Word-Of-the-Week #899: Micromanage

October 28, 2021 by  

Micromanage – to manage or control with excessive attention to minor details.

Does your track record at work demonstrate that you know what you are doing? Do you complete your tasks on time?

Big thanks to Bill Marvin for the next two WOW’s on “4 Signs You’re A Micromanager At Work. There’s a key difference between being attentive and being a controlling, obsessive manager,” by Monica Torres at HuffPost.

“When does managing someone turn into the unwanted and unhelpful monitoring of their performance? There are many reasons a manager may need to take a more hands-on approach to productivity, but micromanagement often stems from the worry that an employee can’t do the job well without the manager’s close supervision.

At worst, micromanagement piles even more work onto high-performing employees, who are stuck having to prove they are doing work on top of actually doing their work.

“No one aspires to be a micromanager. No one aspires to be a bad manager. No one wakes up in the morning and thinks, ‘How can I make my team’s life as difficult as possible?’” said Gorick Ng, a career adviser at Harvard University and the author of “The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right.” “However, people become bad managers, or micromanagers, because of uncertainty, which leads to anxiety.”

If you are wondering whether your constant check-ins and requests for status updates have veered into micromanagement, here are signs to consider:

  1. You check in only because you are anxious.

Micromanagement is sometimes necessary depending on individual employees’ motivational and development levels, said Kimberly B. Cummings, a leadership consultant and author of “Next Move, Best Move: Transitioning Into a Career You’ll Love.“

But check-ins can become unintended micromanagement when you don’t give your employees a chance to prove their competence, even when their track record demonstrates they know what they are doing.

To know the difference between a status check that’s warranted and one that isn’t, Cummings said you should ask yourself questions like, “What is this employee’s track record of success? Have they completed their assignments on time? Do they demonstrate a full understanding of their role, the tasks and the projects? If so, how have they shown that they demonstrate that understanding? … Would this person be able to do my job if prepared appropriately?”

The answers to these questions can help you understand when your need for check-ins is a compulsive, unhelpful way to calm your nerves and when close supervision may be necessary.

″[Micromanagement is] when… the due date is like next week, they’ve never submitted something late and that leader is consistently like, ‘Well, what’s happening with this? What’s happening on slide seven? Did you get to slide 10 yet? Can you tell me what’s on there? Remember to do it this way.’ The employee hasn’t even gotten a chance to work on these things,” Cummings said.

  1. You assign without clear expectations of when, how or why you want a task done.

Keep in mind that your management style needs to align with the individual needs of your employees, and those can change over the course of a working relationship. Maybe a new employee needs frequent check-ins and supervision to get up to speed but won’t later on. Being clear and upfront about why you are supervising people so closely makes the process better for them.

Cummings shared an example from when she worked at an organization where everything needed to be communicated in a deck. She was transparent with new team members about her plans to closely supervise them on how to do that in order to set them up for success and ensure their ideas were heard.

“I want you to be self-sufficient and do it on your own,” Cummings said she told her team members. “But those first 90 days, all we are doing is fine-tuning how you communicate. We’re checking in frequently before whenever that big meeting is.”

Before you check in with an employee to see how a task is going, ask yourself if you shared why the task was assigned, what they need to do, how they need to do it and when they need to have it done. If those key questions are answered and understood upfront, it can help you avoid the need for anxious micromanaging later, Ng said.

“What will end up happening is a manager will check in on someone and say, ‘Hey, are you done yet?’ ‘Are you done yet?’ ‘Are you done yet?’ And often that’s because we haven’t aligned on the ‘by when?’” he said.

This week’s focus is micromanagement. Do you feel that you are competent in all areas of your job? Have you ever felt that management doesn’t give you enough credit? Is management clear and upfront about their expectations of you?

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