Judging by the almost-universal understanding of the term micromanager, many of us have experienced micromanagement. It's pretty easy to detect micromanaging when someone else is doing it, but it's difficult to see it when we're doing it ourselves. Micromanagers are everywhere — even inside us.
One reason it's so hard to see our own micromanaging behavior is our reluctance to face the possibility that we're hurting other people. That's why our own behavior can be easier to see if we look at how we micromanage ourselves.Here are some warning signs that your inner micromanager might need some retraining:
- You feel guilty about sleeping late, even on your days off, and even if you're exhausted.
- Whenever you get a parking ticket, you feel really horrible — out of all proportion to the offense.
- You don't have a "free" minute. Every bit of time is accounted for. It's been months since you've had the experience of just hanging out, in the way you did so easily in your teens.
- You berate yourself if you do something just well enough. You could have done better.
- You rarely celebrate achievements or acknowledge successes, because you're afraid that if you do, you might get too comfortable or ease off.
- When you put anything at all on your To-Do list, you have a clear idea of the right way to do it. You rarely let yourself try new or more interesting approaches.
is difficult to detect
when we're doing
it ourselvesWhen you travel somewhere, even for a routine errand, you always take the "best" route — never trying a different, more scenic, or more adventurous one.
- You constantly ask yourself when you'll complete some particular task. When you do complete it, or if it goes on hold for reasons beyond your control, you start nagging yourself about some other task.
- You question yourself about decisions you can't undo.
- You blame yourself if a decision you made turns out badly, even if you did your best with the information you had at the time.
- You compare yourself to others, especially when the comparison is unfavorable to you. You give too little weight — or don't even acknowledge — aspects of those comparisons that are favorable to you.
- You don't trust yourself with difficult decisions. You give more weight to the advice of others, even when they couldn't possibly know any more than you do.
- You keep a close eye on all your spending, requiring that every penny be accounted for and every expenditure be justified.
If any of these rang bells, and you want some training for your inner micromanager, remember that there's no best way to do it. Any way that works is a good way. On your next day off, you can start by sleeping late. 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; "There Are No Micromanagers," Point Lookout for January 7, 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.
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More articles on Emotions at Work:
- The Slippery Slope That Isn't
- "If we promote you, we'll have to promote all of them, too." This "slippery-slope"
tactic for winning debates works by exploiting our fears. Another in a series about rhetorical tricks
that push our buttons.
- Coping and Hard Lessons
- Ever have the feeling of "Uh-oh, I've made this mistake before"? Some of these oft-repeated
mistakes happen not because of obstinacy, or stupidity, or foolishness, but because the learning required
to avoid them is just plain difficult. Here are some examples of hard lessons.
- The Injured Teammate: I
- You're a team lead, and one of the team members is very ill or has been severely injured. How do you
handle it? How do you break the news? What does the team need? What do you need?
- Scope Creep and Confirmation Bias
- As we've seen, some cognitive biases can contribute to the incidence of scope creep in projects and
other efforts. Confirmation bias, which causes us to prefer evidence that bolsters our preconceptions,
is one of these.
- Dealing with Deniable Intimidation
- Some people use intimidation so stealthily that only their targets recognize the behavior as abusive
or intimidating. Targets are often so frustrated, angered, and confused that they cannot find suitable
See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 13: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: I
- To take the risks that learning and practicing new ways require, we all need a sense that trial-and-error approaches are safe. Organizations seeking to improve processes would do well to begin by assessing their level of psychological safety. Available here and by RSS on December 13.
- And on December 20: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: II
- When we begin using new tools or processes, we make mistakes. Practice is the cure, but practice can be scary if the grace period for early mistakes is too short. For teams adopting new methods, psychological safety is a fundamental component of success. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
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