Some thoughts on micro-management

232No one wants to be micro-managed. No manager wants to be dubbed a micro-manager. So if this term is universally considered a bad appellation, why do we have so many examples of this poor management practice in our workplaces? The biggest problem with this thing we call micro-management is that it exists in the mind of the beholder. The appropriate level of guidance and supervision is relative, not absolute. For one person, weekly check-ins with the boss is great, for another, it feels like oppressive interference.

Managers and employees need to actively negotiate the level of manager involvement through open and honest discussion. These discussions should happen early in the relationship and be reviewed again and again. Employees should describe their comfort level with boss oversight and be open to negotiate a middle ground should the boss have need for greater involvement.

Two factors that determine a manager’s comfort level with overseeing staff work are confidence and trust. Managers tend to want more input and direction when they lack confidence with the employee’s abilities or experience. Confidence is built over time by expectations being met or exceeded on a regular basis. Employees likewise build trust over time by consistently delivering to commitments.

The main reason why there is angst over micromanagement? Bosses never have the open discussion with staff about their needs and expectations. Staff then guesses on what is expected of them. If they guess wrong (clairvoyance is not listed in the job description!) they then get micromanaged.

Employees own some of this problem too. They need to ask the micro-manager: “What can I give you, do for you, to let you know I can run with this? How can I make your job easier by doing my job better, faster, more efficient?” Actively work to build a relationship based on trust. Trust means matching words and action. If you promise to deliver by a certain date, make sure that you deliver.