Just so we are all on the same page about what it means to micromanage I popped over to dictionary.com and looked it up; to manage or control with excessive attention to minor details. That can be applied to coaches, team leaders, captains and executives. So if you thought you could get out of reading this week’s topic – keep reading. You just might gain something after all.
Many years ago when I worked in a cube farm (vast floor covered with about a hundred cubicles) I was unfortunate enough to have a team leader who sat right behind me. Several times a day she would say to me “Robyn, what are you doing?” I would have to stop and explain my work. She was actually reading my computer screen over my shoulder! It got so bad that I would turn my monitor as far as I could to one side and lean over the edge of my desk to see it. Just so she couldn’t read my screen.
I can tell you for a fact it was bad for my productivity to sit in front of her. They kept very strict stats on our output. And for the few months I sat there my numbers were way down. When the seating was rearranged I bounced right back to being one of the highest performers in the department. Being micromanaged didn’t work for me.
I am sure my team lead thought she was being helpful; somehow reducing mistakes. In reality all she was doing was slowing me down. I wish they had kept stats on team leads like they did the rest of us. There is no way she was able to do her job effectively while reading my computer screen!
Let’s take a look at both sides of the coin and figure out what the options are.
There is very little that is as frustrating as having someone looking over your shoulder all the time (literally or figuratively). It feels like you have no options but to deal. Here are a few ideas that might help get him/her off your back:
- Understand where they are coming from. Usually micromanagement is founded in fear. Fear that the mantra “if you want it done right, do it yourself” is true.
- Ease their fear. I realize that it is easy to feel defensive when you think your boss doesn’t trust you can do the assigned tasks. Defensiveness isn’t going to get you anywhere. Instead, try having a respectful conversation with him/her. Start out with something like “I can tell this is very important to you and it is hard for you not to be doing it yourself. What specifically do you need from me to be comfortable that we (important, use “we” to be inclusive) are on the right track?”
- Listen and make him/her feel heard. It won’t do you any good to ask the questions if your micromanager doesn’t believe you are paying attention.
- Assure them you will ask for help when you need it. This and the next point seem pretty obvious. However, it is human nature to try to hide when we feel micromanaged. Fight that desire. It will only make things worse. If you have a question or aren’t sure, ask! Not doing so will only make the micromanager feel justified in standing over you.
- Do a great job, hit your milestones and report back when you say you will. Obviously! If you want to be let alone to do your job – do it and do it well. There is no better vindication than proving that not only can you do the job but you can do it well.
Being a micromanager
Let me guess, you aren’t micromanaging. No, of course not. You are just making sure the job gets done. If you are so stressed about something that you feel the need to constantly check in, ask questions or (heaven forbid) spy (I had a boss do that), you are micromanaging. There is no way you can do your job as effectively as you should if you keep checking in on someone else. Either you don’t have enough to do (I doubt it) or you can’t let go and let them do the job. Here are some ideas for lowering your stress level and helping you be more productive.
- Recognize there is less work being done when you interrupt to get status. Set reasonable intervals to receive updates. Maybe your project is so important that every day is warranted. Most things don’t need to be monitored that closely. Once a week is plenty.
- Set expectations about when issues should be escalated. Now would be a great time to follow the steps to avoiding rework. If you can set things up well from the start you will worry less when you are in the thick of things. If people know when to bring problems and that you will help them they are unlikely to be hidden until they explode.
- Trust. Yes, yes, I know. This is a tough one. Even if you didn’t get to select the people on your team it is your job to teach and grow them. If you have been effective in that responsibility you can trust them to do their job well. If you haven’t, stop wasting your time micromanaging and trying to do the job and train them! It might be a little more challenging up front but it is the only way to keep your sanity in the long run.
- Focus on doing your responsibilities well. I am absolutely certain that your to do’s have been being neglected if you have been spending your time worrying about everyone else’s list. Focus on what really needs your attention and manage through the guidelines you have in place. It will make the environment much more productive and happier.
Do you have a great story about a micromanager? Maybe you were one and realize now how crazy you made everyone. Let us know about it!
Next week we will look at why office politics and team drama happen and how to make it stop!
Did you miss out on learning how to deal with toxic people last week? It is a funny one. Read it here.