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.