Dealing with micromanagement – Jana Dvorak – Coaching

Dealing with micromanagement

Are you being micro-managed, or are you a micro-manager?  No one likes to be micro-managed and no one wants to admit to being a micro-manager.  What are the main reasons for micromanagement? How can you change it? Here are 6 reasons for micromanagement. 

The manager doesn’t know what they should be doing.

The issue…

The manager doesn’t understand their role.  They’ve been told to manage, but not been told what, who or how.  They think that they need to be involved in every decision and action.

If you’re the manager...

It helps if you define the responsibilities and decision-making levels of your team members.  You can allow them to make a decision to an agreed level. For example, they can solve customer complaints for minor customers, but major customers need to be escalated to you.

It’s important to give yourself the time and space for important tasks.  It’s essential that you grow your team to be self-sufficient and only need your input when necessary.  Every member of your team should have a level of responsibility, this can vary by their experience and ability.

Don’t know where to start?  Write down the most important tasks you need to work on.  Estimate how much time they take you, and how much time is left for other tasks.  If you find you have more tasks than time, see what you can delegate to your team members. 

If you’re the managed…

Ask your manager to clearly define the boundaries of your responsibilities.  Make sure it’s a dialogue, come up with your own suggestions. It’s crucial that you’re an active participant, try and gain responsibilities relevant to your development goals.

Use emotional intelligence when you talk with them about it, make sure it doesn’t become an argument.

The manager is used to being an individual contributor

The issue…

The manager has worked hard in a technical non-managerial role, and has finally got that promotion they’ve been hoping for.  In many cases people are promoted based on their expert knowledge, not necessarily on their potential for being a good people manager.

Often, new managers aren’t trained for leadership roles.  These roles have their own level of expertise which takes time to learn.

If you’re the manager...

You may find that many of the tasks that come with the new role lie outside your comfort zone.  It can be very overwhelming. You inevitably fall back on what you know you’re good at. 

You try to get to the bottom of every problem your team members have.  How would you have felt if your manager was constantly looking over your shoulder?

What should you do?  Define the tasks which you need to do in the new role, evaluate what new knowledge and skills you need to learn.  Plan regular catch-ups with your manager and try to get a good idea of what’s expected of you. Most importantly, find a mentor, ideally someone at a similar level as you but who has much more experience.

If you’re the managed…

You may find that many of the tasks that come with the new role lie outside your comfort zone.  It can be very overwhelming. You inevitably fall back on what you know you’re good at. 

You try to get to the bottom of every problem your team members have.  How would you have felt if your manager was constantly looking over your shoulder?

What should you do?  Define the tasks which you need to do in the new role, evaluate what new knowledge and skills you need to learn.  Plan regular catch-ups with your manager and try to get a good idea of what’s expected of you. Most importantly, find a mentor, ideally someone at a similar level as you but who has much more experience.

The manager’s scared of being ousted

The issue…

The manager feels insecure, and this is the why he needs to know everything you’re up to.  This can be related to their self-confidence or a fear of talent in other people. A great manager should help others people shine.

If you’re the manager...

First you need to start with self-awareness, you need to get to the bottom of your motivations.  Ask yourself good questions. Why do you think your position is insecure? What can you do differently?  What kind of manager do you want to become? Where your insecurity did come from? What can you do to become more self-confident?

If you’re the managed…

I would recommend that you focus on yourself.  Define your career goals, and what you want to achieve.  Share them with your manager and explicitly ask them to support you on your career journey.  If they see themselves as a mentor and don’t see you as a competitor it may help build a good rapport.

What if you do actually want your managers job?  What can you do that your current manager can’t?  See yourself as a future leader who’s aiming to further the goals of the whole team. This way you can show your potential whilst staying on the right side of your manager.  Trust and honesty are vital characteristics of a great leader.

The manager doesn’t trust their team

The issue…

Every communication, and every piece of work has to be checked over by the manager.  They need to be in every meeting. It’s clear they don’t trust their team to do the job properly.

If you’re the manager...

There are no bad teams, just bad managers.  What’s the probability that every member of the team is really incompetent?  You need to get to the bottom of your trust issues. Where do they come from?

When you get to the bottom of it, you’ll need to change.  Change is sometimes a painful process. Do it step by step.  Identify one task or one regular meeting where you think you can risk not being involved.  See how it goes, was there a disaster? 

If you’re the managed…

A good way to deal with such a manager is with humour.  It can help diffuse the tension and highlight the issue with your manager without being confrontational.  Choose a recurring situation and the next time it happens, smile and say ‘So we don't trust each other?’. Watch their reaction?  They may not have been aware of their behaviour and will be quick to correct it.

The manager’s trying to appear productive

The issue…

The team is full of self-sufficient competent people, everything works well with few exceptions.  This is great news! But.. the manager really hasn’t got much to do. They can appear busy by organising meetings for every minor issue and questioning every decision.

If you’re the manager...

It’s time to look for areas where you can stretch yourself and your team, there are always improvements to be made or new projects to be done.  Network internally and find opportunities and make suggestions to your own managers. Don’t underestimate the value of self-promoting your team, if you’re doing a great job, make sure everybody knows about it.

If you’re the managed…

How much time does your managers behaviour cost you and the team?  If it’s a lot try to suggest weekly meetings where you update the manager and discuss any issues.  You also need to learn to say no, get used to saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m very busy right now, but we can talk on Tuesday’, then setup a time-boxed meeting.

The manager wants everything to be perfect

The issue…

The manager wants all the teams output to be perfect, they see themselves as the only qualified arbiter of perfection.

If you’re the manager...

First, you need to be self-aware about it.  Is your team’s work really so bad? How much extra labour is needed to get it to 100%? Maybe 95% is good enough?  If you were the consumer would you notice the imperfections?

If the work isn’t good enough, you need to develop your team to deliver high quality work.   You need to calm down and lead them. Clearly define the expectations and ask your team to find the solution.

If you’re the managed…

Can you identify the same issues with the work as your manager?  Do you think they’re justified or just nit-picking? Tell your manager you want to deliver to a high quality and you would appreciate their lead and clarity on expectations.  Humour always helps, joke about their issues with perfectionism.

But micromanagement isn’t always bad

When is it a good thing?  If you have a subordinate who consistently under-performs, you need to be heavily involved.  You can help them find their weaknesses and help develop them. See them as development goal and not as a liability.

A manager is only effective if their team is effective.  If one individual is consistently under-performing then the team won’t be as effective.  Remember that there are no bad jobs, there are just people in the wrong job.

If you micro-manage your team, become aware of it.  Identify what you need to improve and be motivated to make those changes. Enjoy your new behaviours and enjoy your growth.

If you’re the micro-managed, try to see your managers point of view.  Search for constructive solutions and identify what you can do different so that your manager can change.