IT Employment

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.

48 comments
mezaleski
mezaleski

I've worked for micromanagers. I found it very easy to deal with them. I would not do anything without specific and explicit direction. I would only do one task at a time. I would go to the micromanage at the completion of my current task and ask for my next assignment. If I was given another assignment before I finished the one at hand I asked "Which task do you want me to do first?" (forcing them to set the priority which is what a manager needs to do) I never accepted a task without COMPLETELY understanding exactly what it was, how long I had to complete it, or where it fell in the "grand scheme" of things. (This "sort of" reinforced their micromanaging, at first) I never argued about doing that which was my responsibility and I always made it my job to make the boss "look good". Surprisingly, in a relative short time, the micromanager always got tired of REALLY micromanaging. I truly believe they play at micromanaging but when they really have to micromanage ALL THE TIME they find it more work than they want.

tonyy
tonyy

Damaging a culture and destroying morale, but once the micromanger is gone how will you heal the deep wounds? I had the misfortune to be micromanaged by an operations manager who needed a replacement manager for our department. The culture was that of open information, trust and dignity for all. You may have never experienced this type of heavenly culture. The micro-ops manager was captured between his superior, and my manager. The world was tolerable. As my manager moved on, and the GM was 'promoted' the bubble broke. Then the worst thing could happen... my manager was a card-carrying, one-day-at-a-time recovered alcoholic that used his micromanaging techniques to maintain sobriety. Among all of the above postings with very good suggestions, nothing worked between these two. A large percentage of the workforce thought I was the department head for years... even after my new micromanager arrived on scene. The reason for this was I got things done... for them and to make it a better place to work. In the great culture we had it was easy to be highly dedicated, because making a difference was my reward. The combination of the two micromanagers destroyed the culture and outstanding employees were leaving like rats on a burning ship. I began to loose talent in droves. I stayed as long as I could hoping to ride it out. There was only one solution for me having no other place to turn, but to turn and RUN! So I fired my manager! Now that the micromanagers are gone, I'm being asked to return to rebuild. I believe there are solutions to every problem. However, in this case I doubt my own beliefs! What do you think?

rob
rob

A lot of micromanagers feel that their career is permanently on the line. They trust no-one. So, do not try to become a 'mate'. Keep them at arms length - any attempt at pleasantness on your behalf will be seen as 'sucking up'. Be business-like to the point of brusqueness - a simple 'good morning' is the maximum greeting. Do NOT inquire about their holidays, kids, car etc.

boss_9877
boss_9877

I have worked in several different industries and based on my experience I think that micromanagement is caused by several different factors. Lack of IT experience plays a big part in how IT Managers manage their staff. I have talked to several professionals about this topic and I have received mixed opinions. Some people seem to think that an IT manager should not need technical skills in order to manage IT Staff. Other???s think that IT managers should have a mixture of both technical skills as well as leadership skills to accomplish company objectives. I???m all for the IT Manager having technical skills in order to manage their staff. Company Structure is the second item that I think makes some managers go over the edge with micromanaging their staff. The reason I bring this topic to the table is the fact that many companies are not allowing the IT Department to run like an IT Department. Executives are forcing decisions to be made without involving feedback from their IT Department and also many of the managers have no say in these decisions. Corporations are creating an image to where the IT Department is expected to never make mistakes and if mistakes are made then heads are chopped. The IT manager in many situations has no choice but to stay on top of his staff to make sure projects and task are being completed because they know the consequences of not getting the job done. I also believe that the IT Manager should not smother his staff by getting in the way. Managers should assign tasks and monitor the progress and not stand over their staff asking if the task have been completed every 10 minutes.

temp
temp

Most micro manager know what they are doing and what they should do, but they cannot change themselves. The reason is that they do not know how to get credit from what they should do, or they cannot do their job well. They have to find some things to satisfy themselves, to show their "value" in the company. Getting involved in other people's business, working with his guys will be easier to get the credit they need.

dobbinsm
dobbinsm

I really think that the only way a micro manager can be cured is to shoot him. I do like your post, however, and I do and will be applying these techniques.

