Micromanaging Never Works
Steve Adubato, Ph.D.
There is a fine line between a leader, manager or supervisor paying
attention to important details and micromanaging an operation to
the point where they drive their people crazy. Like you, I know
countless people in the workplace who engage in micromanaging. No
job or responsibility is too small for them. It's not enough to
assign a project to a particular staff person. They have to know
where that person is on the project every step of the way. Micromanagers
second guess and hover over your shoulder. They are so caught up
with the minutia of their operation that they don't have the time
or the ability to see the bigger picture as well as new opportunities
on the horizon.
To be fair, I can understand why people micromanage. Fact is, I
have been guilty of it with certain people in certain situations.
A lot of that comes from the combination of our own insecurity,
a lack of trust in others' ability and an unhealthy desire to CONTROL
everything that goes on around us.
Recently I got a letter from Mary Johnson who complained that her
boss was a compulsive micromanager. According to Mary, "He
doesn't seek or welcome my input before or during a project. When
he does meet with me, he critiques almost every detail of my work.
His behavior makes me feel like he doesn't trust my judgment or
value my skills. I have no sense of being part of a team nor do
I have ownership in my work."
The irony is that I bet Mary's boss thinks he is actually doing
a good job by showing his INTEREST in Mary's work. Odds are, he
is oblivious to how unhappy she is and the fact that, as she told
me in her letter, she is "actively job hunting."
The first step in dealing with the problem of leaders micromanaging
is to get them to acknowledge what they are doing and the negative
impact it has on others. The old adage, "if you want a job
done right, you have to do it yourself" doesn't work when you
are part of a larger team that's supposed to be supporting each
other and working together.
If you micromanage more than you know you should, consider the
following. Accept the fact that you can't do it all yourself. Further,
you SHOULDN'T do it all yourself. Imagine being on a basketball
team in which one player dribbled the ball up court, took the shot,
followed up his own rebound, shot again, never passed to anyone
else and then gave himself his own high-five. What fun would that
be? Even if the team won occasionally, over the long haul, failure
The same thing is true in the world of business. If one person,
regardless of how smart or talented he or she is, refuses to delegate
and share responsibility and authority, other team players will
begin to lose interest and stop making a meaningful contribution.
My advice to micromanagers is to delegate a little bit at a time.
Ask yourself what assignment or project could be handled by someone
else, thereby allowing you to do something that only you could do.
There are simply too many tasks that need to be accomplished for
you to do them all.
Further, avoid the blame game. I know from personal experience,
every time I engage in finger pointing and blaming my employees
(because secretly I'm thinking I could have done the job better),
only bad things happen. Accept the fact that occasionally, things
won't go exactly as planned. No matter how hard you try, or how
many hours you work, no leader, manager, or supervisor can control
everything that goes on around her.
If you are a micromanager, or you are being micromanaged, write
to me and share your thoughts.
Dr. Steve Adubato coaches and speaks on the subjects of communication
and leadership and is the author of the book "Speak from the
Heart." Write to him at The Star-Ledger, 1 Star-Ledger Plaza,
Newark, NJ 07102, visit his Web site at www.stand-deliver.com,
or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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