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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See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming August 12: Cognitive Biases at Work
- Cognitive biases can lead us to misunderstand situations, overlook options, and make decisions we regret. The patterns of thinking that lead to cognitive biases provide speed and economy advantages, but we must manage the risks that come along with them. Available here and by RSS on August 12.
- And on August 19: Motivated Reasoning: I
- When we prefer a certain outcome of a decision process, we risk falling into a pattern of motivated reasoning. That can cause us to gather data and construct arguments that lead to the outcome we prefer, often outside our awareness. And it can happen even when the outcome we prefer is known to threaten our safety and security. Available here and by RSS on August 19.
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