What's a micromanager?
I just had someone tell me I'm a "micromanager", but I have no idea what this really means. Yeah, I have a high attention to detail and I like to have things done right the first time, but why is this a negative?
Well, when you submitted this question, you shouldn't have used the word "Yeah" in your question, and you originally had single quotes around "micromanager", but I fixed that, and, well, your grammar isn't quite what it could be.
Oh? You just wanted me to answer your question? Not tell you how to ask your question in the first place? Now you're starting to see the difference between interacting with people and trying to manage their every breath, to control rather than manage, to project the message "you're incompetent and I just don't trust you to do even the simplest thing correctly."
That's what a micromanager is: someone who manages at a level far lower, far more detailed than is necessary or appropriate.
So while a manager will specify high-level tasks, like "The Smith account needs some attention. Can you give them a call at some point?", a micromanager, someone who inevitably drives his or her employees crazy, would say "The Smith account needs some attention. Please go into your office and call them - the number's 555-1212 - ask for Leroy, wish him Happy Birthday, ask how the DeFratz-3600 is doing in their Beijing factory, and ask if they need any new hardware. Oh! And don't forget to talk to them about our new Super-Fratz-1150B and also talk up its warranty. And of course, make sure you tell Leroy about your new baby, because he's a loving father too and that'll endear him to you, and ... and ... and ..."
See the difference?
Can you just feel the stress and annoyance coming through the computer screen here?
My take on management is: put most of your work into hiring the very best, very brightest, most capable people you can find in the job market, not just the best fit for that specific position, but the best match for your corporate culture too, then give them big, complex tasks and the tools they need. Then let them go and do their jobs. With good, coherent communication in both directions, you should have a great team of top-notch workers happy to help the company get to the next level.
I also have a personal bias against micromanagement too. It drives me positively up the wall. I just believe so strongly in giving people the what and letting them figure out the how (and ask questions, if necessary, of course!) that I grind my teeth, flex my knuckles and have to actively restrain myself from reacting negatively to micromanagement when it crops up.
So, if someone's telling you that you're a micromanager, take it to heart. Think about how you ask your employees to accomplish tasks and ask yourself - honestly - whether you're a "give 'em the big picture and trust them to figure out the details" or a "they're all incompetent chowderheads and if I don't spell out every single cotton-pickin' detail they bound to get it wrong" person. If you are the latter, and that's how you feel, maybe it's time to get some new employees. After all, the micromanaged isn't the only one put in the stressful situation.
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Reader Comments To Date: 19
I think you have a pretty good working description of a micromanager. I would say, though, in addition, that it's someone who has trouble delegating work, probably because of a lack of trust or anxiety that it won't get done in the way he or she want's it done.
It was the best way the micromanager is been defined .Bothering intricate details of an employee of an organization and being speculative about the work,these symptoms prove to be symptoms of a disease to an organization.
Anyways,i've enjoyed the way the answer was given.
I think the way people's ideas are dismissed so quickly, so readily, is a sure sign of micro-managing. Note the writer has it all written off as a positive: "I like to have things done right the first time." Who can disagree with that? Yup, the accuser is plainly someone who is too slow to do things right the first time. Accusation dismissed and neatly filed away. Micro-Manager indeed!
I worked for a micro-manager who was so frustrating, a coworker once blurted out, "Well, Wendell [not the real name], why don't you just tell me what to write so I can get this report done?" The co-worker was a someone who never got unnerved. But how many times can you rewrite a report and have every little item commented on? To be sure, he was days from retirement and that might have been a contributing factor, but maybe a half dozen rewrites, complete with incorrect grammatical observations was all this guy could take?
So what's the business impact of this? Normally productive folks full of bright ideas and innovation soon withered up and blew away with any job in that unit. Productivity was very low. Survivors were mindless automatons trained to nod their heads in unison to the right ideas.
So micromanagement is more than lazy people who don't want to do a good job in the first place. It is a big business cost that is a block to innovation and improvements. It is something that'll really hose your company's recruitment efforts.
