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:
- Reverse Micromanagement
- Micromanagement is too familiar to too many of us. Less familiar is inappropriate interference in the
reverse direction — in the work of our supervisors or even higher in the chain. Disciplinary action
isn't always helpful, especially when some of the causes of reverse micromanagement are organizational.
- Responding to Threats: I
- Threats are one form of communication common to many organizational cultures, especially as pressure
mounts. Understanding the varieties of threats can be helpful in determining a response that fits for you.
- Fill in the Blanks
- When we conceal information about ourselves and our areas of responsibility, we make room for others
to speculate. Speculation is rarely helpful. It's wise to fill in the blanks.
- Confirmation Bias: Workplace Consequences Part II
- We continue our exploration of confirmation bias. In this Part II, we explore its effects in management
- How to Listen to Someone Who's Dead Wrong
- Sometimes we must listen attentively to someone with whom we strongly disagree. The urge to interrupt
can be overpowering. How can we maintain enough self-control to really listen?
See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 27: Stone-Throwers at Meetings: II
- A stone-thrower in a meeting is someone who is determined to halt forward progress. Motives vary, from embarrassing the chair to holding the meeting hostage in exchange for advancing an agenda. What can chairs do about stone-throwers? Available here and by RSS on March 27.
- And on April 3: Career Opportunity or Career Trap: I
- When we're presented with an opportunity that seems too good to be true, as the saying goes, it probably is. Although it's easy to decline free vacations, declining career opportunities is another matter. Here's a look at indicators that a career opportunity might be a career trap. Available here and by RSS on April 3.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.