It takes humor to tell the boss he or she is micromanaging. Yes, humor. Production manager Andy Hannan and estimator Kirk Van Kamp of Mark IV Builders in Bethesda, Md., found a non-threatening way to approach the difficult task. When owner Mark Scott got stressed, according to Hannan, he would walk onto a jobsite and concern himself with minutia, things a superintendent may have had a different plan for. So Hannan and Van Kamp developed a friendly way to say “butt out”: the Free Lunch Card — which entitles the giver to a free lunch from the receiver of the card.

The first time Hannan gave the card to Scott, it threw the boss off guard. “[Scott] said, ‘Touché,'” says Hannan, because he realized he'd been caught. By diffusing a difficult situation, Hannan was able to get Scott to talk about things in his purview — higher-level issues. Scott bought $60 worth of pizza that day.

Now, three years later, everyone on staff has a card and uses it. “I've bought lunch,” says Hannan, “especially when I've made that follow-up phone call I'm not supposed to. [The card is] nothing more than trying to keep your sense of priorities straight.”