Chris in QA
Chris in QA

It's not ALL their fault. Micromanagers suffer from a condition known as micromanagement. Symptoms: It occurs more freqently during periods when information is not readily available and the manager is unclear what an employee is actually doing. Although the condition may be life-long and hereditary in some managers, this condition may be brought about as the result of a relationship issue with a team member. The condition does not necessarily affect ALL team members. Note: The condition may be exaserbated by how the employee reacts to the symptoms. There is a lot that the employee can do to alleviate the condition. 1. Swallow pride - If you suspect that you are being micromanaged, then ask not what your manager can do for you, but what you can do for your manager (Did I make that up?) 2. Stop any evil chat - It's not unusual to perpetuate the condition unnecessarily by complaining about it to your peers. Re-direct it as a positive chat with the Manager. (Wow, there's a clever idea !!!) 3. Be proactive in offering progress updates - Submit your updates at regular intervals without your "eyes up to heaven". (Does this info need to be dragged out of you?) 4. Communicate and explain - Part of the manager's job is to tackle issues as they arise. Tell them. It will strengthen their case when they have to escalate it. (And everyone looks good!) 5. Deliver on time - OK, so you may have to negotiate deadlines that you know you're gonna miss. Well then, negotiate! Don???t keep it to yourself. 6. Play the rules (I like this one, direct from the source topic above). - This means: start your day on time, work the expected hours in your day, don???t surf to excess, don???t abuse break-times, don't be easily distracted from your work, etc.) Basically, don't give me a reason to ask questions. If you're working productively, I'm happy. Dosage: Exercise one point every four hours. Do not exceed two per day. You should see a noticeable improvement within two weeks. If symptoms persist, restart the dosage (if you're interested). Contra-indications: *Warning* Persistence with the above may improve your career prospects.

Joe_R
Joe_R

I think it depends on the position of the ?micromanager? in the proverbial pecking order. If he/she is a relatively lower-tier manager, probably so ? if his/her upper managers recognize it and take measures to correct it. If, however, the most upper-tier ?managers?, themselves, are micromanagers, probably not. That?s the kind of thing that establishes the dynamics of the company. That person will never be cured, but rather will be doomed to never-ending interviews to fill vacated positions.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Some of my staff at this job may have thought I was a micromanager when I first came on board. Thats because I had been hired with a mandate for change, and I had to ask alot of questions about the existing processes to understand it, both the good and the bad of it. I naturally encoutered a great deal of resistence, and even hostility. Some of that was caused by micromanagment, some by the fact I was the new guy(who had no experience in their industry/company and became their manager), some a personality clash. But I'm not a micromanager at heart. Once I tackled what I needed to address, I back off and let the staff do what they are hired to do. Frankly I prefer the staff to see the problems for themselves and propose and make the necessary changes. Credit smedit, when my group is high performing, I get credit. My greatest pride is seeing my staff take on more and more responsibility and succeed. That source of micromanagement cures itself. But a "long term" micromanager can only be cured if they, like an alcoholic, acknowledges their problem, resolve to change, and gets guidance and mentoring to help them change. They really have to want to change. Some who refuse to see the issue, frankly may not be salvageable. James James

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

to find that a bizarre sort of 'elitism' is somewhere to be found in the micromanager. I have worked for one of these and the attitude seemed to be that because she had a Master's Degree and we didn't the rest of us were incapable of properly doing anything.

sMoRTy71
sMoRTy71

they actually recognize themselves as a micromanager. Most of the ones I've worked for don't see it, even when you tell them. I agree with your assessment of the cause, though. I think it has a lot to do with a strange combination of insecurity in one's own abilities, ego (strangely enough) and lack of trust in their co-workers. I think the rationale from the micromanager's mind goes something like this, "I think I should be able to figure any problem out, even though I don't have the skills needed to do this particular one. And even if I can't figure it out, I'm sure the people who we hired with the necessary skills to tackle such problems couldn't possibly figure it out because they haven't thought about it nearly as long as I have... and even if they could, if I let them figure it out and get credit for it, how will that make me look? People expect me to always have the right answer... don't they?"

