Tech & Work

Can a micromanager be cured?

As an editor and writer for TechRepublic for a number of years, I've come to know that there is no workplace topic that can get people fired up more than micromanagement. And maybe it's just me, but micromanagement seems to be more widespread in IT than other areas of the company.

This might be because IT managers are often promoted because of their outstanding technical skills and it's hard for them stop using those skills and focus on strategic level initiatives. They still think of themselves as doers instead of overseers.

On the other hand, we've all heard of those CIOs who have no technical skills to speak of. Their micromanagement might have to do with the fact that they're insecure about that and they're overcompensating by sticking their noses in your work.

Webster's defines micromanaging as managing or controlling with excessive attention to minor details. Most affected employees define it as a pain in the posterior. It's either an insult or a project killer. If your manager has to closely oversee everything you do, does that mean he considers you incompetent? And you're going to miss some deadlines if you have to wait for the boss's final OK and he's a busy guy.

But what can you do? I've read some articles that say, since you can't change someone else, your only option is to find another job. One article I read gave some advice for easing the problem by changing your own reaction to micromanagement, which is cool and all in a Zen kind of way. But it doesn't change the fact that there's still a rabid micromanager out there wreaking havoc. And that's just not fair.

So let's for a minute forget all that stuff about owning your own feelings. Is there anything you can do to change the behavior of the festering carbuncle known as a micromanager?

Here are some strategies for dealing with micromanagement behaviors, from career-intelligence.com:

  • Find out his agenda - Everyone has an agenda, especially the micromanager. Figure out what's really important to him and then work with him, not against him.
  • Take the information initiative - The micromanager is driven to know what's going on. Don't wait to be asked for information. Find out what he needs to feel confident and comfortable and then get it to him ahead of time.
  • Practice the "art" of communication - No one fears inertia more than the micromanager. Show that you're in motion on priority projects by communicating in three specific terms: awareness, reassurance, and timelines.
  • Stay clear on expectations - Confusion runs high with the micromanager, turning expectations into a fast-moving target. Clarify your conversations and agreements in a trail of memos and e-mails.
  • Renegotiate priorities - The micromanager is notorious for piling it on. Come up with a simple, straightforward method (such as a numerical or color-coded system) for renegotiating the ever-shifting priorities.
  • Be preemptive on deadlines - The micromanager loves to impose and even distort deadlines. Be the first to talk, offering a timeline for when you can do a task (not when you can't).
  • Play by the rules - The micromanager enjoys catching people in the act. Avoid being an easy target and play by the rules, particularly on policies regarding time and technology.
  • Learn from the "best practices" of others - The micromanager backs off with some more than others. Watch them closely to learn the secrets of their success.
  • Pick your battles - The micromanager will go to war on every issue. Don't try to match him. Instead, pick the battles that are most important to you.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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