you get B". And don't ever try straying from those steps too much or taking important decisions behind his back.

Due to his wide knowledge and experience in the products we develop, looks like he is able to plan each and every task necessary to create the product, including the details of almost all the tasks. It gives the feeling that he does not trust your decision-taking capabilities.

The questions

This excessively wary behavior results in us being unable to take responsibilities and design decisions because the boss does not trust in us, and therefore we (it's a general feeling in the team) feel demotivated and deadlocked in our position, while we stare at how another department's boss is empowering little-by-little his team members, to the point that he seldom calls for meetings as they have become almost autonomous!

-How can we cope with this situation, provided that he'd be too proud to take on a normal conversation about the situation?

Thank you, and feel free to ask for details. My apologies if I wrote too much.

Added: Just to clarify, this behavior is present ever since he took the department leader position (as some team members were already before the boss arrived), that is 12 years ago. Just in case somebody states that responsibilities will arrive with experience.

  • You use "she", "it" and "he" indiscriminately when referring to your boss. Clean up your writing. – Vietnhi Phuvan Sep 23 '14 at 19:06
  • "...and will propose a solution even when it would prove invalid should he await for more details." What the hell does that mean? Again, clean up up your writing. – Vietnhi Phuvan Sep 23 '14 at 19:08
  • In the meantime, I am voting to close your question as unclear. – Vietnhi Phuvan Sep 23 '14 at 19:10
  • Ok, typos cleared, sorry for my english, I do my best. What is unclear for you? – user26951 Sep 23 '14 at 19:12
  • I think you mean "He'll cut off your question/explanation and will propose a solution that is no good because he didn't take the time to listen to the additional details." If that's what you mean and you edit your post accordingly, your question is now clear. – Vietnhi Phuvan Sep 23 '14 at 19:23
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This person clearly has a stong need for control. This has nothing to do with or your co-workers and your performance. This has everything to do with his personality type. You will not be able to change this behavior from below him in the organization.

I had a boss like this too early in my career. I learned as much from him as I could (these people are generally very knowlegeable in their field or they wouldn't last long with this management style.) and then moved on to another job elsewhere. I learned a lot from him and so was able to operate at a much higher level than my pay grade when I moved on.

So don't take it personally, concentrate on learning what you can from him (even if you are not making the choices, try to understand why he chooses what he does, that will still give you professional development) and move on to a more congenial enviroment (even an internal transfer could do this) when you feel ready. Oh and while you are at it, learn how not to manage others.

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    Thanks for your answer. The need for control is something I feel on him too. I was already absorbing as much as I could from his decisions and knowledge (as there's nothing else I could take advantage of), but hearing this from somebody else too strengthens my determination. Given the size of the business and lack of similar people in my position, an internal transfer is beyond my imagination. Thanks a lot! – user26951 Sep 23 '14 at 19:42
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    Nice answer. I agree with the personality type. I might add that in my personal experience, people like this tend to like questions about their ideas. "Woa, never thought of that approach, why do you prefer A instead of B?" Feeding their "grandiosity" needs might make you even more likeable for him, which might turn into surprising outcomes. I believe that if he realises you admire him it could turn out he starts trusting you. After all, in his mind, if you are able to see that he is great, you might be able to see other things too XD – Mr Me Feb 28 '18 at 14:19
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You are in a no-win situation, if your goal is to change his ways: your boss's approach works just too well for him, so he's got no incentive to change. Yes, he is putting the continuity of the business at risk by keeping everything in his head - he gives you the step-by-step instructions but certainly not their rationale. But the top management doesn't seem to be concerned about business continuity. Their loss. And since there is nothing you can do to change the situation, you might as well not obsess about the things you cannot do anything about - it's a waste of time and energy.

He makes no effort to train the staff to the level necessary for them to be able to take over, should he be run over by a truck. Nobody on the staff has the over-all picture of what's going on and it is doubtful that each member of the staff understands their piece of the picture. None of you staff would want to be around and have to take over from him if anything were to happen to him.

No way you can look out for the group and for the company with him around, given the way he is hoarding his expertise like a miser. The best you can do is look out for yourself but I doubt that you can even do that given that he is not giving you the knowledge to understand your part of the picture. You are probably better off with another boss whose management practices are progressive rather than reactionary. In particular, a boss who is eager to work himself out of his job so that his can move up the ladder and give you an opportunity to take his current spot. Fact is, you'll be a lot happier with such a boss and you'll learn a lot more in a lot less time than with your current boss.

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You need to take initiative and start by asking "I want to use technology XY for the new feature Z, is this a good idea?" Train to put it in one short question with all details. Often we derail and take two or three sentences and that's just to much if his mind is focused that much. If he then says no, ask him why. He will probably be right, but it is important you understand the reasons so next time you can come up with a better solution.

This can be very frustrating because he will be right a lot, don't take it personally, he just has more expertise and sees the bigger picture, hopefully. Also it sounds like he might have autism/aspergers and is just not realizing that it comes over rude, so try talking to him and explaining that it is in everyones interest if more people understood the complex programs. Surely he wants to retire one day and not leave a big mess for everyone.

With many reports his schedule is probably busy and he is trying to minimize disturbance by all of you, but he needs to understand that there would be less if you had deeper understanding and could work autonomous.

If you like the job and your coworkers, that's worth a lot and I would try to change his mind before throwing in the towel and ending up somewhere worse.

Not sure if escalating to higher management is a good move, it might block any cooperation from him and he will stay because of his importance. But if you try talk to him and then go to management he will know it was you. That's a difficult decission. Best would be if management saw the problem and talked to him about who has the knowledge, what are the backup/disaster strategies.

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