If we take a look around, it is very likely for us to come across a “micromanager“. Knowing how to deal with micromanagement is essential for the good of our organization and our leadership. But first things first:
What are micromanagers?
That is the name we give to people who focus all their attention on controlling unimportant details, ignoring what is truly relevant for their company. This lack of perspective and strategic vision happens more often than we would think.
The worst thing about micromanagers is that they often work in management positions, which means they are in charge of teams despite their evident inability to manage them.
What do micromanagers usually do?
Have you ever received an email with “URGENT” as the subject, written in capital letters, and it actually was not such a pressing issue? It was probably sent by a micromanager. These are the features that characterize them:
- They are never satisfied with the final results. If the task has not been performed exactly the way they had asked for, they will never show their satisfaction.
- They want to know, at all times, where their team members are and what they are working on, constantly. They persistently ask for reports on the status of projects.
- They ask to be sent copies of all emails, an unequivocal sign of their obsession for control. They want to be sent even the most irrelevant emails.
- They are not aware of how much they stand in the way of the productivity of their teams and their own.
Of course, a manager has the obligation of supervising things and demanding a high level of performance from the people working with them. However, micromanagers cross that line and, what is worse; they often do not play by their own rules.
How to deal with micromanagement?
Coexisting with micromanagement is not the most desirable situation neither for our personal productivity nor our professional efficiency. People suffering its effects often experience frustration and a feeling of discouragement. We can help you deal with micromanagers:
1. Eliminate any situation which encourages micromanagement
If you are forced to work with a micromanager whose maximum concern is control, make it easier for them your own way. Offer them detailed reports and anticipate possible tasks they can ask you to do. Have it all in writing for their peace of mind, and yours, in case of conflict.
Micromanagers usually ask for tasks we already know we have to do, so they just “remind” us to do them. Doing them in advance, therefore, should not be such a big effort for us and, in return, we will get some confidence from our manager.
2. Report proactively
Micromanagers want to be involved in each and every step of the implementation of a project. Request for changes and updates on how the process is going will be the constant.
To avoid micromanagement from causing you stress, again we recommend you to get ahead and offer information on how you are performing your tasks in a proactive way, that is, before being asked to.
For example, you can send an email in the morning stating what you have done so far and what you plan to complete during the day. This way, your micromanager will know exactly what your workload is and will postpone their usual question “attack”.
3. Make them know how their decisions affect your productivity
Face to face is the easier way to maintain a sensible conversation with a micromanager. Carefully explain that their insistence has negative effects on your productivity, which can ultimately affect your commitment to the common project of the company.
Delicately ask them to let you do your work your own way. It is not likely that you will get a categorical “yes”, but you will have stated your opinion and perhaps your micromanager will now be aware of the real situation, which they may have not been fully conscious of otherwise.
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4. Offer alternatives
Always with total respect, you can propose to perform a task without their supervision and offer them the possibility of reviewing the whole process when you finish. You will be letting them know that you can and want to work more independently, while you offer them the chance to review for any errors.
If they agree, you must of course warmly thank them for their confidence; this way the micromanager will be aware of the positive effect delegating tasks has on you. By doing this you will be acting like a leader who works to inspire change and, what is more important, you will be fighting micromanagers.
Are you a micromanager?
If after reading this post you identify yourself with micromanagers, do not worry. It is not the end of the world. Leaders are made, not born. All you have to do is get down to work and improve your leadership every day.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that your role as a leader means to control and monitor all the details. This excessive zeal on control will only drive you to suffocate your collaborators’ attitude and any attempt at creativity will probably get frustrated.
Micromanagers fear change, leaders seek for it. Leaders encourage self-management, while micromanagers try by all means to run and control everything. What any team in a company of the XXI century really needs is a leader who tells them clearly what is expected of them. In short: a leader who knows how to communicate ideas.
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Learn how to communicate your messages with accuracy and simplicity. Focus on the “what” and “why” and not on the “how”. You have to be able to explain to your team what you want from them. Work on your communication skills to become a good leader.
It is not about communicating “more” or “constantly” (you also have to let your team time to “do”). “More” is not the same as “better.” Information overload is the result of poor communication and, in general, it reflects a lack of knowledge about the “what”.
When you stop to think “what” you want and “why” you want it, surely you will realize that what you initially thought was very important, was not so much really. If you make this reflection, it will be easier for you to inform the other members of your team with clarity and effectiveness.
Without realizing it, you will have stopped being a micromanager to become a good leader.