Tell It Like I See It
Tell It Like I See It

Let me tell you about a similar experience I had. It involved my manager who seemed to have a lot of the qualities of a micromanager, but actually stayed out of my way a lot of times. Personally, I think this came from his boss at these times, a VP who I think told my manager to lay off me. Well, the VP left the company and my manager ended up reporting to a VP notorious for getting people to leave the company without jobs. My manager started getting even more like a micromanager virtually the instant the new VP took over. I turned in my resignation within a couple of months after that. (I won't go into the reasons.) I was totally ticked off about the situation and gave them the standard two-week notice. Before the two weeks were up, I had an offer from the company to be a contractor for a different department. I took the contract since I didn't have a job otherwise. Eventually, this contract job became full-time. Same company -- different manager and much better results. I had my doubts when I took the contract offer. It took a good while for me to get my head back on straight after I "left" (and started contracting). But once I did, things went much better. Like you, I was a "go to" guy because I got things done. This was even before I turned in the resignation. Ironically, as a contractor I was able to take a stand on one issue that I think caused EVERYONE in the company to step back and really think. I thought for sure I would be cast to the depths of you-know-where for this stand seeing as it was completely blasphemous to how things were done when I worked for micromanager. Yet, it didn't happen. As I said, the contractor position eventually became full-time. I'm still the "go to" guy when stuff hits the fan and starts flying. I've bailed out no less than three separate departments now, including the former micromanager's (I dealt with the "real" workers, not the manager). I even had a hand in changing the culture of the company in several major ways. This is both directly and indirectly. My main advice is that you have a chat with the manager you'll report to if you take this job. Explain the situation and your thoughts to them. Get their buy-in. At the very least they'll know your concerns and can be prepared to help you when needed. So, it is possible to rebuild. I've done it -- with a lot of help from an understanding manager and her VP and the rest of the department I work in now. You probably won't be able to do it alone, but it can be done.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Here's how. 1)Make yourself accessable to everyone, open door policy. 2)Have town hall meetings and let the employees vent without reprisals. Those two will build confidence in you. Once you get the ball rolling like that, bombard them with a few 'little things' or 'sastifiers'. Budget for the occasional donut friday, or something like that. Have an icecream social. these all seem like silly little things, but they get morale up and get people talking again. Have monthly gripe sessions where people can march in your door and tell you off if need be. Show that you care, and you can do it. Our new CEO took a company that was ready to shut it's doors and made it an industry leader by doing some of those things, and a few others.

nburgan
nburgan

Last year our micromanger finally left and the sun is now shining. Upper management now can see that we are happy, competent and eager to do our jobs. It has taken alot of time to heal the wounds that this person caused. Every day is better than the next. How did this happen.... How did we get the person to leave? By giving what the person wanted, we followed her guidelines and demands to the letter and we did not pick up the pieces she left behind. Since we could not do our work as well as she could, she ended up doing it all until upper management wanted answers as to why timelines were missed... Then She finally exploded and left us. And the sun came out. Life is good.