I read your entry with some interest as I am a keen watcher of the micro vs. macro manager debate.
What you say is all correct. However I fear that you may have repeated what most of the literature says without really addressing the debate in a practical way.
Here's my attempt.
Micromanagement is usually a function of delegation. So to understand what micromanagement is we need to understand what delegation is.
After having read a mound of literature on delegation and people management, I define delegation in the following way.
"Delegation is the assignment of responsibility for particular outcomes. "
Let me attempt to explain this.
There are two parts to this definition. The first is the definition of a particular outcome. This is a lot to do with communication. As a manager you need to ensure that what you think is what you say and what you say is what your report understands and ultimately does.
Let me take your example:
"The Smith account needs some attention. Can you give them a call at some point?"
I presume in its context such an instruction may have some meaning. Unfortunately, however in the real world, even when there is context it is unlikely that "attention" means the same to the manager and his (her) report. Hence the danger that this instruction is misunderstood. After several such misunderstandings, the "high-level" manager eventually becomes a micro-manager because he needs to keep refining his communication to get any work - or atleast what he thinks is work - done.
The answer to this then is in defining clear out comes - what is it that needs to be achieved. Hold on, it not the same as what. Its different because you dont end with just what needs to be done - its what needs to be achieved!
Whats the difference? Well what needs to be done is debatable and can be confused with how it has to be done.
Lets go back to your example. This is how I would rephrase the instruction: "The Smith account needs some attention. Can you please call him and ensure that he is happy? I want to know how his project is going and what he is doing for the weekend."
Such a delegation does the following:
1. Gives big picture. The report knows why he is doing the task.
2. Clarifies how you will know that that job is done. The report is not going to be able to find out what Smith's weekend plans are if he doesnt sweet talk him a bit.
3. THe report knows clearly how he his being judged on this task and what "attention" means to you.
This way you dont need to tell your report how he should get to the weekend plans. He has to figure it out himself. But you are clearly defining what you mean by "attention".
And suddenly its not micro-managing, but clear task definition and delegation.
The other part to the definition is of course assignment of responsibility. Thats a whole new topic. But you've addressed it pretty well. Its a question of finding the right person to take the responsibility for the outcome.
Thats my two bits. Let me know what you think.
Sandilya, yes, you're right that your rephrasing is a huge improvement, exactly because you're saying WHAT, not HOW. Interesting additional thoughts, thanks for adding them.
Do you ever find a 'micromanager' who gives the 100 details/instructions, but omits 1 or 2 facts needed to actually COMPLETE the task?
What I call the 'MicroManaging-ControlFreak'.
"I wanted the report on GREEN paper."
"The graphic should be 180x250. Not 179x251!"
Micro managers are everywhere.. they are week people who feel stronger when thy feel like they have a finger on every thing that you do....even in the ARMY
When I read the section, "So while a manager will specify high-level tasks, like "The Smith account needs some attention. Can you give them a call at some point?", a micromanager, someone who inevitably drives his or her employees crazy, would say "The Smith account needs some attention. Please go into your office and call them - the number's 555-1212 - ask for Leroy, wish him Happy Birthday, ask how the DeFratz-3600 is doing in their Beijing factory, and ask if they need any new hardware. Oh! And don't forget to talk to them about our new Super-Fratz-1150B and also talk up its warranty. And of course, make sure you tell Leroy about your new baby, because he's a loving father too and that'll endear him to you, and ... and ... and ...", I immediately thought of my boss. This very concept drives me absolutely MAD! And without going into the numerous details, and I could list hundreds, I work in this hostile environment each and every day of the week!
HELP ME... PLEASE! LOL!
