Some people are bottlenecks. We wait for them to decide, or to approve activities or efforts that truly are beneath their station. They and they alone can report on certain activities. They and they alone can represent those activities in meetings. Their calendars are so full that we have trouble scheduling meetings. In frustration, we call these people names: "micromanagers" or "nanomanagers" or something worse.
But labeling them doesn't solve the problem or offer much of a path to understanding it. As their supervisors, if we want to solve the problem, or as subordinates, if we want to work around it or avoid it, we'll do much better if we understand it.
Let's begin with examples of reasons why some people cannot release these tasks to the care of their subordinates or staff or team members.
- Pseudo-parental attachments
- Some bottleneckers attained their positions by completing particular projects successfully. They maintain emotional attachments to those projects — attachments not as strong as what parents feel for children, but in other ways analogous. Their concern for the welfare of these "child-projects" makes them reluctant to release them to others. Release, if it comes at all, can be incomplete. Thus, the bottlenecker remains responsible for work that can be appropriately delegated to others.
- Anxiety about the success of efforts that are properly the responsibility of subordinates need not derive from pseudo-parental attachments. It can arise, for example, if the bottlenecker has a mistakenly low opinion of the capabilities of the person responsible for the effort. Or the bottlenecker might fear that the effort could be at risk for other reasons, such as poor design or poor planning. Whatever the source of anxiety, instead of addressing it, the bottlenecker uses the concern to avoid entrusting the effort to the subordinate.
- Political ambitions
- Some activities Labeling people as micromanagers
doesn't solve the problem or
offer much of a path
to understanding itinherently confer political stature on those who represent them to other parts of the organization. An example is reporting on the status of the development of a new product that's expected to form a future raison d'être for the company. Other examples are negotiating for funding or justifying requests for funding increases. Bottleneckers often strive to be the public face of such efforts, even if they aren't actually involved in the performance of the work itself.
- Addiction to feeling needed
- Although most of us feel good when others express appreciation for our work, some people measure their own self-worth almost solely in terms of how others see them. For these people, maintaining ownership of activities that others value is more than desirable. It is essential to a definition of self-worth. In a real sense, they can become addicted to feeling needed, and incapable of delegating detailed responsibility for efforts that others regard as important.
Are your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.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 Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Express Your Appreciation and Trust
- Some people in your organization have done really outstanding work. You want to recognize that work,
but the budget is so small that anything you could do would be insulting. What can you do? Express your
Appreciation and Trust.
- Take Any Seat: I
- When you attend a meeting, how do you choose your seat? Whether you chair or not, where you sit helps
to determine your effectiveness and your stature during the meeting. Here are some tips for choosing
your seat strategically.
- Recovering Time: I
- Where do the days go? How can it be that we spend eight, ten, or twelve hours at work each day and get
so little done? To recover time, limit the fragmentation of your day. Here are some tips for structuring
your working day in larger chunks.
- Communication Refactoring in Organizations
- Inadequate communication between units of large organizations is one factor that maintains the dysfunction
of "silo" structures in large organizations, limiting their ability to act coherently. Communication
refactoring can help large organizations to see themselves as wholes.
- Virtual Clutter: II
- Thorough de-cluttering at work involves more than organizing equipment and those piles of documents
that tend to accumulate so mysteriously. We must also address the countless non-physical entities that
make work life so complicated — the virtual clutter.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming April 8: The New Virtual Meeting: Digressions
- The bane of meetings everywhere, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, has been digressions. But there are reasons to expect the incidence of digressions in meetings to increase now. What reasons could there be, and what can we do about digressions? Available here and by RSS on April 8.
- And on April 15: Incompetence: Traps and Snares
- Sometimes people judge as incompetent colleagues who are unprepared to carry out their responsibilities. Some of these "incompetents" are trapped or ensnared in incompetence, unable to acquire the ability to do their jobs. Available here and by RSS on April 15.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.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 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- 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.