Monday, September 26, 2011

Managing Manager Fatigue

My marriage, like many, has a manager, a social director (and in my case, let’s call a spade a spade) a queen.

I worked with a couple this week who were having some of the same management issues we have from time to time, what I have come to call: Manager Fatigue.

The Manager is generally the person in the marriage who has strong preferences, and who likes to plan. At the end of each week, Elise emails me a list of options, and I get to pick which ones most appeal to me. This arrangement works just fine for me - like many managed spouses, I’m easy. Frankly, just being happily married is enough for me, and then getting to do any kind of fun stuff, is icing on the cake.

But every once in a while, I think it happens about every 3-6 weeks, Elise suddenly comes down with Manager Fatigue. It usually happens when she is scanning the Philly Fun Guide, with its thousands of events. She just gives up, “Why do I always have to do all the planning? How did I get that job?”

These outbursts used to take me by surprise - I thought our system worked pretty well. What happened? And how did I suddenly become the slacker in a system that she set up?

But I’m a pattern finder, and eventually I recognized the pattern here. Managing meets a lot of Elise’s needs, but it is also tiring and requires a lot of mental work. That’s fine when she’s relaxed and able to focus on the fun she’s planning, but when she’s fatigued or stressed; or sometimes if it’s just gone on too long and so doesn’t meet her need for fairness and teamwork, it switches into a problem.

If you’re in such a relationship, and you’re the managed partner, here are some tips:
  • Ÿ  Every once in a while, plan something, set it all up, and surprise your manager with a fait au complet. You can’t do this too often, because it will seem like you’re horning in on their territory, but you can do this preemptively, best right before Manager Fatigue sets in. I like to get a whole week of credit out of it. On Monday I’ll say, “Don’t make any plans for this weekend. We’re all booked up.” On Tuesday she’ll start trying to get more info (Managers love info) by saying something like, “Well, how am I gonna know what to pack if I don’t know what we’re doing?” I’ll respond with just a tantalizing hint, like: “Just make sure you have a bathing suit.” On Thursday I’ll say something like, “Our plane reservations are all set.” A carefully doled out set of hints like this will not only make for a happy Manager all week long, it can stave off Manager Fatigue for weeks.
  • Ÿ  Doing little things which are usually the Manager’s tasks can keep your Manager happy and unfatigued. Elise takes out the recycling on Friday morning. If she’s had a busy week, and I’ve noticed, especially if there is a lot of recycling, I’ll sometimes take it to the street Thursday night. If she notices and says so, I’ll just say, “I noticed you’ve been busy this week, so I thought I’d do the recycling this time.”
  • Ÿ  You need to understand that asking if there is anything you can do, does not help with Manager Fatigue, because although you’re proving yourself to be a willing serf, you’re still requiring that they Manage you. This is a mistake a lot of managed spouses make.
  • Ÿ  Another frequent mistake is believing your Manager’s resistance to your substitute managing. If you make breakfast for them one morning as a way of helping out, don’t take it personally if they have things to say about how you did it. Of course they’re going to complain that you overcooked the eggs, or forgot the toast. That’s their job - to manage. If you take the bait and argue, you lose all the benefit. Just agree that you didn’t do it the way they would have, but remind them, “But isn’t it nice to be served your breakfast without even having to ask?”
Look, you chose a Manager, so you must like being managed. It’s just that like any expensive sports car, they are a lot higher maintenance than the salesman at the dealership ever let on. Still, with a little routine maintenance, you can manage your Manager and then take them out for a ride.

[This blog entry has the seal of approval of my Manager :-) ]

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