I work for a micro manager- I think it comes down to lack of trust that anyone can do the job as well as he thinks he can. I was a manager in an old job and learned that even though some people get the job done differently the point is it gets done.If he tells me one more time to call a particular client about their bill and then -word for word- what to say I will just drop dead. I have worked here for 12 years and either I know my job and should be left alone to do it or fire my inept butt and get someone who can do it better. I have already shortened my work week by one day because being nice and cordial and professional gets impossible with a micro manager. I can't begin to tell you how much it really wears you down.
Keep in mind that No One wants to work for a micro manager......everyone has opinions and so dumping your overbearing authority on someone is never appreciated. The way to look at it is this way. Do you see yourself as "barking" out orders or working as a team. In a team approach everyone has fun....and works to 90% of capacity. A micro manager tries to get 100% and barks out orders and behind his back everyone is checking out Workopolis for jobs. Get it? If it's a team appraoch it's fun even in the worst of jobs and sometimes you even look forward to the day. Last....how is it that micro managers were given the right to ruin anyone,s day, wekk, family plan, and life in general. So calm donw, take a pill, see a Dr. and leave people alone!
the boss from hell, well I have finally met her. I have up until this time in my life worked with several bosses particularly 4 in my current job, never have I ever been disciplined before for anything, I am a hard worker always been. I am a boss but never expect any of my employees to do anything I wouldn't do, I have a boss who has an insecurity problem and if a person does something that will cause them to shine she shuts them down and makes sure she drops the idea like a hot potatoe for a few days and then sends the idea to her bosses as it was her idea and you receive no credit what so ever. She has now in stand up the last 4 days let all of us know that she is The executive director and all bucks stop here
Okay, all that sounds great! But how do you deal with a micromanage, aside from finding a new job. There has to be an alternative to enduring the pain and agony.
I have a really nice boss, which means well, but micromanages to the hilt. I feel smothered, but don't have the skills to deal with it.
The person who asked this question should be tarred and feathered, or at least go to some sort of management training.
My boss is a micromanager and she makes my job unneccessarily difficult, bogging my time and my coworker's time down with details, details, details, that NOBODY cares about but her. The crazy thing is that she makes numerous mistakes herself, that many times I have to go back and correct. And if I don't catch her mistakes, she will try to make it seem like my fault.
Turnover and anxiety is high, motivation and productivity is low. In fact, I'm supposed to be working right now, but after my boss just raked me over the coals with her details on some improvements to a section of our website that I am working on (THAT SHE DOESN'T EVEN KNOW HOW TO LOG IN TO!!!!!), I don't feel like working.
And it's not the details these people demand that drives us employees crazy. It's their holier-than-thou/condescending attitude they approach us with.
This morning my boss replied to an e-mail that was just supposed to go to one person. She accidentally cc'd the entire company!
I get her approval on things that she comes to me days, weeks, or months later telling me that what she approved isn't right.
It drives her crazy when other departments don't tell her what's going on, but that's because nobody wants to deal with her.
She thinks she's told me something when she didn't. She leaves the office on extended appointments, meetings, etc. and I don't find out she's leaving until the minute she leaves. And then she'll say, "oh, I thought I told you." "You know how we'd both know if you told me? We'd both remember that you told me!"
These people should not be in charge of anyone but themselves and leave the rest of us alone to do our jobs!
