Friday, August 5, 2011

How to Know if You're a Micromanager

I saw a study the other day that noted while most drivers believe themselves to be excellent behind the wheel, they think everyone else on the road is an idiot. These same self-congratulating drivers also believe that while they can talk on their cellphones or eat a Big Mac behind the wheel and still drive superbly, anyone else who tries it is a complete and total a**hole.

I'd say the same can hold true in the workplace. We often are driven crazy by micromanaging colleagues or bosses, but yet don't believe our "attention to detail" or "drive for quality standards" is the least bit annoying. Isn't it true that we're often the last ones to recognize our own obnoxious behavior? It's a subject I looked into for my latest Gannett/USAToday column:

A lot of bad things have happened as a result of the difficult economic times, but one of the worst has been the rise of the micromanager.Faced with the stress of layoffs and the anxiety of constantly being asked to produce results, bosses with nitpicky tendencies sometimes have become full-blown micromanagers. Those who were micromanagers before the recession may have evolved into micromanaging Godzillas, wreaking havoc among the cubicles.

We often demonize such supervisors who dog our every move, making our lives a constant battle as we strive to do even the smallest of tasks without having to justify it in a 10-page memo. We long for the days when we can make one decision without having it second-guessed.

As in the movie "Horrible Bosses," we may lament our rotten micromanaging bosses to friends in the local pub, whining about our lot in life.But what if the micromanager is … you?

No one likes to admit being a micromanager. It's like saying you are an incompetent, insecure, ego-driven nincompoop.

You may say you're just a hands-on manager or that you have such a moronic staff that you must oversee everyone's work if you don't want to go down with the ship.

Those may well be convenient excuses. John Beeson, principal of Beeson Consulting Inc., says the real way to know if you've strayed to the dark side of micromanaging is to ask yourself a couple of questions about your management style:

• Does the amount of time spent following up on the work of staff members get in the way of tasks that are a better use of your time and attention?

• Do you expect that anyone who works for you should handle an issue exactly as you would — even if your employee's solution is equally effective?

Say yes to either one, and you might be a micromanager, Beeson says.

One key for a manager is learning that micromanaging not only hurts the company's bottom line, but his or her personal career.

"If senior management sees that you can't take on extra responsibility because you micromanage, then it could impact your ability to move forward," he says. "They might decide that while you're doing a great job at your level, if they gave you more, you might be overwhelmed and they would be taking a risk in the organization."

If you realize you may be a micromanager and want to change to save your career, what should you do?

Beeson, also author of "The Unwritten Rules: The Six Skills You Need to Get Promoted to the Executive Level" (Jossey-Bass, $27.95) recommends these steps:

• Get feedback. Find a mentor or approach human resources to set up a 360-degree feedback session so you can get specific ideas on where people think you interfere with their ability to do their job.

• Avoid going overboard. Beeson says some managers have an on-off switch and either micromanage or delegate and forget.

He suggests that it's more effective to spend time with a staff member outlining why an issue is important, the key players who are involved, the extent of the staffer's authority, and circumstances when you need to be consulted. By scheduling regular times to talk, you can be confident that you're delegating effectively, he says.

• Realize that sometimes you still need to micromanage. "If there is something that is critical to your corporation or perhaps something is off track, then that's when it's prudent to be more involved," he says.

• Develop good infrastructure. If you find you need to micromanage because you believe your team isn't capable, then you need to develop your staff so that they can meet new challenges.

"Not only is micromanaging a handicap to your own career success, but micromanagers tend to inhibit the development of good people," Beeson says. "And over time, they're going to lose their good people."

How do you handle a micromanager?


1 comment:

Frode H said...

I quit my job, and got a new and better job, with a great boss :)
I could not get her to change...