Micromanaged and Overworked: What Can I Do?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors: I am the Head of Operations at a hospital and the pressure is as imagined. This administrative role involves ensuring the business and process end of the Organization is in form. I am also in charge of business development for the Hospital.

I have been burdened with a checklist which the Medical Director demands to see everyday (this is because I have not been diligent with it). The problem is this checklist is not completed through a reported format. It involves me directly unearthing a thousand and one possible process errors committed by any of our medical and non-medical staff in the previous day – from billing to drug request process errors. By the time, I get through correcting things and informing Department Heads, the day is almost gone.

I consider this menial though important. I feel this should be delegated to any of the able administrative staff in my team but my boss won’t have this. At this moment, I feel I am under-performing as the main work of developing new businesses and processes for our ever changing market (which is left undone) is only brought to the fore when some other competitor starts doing this. I don’t feel undervalued, I feel micromanaged.

Response: It certainly does sound as though you have more to do than even a complete team could accomplish every day! Even if you could delegate to your staff, the reality is that it is responsibility of the supervisors and managers of medical and non-medical staff to be finding those errors and correcting them. All you should have to do is ensure that someone on your team audits randomly to make sure errors have been reported.

It also sounds as though there is some animosity between you and your boss, otherwise he would see the ineffectiveness of you using your time in this way. Or, perhaps he is not concerned about the business development of the hospital at this time, because the priority must be ensuring in-house accuracy right now.

1. I’m sure you have talked to your boss about this in one way or another, but perhaps you can ask him for a half hour of his time to get further direction.

*You might as well acknowledge that some part of the current situation is because he/she was upset over lack of diligence on your part. However, you might be able to apologize again, point out past good work and recommit to renewed effectiveness in the future. But you can also tell him that the current schedule is not accomplishing the most for the hospital.

*Show him a timeline of your day, to show the large number of errors you are finding and their sources. You could develop a clock chart, to mark off for your work, department by department. That chart would also point out where the most errors are occurring.

*Tell him two or three ideas you have for business development and give him an estimate of how much time you would like to be able to devote to it on a daily basis until the process is ready for approval. Doing that would establish there is only so much time available and you need to reduce the time in the auditing function in order to have time for development.

*Suggest that supervisors and managers in other departments develop or be given checklists of their own, and they in turn develop checklists for their employees, so errors are much less likely.

2. This might be the time for a discussion with him about the whole approach the organization is taking. The problem with you or members of your team catching errors after the fact, is that you will not catch all of them, and a culture of errors easily spreads. If the insurance person is making mistakes, the pharmacy is making mistakes, the nurses are making mistakes, custodians are making mistakes, everyone is making tiny errors and sometimes big ones.  

Errors become routine in organizations where correcting them is left to someone other than the person making them and when there is no sanction or retraining after a certain number are made. That does not imply that everyone in your organization is making mistakes or that no one cares. But if many people cared more, you would not need to spend an entire day finding and correcting errors, would you?

3. If you are finding few mistakes, but are simply auditing as a requirement, perhaps you can do random checks. Or, perhaps you can meet with individual  managers and discuss your work and ask for their assistance. (Knowing people, I would expect they would resent having problems pointed out, so you may need to take a soft-sell approach.)

4. If you are very concerned about Business Development, perhaps that is what you could delegate to your team temporarily, and make the in-house quality control your main work. They may enjoy having a role in business development, and it would be a way to develop them. It might be a bit difficult for you to have someone subordinate to you be the one who might receive more praise at that point, but you could do like many managers do and co-write some of the reports, as a way to ensure you have a part in it.

5. Take a look at your job description. Is your current work, to the degree to which you are doing it, within that description? Is the work of your subordinates within some parts of what you’re now doing? That might give you additional talking points.

6. Do you have a resource in HR who might be able to help you think through this situation, since they would know the organization better? They may be aware of issues related to your boss and instructions he has received from higher up. Or, they may have suggestions for how to realign your work. (I always like the term “realign” when I’m talking about changing the way work is being dumped on someone.)

All of the things above may not work for your situation, but may be adaptable. In the meantime, if you are close to your staff, discuss this with them in an open but optimistic way. Look at the overall work that must be done and the work that would be good to do. Let people volunteer, then delegate or direct as needed. Build your team as the Can-Do team, and work together to find solutions to this challenging situation. I hope you will also make sure to take time to rest your mind and body away from work.

Best wishes to you with all of this. I imagine everyone—your boss, his boss, you, your team and other employees are all under a lot of pressure. If you can do something to smooth out the problem just a little bit, you will have accomplished a lot. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what you decide to do and how it works out.

Tina Lewis Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.