I HAVE WORKED WITH A MICROMANAGER FOR THE PAST 6 YEARS AND MY HEALTH HAS DETERIOTATED OVER THAT PERIOD, HE HAS CALLED ME STUPID AND MADE ME CRY ON NUMEROUS OCCASSIONS. HE HAS MADE MY LIFE HELL AND NOBODY IN THE COMPANY WILL ACCEPT WHAT HE IS DOING. UNFORTUNATELY THERE IS ONLY THE TWO OF US AND AS I HAVE LOST ALL CONFIDENCE IN MYSELF I CAN NOT STICK UP FOR MYSELF WITHOUT BECOMING OVER EMOTIONAL SO THEY THEN TEND TO AGREE WITH HIM. HE TAKES COPIES OF ANY MISTAKES I MAKE EVEN IF THEY ARE TRIVIAL OR ARE NOT HOW HE WOULD DO IT. I HAVE JUST HAD MY BONUS WHICH I RELEY UPON, AND WHICH WAS LESS THAN THOSE WHO DO A LESS IMPORTANT JOB AND WITH NO PRESSURE, AND WHO DON'T HAVE A MICROMANGER GIVING THEIR APPRAISALS. I CAN'T UNDERSTAND WHAT IS HAPPENING. I SUPPOSE YOU THINK THAT I SHOULD JUST GET OUR OF THE JOB, BUT UNFORTUNATELY I AM OF THE AGE (53 AND HAVE WORKED CONSTANTLY SINCE I WAS 15) AND ESPECIALLY AS I AM BRINGING UP MY DAUGHTER ON MY OWN. PLEASE CAN SOMEONE TELL ME WHAT I SHOULD DO AS HOW I KNOW THAT AS I FEEL AT THE MOMENT I WILL JUST LOOSE IT AND PROBABLY GET SACKED. I KNOW I REALLY WORK HARD, I DON'T EVEN VISIT THE LADIES SOMETIMES DURING THE WHOLE DAY, I AM SO WORRIED ABOUT DOING SOMETHING WRONG I AM INFACT MAKING MISTAKES, SO HE HAS WON.
I NEED GUIDANCE, PLEAS CAN ANYONE HELP ME?
in terms of being a micromanager, i have to admit that i am one of them. i do delegation of jobs however some of my subordinates did not follow through of just go through the motion of process without any followups which leads to unfinished job. A subordinate that does not complete his job is eventually the responsibility of the manager for not managing properly. therefore leading some micro management unless we see concrete improvement. i have this particular stuff who does not need supervision with just instructions waiting for him to just reply back with the job done.
a micromanager is the devils spawn.
I have one right now - all I do is get interrupted all day to create bogus documentation so that HE looks good - nothing to do with the deliverables which are ignored so that HIS documentation can get one.
I am very good at what I do but with this goon all over me I am making incredibly bad mistakes all the time because of the stress and tension of this constant interference and manipulation.
It should be outlawed
The phrase "All bucks stop here" is being explained in different way in different situation by different people around me. I am interested to know what does it actualy mean?
Thanking you. Hopping for clear consept.
Yogendra, the phrase refers to people "bucking" problems to someone else, so the phrase "the buck stops here" means "I won't point to someone else as being responsible, I'll take responsibility for it."
I am a micro manager and the "pain" that is referred to - I know I am a "pain" as I have isolated myself because of my style - so sad to acknowledge this and believe me - micro managers struggle to work with this knowledge of themselves and some do not even know they are micor managers. In all the above comments I can feel the stones thrown at us. As one person above said: Micro-managers should be outlawed. I really ask myself: Is it the micro manager that is the "bad" experience or may there jsut be an inch of lack of knowledge about micro manager attitudes and how to deal with them. Note that one cannot just show a finger if you have never been a micro-manager yourself. It is hard to change and I am currently working hard at managing my personality type. It is bearing fruit, so much so, that I have totally changed from a "on the job manager", being demanding to get things done my way, to be more of a relaxing manager who now use frases such as: "OK it is fine" Looks good! Thank you! Fantastic work! Please! etc. Even though I sometimes feel that these new responses are not a true reflection of what I really think and contra what I used to say. But I have to make way for others to grow. One last thing: What will make me happy is if organisations with micromanagers can set up sessions helping to understand a micro manager and how to manage them as it is truly difficult to manage micro managers especially because they prefer to be alone and also because they think it is only them that can do the job right. Maybe it is time to invite your micro manager for a cup of tea and cake and tell him/her that they are special. That can change the world. It may be hard to do this, but try it - you might just find a very good friend!!!!
I do have a lot to say, and questions of my own for that matter, but first I'd like to say thank you, Dave, for all your helpful information by
buying you a cup of coffee!||
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