Are you a micromanager? Pull back, start trusting your team

Published: June 3, 2019 4:56:33 AM

Trust your team. Turn your lens inwards; you will find you are most likely dealing with an issue of trust. Pull back; you will live peacefully and longer.

Micromanaging employees, boss etiquette, supportive boss, boss, employee, office, office life, bad boss, workplace, office stress, stressed in office

By Vidya Hattangadi

It’s a big ‘no-no’ to get associated with people who micromanage things in their personal and professional lives. While it is obvious that managers and decision-makers need to know what’s going on, who is doing what, why something is taking a longer time than usual, details of expenses, important projects and timelines, etc, but when managers start micromanaging, it poses more problems than it solves.

It creates a vicious circle of blame game, anxiety and half-truths. Even sincere and well-wishing micromanagers unintentionally induce wrong ideas and nervousness in peers/subordinates.

Micromanagement is a common style of direction whereby a manager closely observes and controls the work of employees. If you are always micromanaging, it means you hired the wrong person or you are not clear of what you want. Even in our personal relationships, when someone is keeping a close watch on us, it is irritating. Indeed, if you have ever worked for a boss who is always hovering over you,you will start finding ways and means to evade the person. He/she can really get on your nerves.

Usually, people micromanage when they feel disconnected; when someone rises through the ranks, he/she often feels concerned that he/she has lost touch with the actual work of the organisation. Such a person tries to connect, through various means, with the employees with whom he/she has dealt with. It is true that people at the top feel isolated. One way of reducing this anxiety is to seek information in as many ways as possible.

But it appears like micromanagement because the actions are unplanned and driven by eccentric anxiety, and the result is that managers at different levels and functions end up looking at the same basic data in many different ways. Many managers are unable to let go of their old ways of doing their work.

Many get promotions based on their ability to achieve operational goals, manage budgets, control numbers, and solve problems. However, at higher levels, managers need to dial down operational focus and be more strategic. To do so, they must trust those managing operations and coach them as needed, rather than trying to do it for them. For many, this is a difficult change and they unconsciously continue to spend time in the more comfortable operational realm of their subordinates.

Some people, in their personal life, habitually micromanage; they probably don’t even know that they are doing it. They are never quite satisfied with anything. They often feel frustrated because they want a task to be performed in a ‘different’ way. They have an eye for detail. A friend of mine after getting her clothes ironed from the laundry irons them once again.

After the gardener waters the plants, she likes to sprinkle some more water; I see her painstakingly doing each job again and again, and she is hardly satisfied with anything. Her grownup children avoid talking about their own problems with her. Her spouse does not leave a single chance of travelling; in fact, he prefers going outstation under some or the other pretext.

It is plain truth; paying attention to detail and making sure the work is getting done is important. It is always better to chalk up the plan and steps of doing a job in advance. Once you discuss it with your team, there is no need to hover and keep watch. The problem with micromanagers is that they apply a lot of passion, scrutiny and in-your-face approach to every task, even if it’s not warranted. Bottomline: If you are a micromanager, you need to stop because it is harming you, your team and everyone around you.

The best films on micromanaging in office culture are Office Space, Up in the Air and All the President’s Men. Office Space is an offbeat comedy, a pinchingly funny commentary on the most ridiculous parts of corporate life, from mandatory birthday cake to TPS reports. It follows Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), an underwhelmed IT programmer who barely tolerates his commute, his bosses, and their endless memos and TPS reports.

That is, until he’s hypnotised into not caring at all. What follows is pure comedy. Office Space works on multiple levels. It’s highly effective as a satirical look at corporate culture, because it so closely mirrors so much of what those who work there experience. It shows how obsessed bosses micromanage subordinates’ work life, making them anxious and ruin their personal lives.

If you are a micromanager, it might initially be difficult to stop, but pull back slowly. Build trust in your people. Remove yourself physically from the group, express in the beginning the results you desire, and do not flit around the tasks. Try to understand your employees’ strengths and weaknesses, manage them skilfully. Focus on managing the culture of the organisation. Trust your team. Turn your lens inwards; you will find you are most likely dealing with an issue of trust. Pull back; you will live peacefully and longer.

(The author is a management thinker and blogger)

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