Despite a wide variety of management styles, most managers have two things in common. They're pretty sure they aren't micromanagers, and most have micromanaged somebody sometime.
Some of us know that we micromanage (or don't); others have some doubts. Here are Four Warning Signs of micromanagement:
- When you charter a task, you feel a strong need to specify or approve exactly how it will be done.
- You feel unsure about your understanding of what your people do, but you think you're concealing it pretty well.
- You require status reports far more frequently than you need for constructive intervention.
- You're so busy that delays happen frequently, while people wait for your input or sign-off.
You can change only
what you can acknowledgeIf two or more of these indicators fit you, you probably feel that you're coping in the best way you can with the shortcomings of the people you supervise. But if their incompetence is a real factor, do something else — micromanagement isn't the answer. Training, transfer, reassignment, or replacement work much better.
Sometimes, simply stepping out of the way works. Usually, if you just let people do their jobs, and let them make some mistakes, you'll be delighted with the results.
If you really want to stop micromanaging, here are six tips to put you on the path to a more peaceful and successful management experience.
- Tune in to your own behavior
- Becoming aware that you're micromanaging is difficult. Watch for the Four Warning Signs.
- Hold a conversation with yourself
- You'll be changing your behavior, but you can change only what you acknowledge. Gently, with understanding, tell yourself about your micromanaging.
- Choose something different
- The only way to change is to change. Promise yourself that you'll do things differently soon, and set a realistic start date.
- Tell someone about it
- Telling a real person seals the deal. Tell your coach, or tell a close confidant who isn't associated with your position at work. Include your start date and a description of your plans.
- Do it
- Start managing something small in a new way. When you make a task assignment, tell people the what, and let them work out the how, with help from you only if they ask. Be careful, though, because even if they're complaining about micromanagement, they might be uncomfortable with the change.
- Be available to others
- When you've made some real progress, look around your organization. Are any of your people micromanaging? How can you guide them in new directions without micromanaging them?
As you carry out this change, take care not to micromanage yourself. Focus not on how you change, but on what you change; not on lapses, but on successes. Remind yourself that there are no micromanagers — there are only managers who micromanage, and they can change. You will be proof of that. Top Next Issue
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
For a survey of tactics for managing pressure, take a look at the series that begins with "Managing Pressure: Communications and Expectations," Point Lookout for December 13, 2006.
For more about micromanagement, see "When Your Boss Is a Micromanager," Point Lookout for December 5, 2001; "Are You Micromanaging Yourself?," Point Lookout for November 24, 2004; "How to Tell If You Work for a Nanomanager," Point Lookout for March 7, 2007; "Reverse Micromanagement," Point Lookout for July 18, 2007; and "Lateral Micromanagement," Point Lookout for September 10, 2008.
- John DeMassi
- How about an article on the anti-micromanager (the hands-off manager)? I feel at times that I am providing not enough management to my employees. Obviously, the way you have written this article, I could be in denial. Being who I am and knowing my experiences, I will first doubt that thought.
- I actually remember times and situations where I was a micromanaging nightmare. I remember how painful it was to force people to do it the way that I would do it and I even had reasons/excuses why it was the right thing to do at that time.
- Now, I try to hire people who can run with a set of tasks and not "bother" me unless the sky is falling. I look for technical equals or potential technical equals. I try to steer a course and hope they stay in my wake. I have found that I cannot choreograph the outcome so I try to set the scene and let it happen with a set of bounds. I have found that change is inevitable. My coach/mentor used to say the goal is in cement but the plan is in sand. I use weekly status reports as a mechanism to get the individual to know what they did and to communicate it to me in a very succinct manner. I want three things. What did you do, what will you do next week and what is in your way.
- — jdm
Your comments are welcome
Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenZLkFdSHmlHvCaSsuner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Workplace Politics:
- The "What-a-Great-Idea!" Trap
- You just made a great suggestion at a meeting, and ended up with responsibility for implementing it.
Not at all what you had in mind, but it's a trap you've fallen into before. How can you share your ideas
without risk of getting even more work to do?
- The Attributes of Political Opportunity: The Finer Points
- Opportunities come along even in tough times. But in tough times like these, it's especially important
to sniff out true opportunities and avoid high-risk adventures. Here are some of the finer points to
assist you in your detective work.
- Managing Non-Content Risks: II
- When we manage risk, we usually focus on those risks most closely associated with the tasks at hand
— content risks. But there are other risks, to which we pay less attention. Many of these are
outside our awareness. Here's Part II of an exploration of these non-content risks, emphasizing those
that relate to organizational politics.
- Narcissistic Behavior at Work: VII
- Narcissistic behavior at work prevents trusting relationships from developing. It also disrupts existing
relationships, and generates toxic conflict. One class of behaviors that's especially threatening to
relationships is disregard for the feelings of others. In this part of our series we examine the effects
of that disregard.
- Answering Questions You Can't Answer
- When someone asks an unanswerable question, many of us respond by asking for clarification. That path
can lead to trouble. Responding to a question with a question can seem defensive, or worse. How can
you answer a question you can't answer?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming November 30: Avoiding Speed Bumps: II
- Many of the difficulties we encounter when working together don't create long-term harm, but they do cause delays, confusion, and frustration. Here's Part II of a little catalog of tactics for avoiding speed bumps. Available here and by RSS on November 30.
- And on December 7: Reaching Agreements in Technological Contexts
- Reaching consensus in technological contexts presents special challenges. Problems can arise from interactions between the technological elements of the issue at hand, and the social dynamics of the group addressing that issue. Here are three examples. Available here and by RSS on December 7.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenZLkFdSHmlHvCaSsuner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, )
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, )
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, )
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, )
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, )
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, )
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.