Your district manager texts, “I emailed you this morning; did you read it?”
The morning was chaos as usual, so no time for electronic pleasantries.
You pick up the next pharmacy call on hold, and it’s your boss.
“Why was I on hold for so long?” The interrogation begins.
“Your promise time metrics aren’t being met, and now I can see why.”
Calling all Pharmacy Managers: we have a DM who is a Class-3 Micromanager.
Three Classes of Micromanagement
In the fast-paced, cut throat world of Retail Pharmacy, goals and deadlines are common language.
However, the heavy demands for results breaks down some of those in upper management, causing them to progress through levels of sinister leadership transformation.
The first level of micromanagement is what I call:
“The Rock in the Shoe”
These micromanagers are obsessed with results and require frequent follow-up.
They nag, harass, and poke the pharmacy manager until the point of exhaustion
Usually about the same goals or deadlines.
Signs to watch out for: excessive text messages, emails, and phone calls, even on your days off.
The second level of micromanagement is called:
“The Control Freak”
This advanced form of micromanagement evolves from the Rock in the Shoe when the DM’s communication needs aren’t satisfied.
They are obsessed with meeting numbers and results, so they revert to a DIY approach.
Perfectionism at all costs.
Expect all decision-making authority to be stripped from you and for explicit instructions on how to do your job.
Prepare to be spoken to like a child in every interaction.
The third level of micromanagement is called:
“The Secret Shopper”
This ultimate level of micromanagement happens when the manager gives up all chance for sustainable results and reverts to manipulation.
This happens when a leader wants results, but doesn’t know how to lead with purpose and buy-in.
Instead, they use fear and authority.
They want to influence you indirectly, while they live in denial about their “forced culture.”
They will watch you without your knowledge and hold you accountable to results you may be unaware of.
Expect lots of “Gotcha” moments and insults when you fail.
Strategy and Mindset
It can be hard to work for a micromanaging leader, especially as a new pharmacy manager.
You have hundreds of patients’ healthcare to manage per day.
Threat of regulatory risk looming and personal liability at any moment.
Imagine having to deal with verbal attacks from above on top of all this day-to-day stress.
How do you know what you’re allowed to push back on without getting written up or fired?
What exactly are you allowed to say?
How do you get your nagging boss off your back?
The best way to fight micromanagement is to deliver results.
But there will always be another metric to monitor and more money to be made.
How do you know which results to execute on?
You have a dozen competing priorities at any given moment, and having to fight off a tyrannical boss can wear you down.
There must be a way out.
There is, but you must first ask yourself, “How am I earning this micromanagement?”
If your pharmacy is under-performing in more than one bucket, you may have to think creatively in order to have a chance of fighting back.
Think Like a Boss
First, you have to put yourself in your leader’s shoes.
The only way to parry and evade micromanagement is to see the blows coming first.
What is upper management being held accountable for?
What are their top business priorities?
How are they perceiving your results and performance?
Is someone hounding them for your results?
If you switched places, what would your priorities be?
Good business ownership and leadership can make it possible to win consistently in most company priorities.
But you first have to think both short-term and long-term in order to defend yourself.
Tools to Fight Back
The first step in self-defense is to recognize you are under attack.
Put your hands up.
Speak up and respectfully call out the observed micromanaging behavior.
Doing so in an objective way helps to paint a picture of what they are doing to you.
But you must do so in a way that helps them save face.
“I see that you’ve texted and emailed me a few times about the same deadline. I’m sorry, I know I failed to update you regarding my progress.”
Then, focus on their priorities, both short and long-term.
“Completing this action plan on time is super important for script growth this month. It will also help our store plan for long-term profitability.”
Then, establish an agreed upon result and follow up.
“Can we agree on some conditions to save you time and energy and give myself some accountability?”
This is where you assume control and set your expectations.
If you can dictate the How and When follow-up should occur, then you’ve essentially squashed micromanagement.
All that’s left is a verbal agreement and boundaries with which you and your DM can work within.
Now all that’s left is execution.
How you execute is the parry and block at their attempts to thwart or undermine your autonomy.
Start by being impeccable with your word.
Only promise results that you can deliver.
This is your core strength and foundation.
Because outcomes are usually outside of your control, it’s more effective to promise behaviors that you can directly influence.
For instance, frequent communication is something you can control.
“I promise to to update you bi-weekly on our progress until we meet the goal.”
It’s important to make the promise explicitly, because then you are going to ask for something in return.
“Once I meet the goal, can we turn that follow up routine to once monthly?”
The point of this exchange is to build a verbal contract that both parties sign.
Any breach of this agreement later should be called out, and this is how you block and parry.
The more conditions and boundaries you can build into this conversation, the more ammunition you have.
When upper management comes knocking on your door, they are going up against their own words and promises.
If you Challenge Now and Promise Later, you will find yourself better equipped to handle tyrannical leaders.
But sometimes, your leader may treat you unfairly and micromanage around trivial things.
Maybe you’re meeting deadlines, goals, and metrics, and yet every word your boss speaks brings you down.
What can you do to fight back in this scenario?
Politics and Perception
The following advice is less about integrity and character, and more about positioning.
Not as important to focus on, but is a very real strategy to be mindful of under negative conditions.
“Corporate politics” are a real thing in any big company when a large hierarchy is involved.
If you don’t intentionally build your personal brand image, it will be done for you.
So you must build and then protect your reputation and professional image.
This is the only way to fight back against a Secret Shopper, or a leader that has a vendetta against you.
Your boss is the gatekeeper to your perceived success, but it’s not just their opinion that matters.
You have to think about the enterprise, the company and it’s people.
Who are your allies and what is the scope of your overall business impact?
Ask yourself, “How do I build the perception of winning?”
This is the most important shield against micromanagement: the company’s perception of your performance.
Build a Web of Protection
You can be crushing all metrics and goals, but still feel like you’re walking on eggshells.
In this case, it’s all about the perception upper management has of your results.
It’s time to fortify your brand image and build a web of allies.
You must think execution on a large scale.
Forget the four walls of your pharmacy.
How can you impact the financials in a significant way, i.e. $50,000 or more?
For example, if your company is focusing on controllable expenses like inventory, you can find a way to minimize shrink and inventory write-offs at your pharmacy.
But don’t stop there.
How can you help multiple stores, or even all of the stores in your district do the same?
With expanded reach, not only will you build corporate allies who will vouch for you, your overall impact will be so great it can’t be ignored.
So what if you missed a small deadline?
If you are executing on all your core roles and responsibilities AND you are making a measurably large impact on the company, consider yourself more influential and credible.
You can now say things like, “I’m sorry I didn’t prioritize [trivial task X], I have been working on helping the district save $50,000 on controllable expenses.”
The more valuable you are to the company, the more untouchable you are from poor leadership.
This is how you beat micromanagement.
Business Tips For The Corporate PharmD
- Recognize the three classes of micromanagement
- Think strategically and put yourself in your leader’s shoes
- Challenge micromanagement by inviting them to discuss performance
- Follow through on promises and ask for autonomy in return
- Build a web of protection by building allies and influence