millenia01
millenia01

We all have had to and will continue to have to deal with "micromanagers" no argument about it but this article seems to be more about how to "brown nose"/"suck up" to these people then to how to "really" deal with a true-blue micromanager! Their primary problem that I have observed in my expierence is that they usually have to much time on their hands; make to many assumtions without getting all their facts straight which goes hand in hand with not communicating i.e. listening effectively which implies shutting their mouths/opening their eyes/turning their brain on/looking, listening, processing what is told them/applying common sense/logic and letting the other person finish what they are saying/explaining to them/thinking (brain on/mouth off still) about what was said to them/and then logically replying back/commenting back - again, this is called effective listening; do not really care about anyone that works for them (professionally or personally)/under them as long as they look good and get their raise and/or bonus every year;their goals are met irregardless of how many hours/personal sacrfices you make so they look good; never learned to grasp the concept that respect is a two way street/respect is earned and not given because of their position and/or title; and to summarize it without going into more intricate "micromanagment" detail usually have the personallity of your average door knob. Everything mentioned in the beginning of this article and more was tried with one I worked for previously but what finally fixed the previous micromanager was doing things and following things in far more detail and being far more intricate in actions that then caused his boss to ask what was going on example being; getting paged out @ 1:30 in the morning because of a systems failure but to make sure the micromanager got a clear understanding that my job was not meeting his goals and deadlines solo and that other people had other expectations of me - telling the people paging me that sorry I cannnot come in until Mr. Micromanager is contacted/informed/reported in the most intricate detail exactly and specifically why I must come in/what must be done/how long it will take/resources required/etc. - turning the tables/micromanaging him back w/interest and penalities included! Next day when his boss was asking him/I why this took so long to fix - micromanager had to explain a lot of his "micromanaging" to his boss i.e. cause and effect - he was told to get real/get a grip/get a life!!!! While this is extreme I realize and the above may work with some micromanagers - there are also too many of the kind I have had to deal with who not only themselves but the people who supervise them who need to get a wake-up call as i.e. get real in how their supervisors are dealing with their subordinates - "a good kick in the butt" in summarized terms. The guy who writes the Dilbert cartoons - this is just my opinion - but he seems to derive a lot of his "humour" from the micromanagment that Dilbert's boss practices every day along with the micromanagment of Dilbert's fictional company. While it is all funny and he has made millions off of it - at the same time using the big three (GM/Ford/Chrysler) as examples in comparison to the real world and to the their competitors - this is one of many reasons why the big three are in the position where they are today - to many micromanagers spending to much time doing what was mentioned in the beginning of this comment for the last 10-20 years and not keeping their eye on the big picture i.e. this also means short-term thinking vs. long term with some common sense and logic thrown in. I could go on and on but this is enough. Thanks for letting me "toot" my two cents worth on this!!!

GGiauque@Comporium.net
GGiauque@Comporium.net

Just wanted to say thanks for a balanced set of positive suggestions! I think mature persons will be able to take away/apply plenty from those suggestions that might work in their individual cases. Sorry you have to put up with sarcastic replies to your post.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Micromanagers suffer from a condition known as micromanagement. Symptoms: It occurs more frequently during periods when information is not readily available and the manager is unclear what an employee is actually doing. Although the condition may be life-long and hereditary in some managers, this condition may be brought about as the result of a relationship issue with a team member. The condition does not necessarily affect ALL team members. In other words, blame the victim Note: The condition may be exacerbated by how the employee reacts to the symptoms. Oooo! Through yourselves prostrate upon the ground lest ye displease thy lord and master! There is a lot that the employee can do to alleviate the condition. Most of which is called sucking up or cowering in fear 1. Swallow pride - If you suspect that you are being micromanaged, then ask not what your manager can do for you, but what you can do for your manager (Did I make that up?) I think Joe Stalin said that, well at least in this context? 2. Stop any evil chat - It's not unusual to perpetuate the condition unnecessarily by complaining about it to your peers. Re-direct it as a positive chat with the Manager. (Wow, there's a clever idea !!!) When sucking up just does not cut it, elevate it to pure obsequeousness. 3. Be proactive in offering progress updates - Submit your updates at regular intervals without your "eyes up to heaven". (Does this info need to be dragged out of you?) be sure to include how many sheets of bathroom tissue you used, and don't have your eyes up to heaven because the boss already thinks he is god and can not stand the competition 4. Communicate and explain - Part of the manager's job is to tackle issues as they arise. Tell them. It will strengthen their case when they have to escalate it. (And everyone looks good!) And be sure to use small words so as not to confuse them. 5. Deliver on time - OK, so you may have to negotiate deadlines that you know you're gonna miss. Well then, negotiate! Do not keep it to yourself. After all, he promised the higher ups that you could recode all of the legacy systems in a week, negotiate it to too so that you can look less incompetent. 6. Play the rules (I like this one, direct from the source topic above). - This means: start your day on time, work the expected hours in your day, do not t surf to excess, do not abuse break-times, don't be easily distracted from your work, etc.) Basically, don't give me a reason to ask questions. If you're working productively, I'm happy. Remember you are company property, work 50 hours a week if you are on salary, after all we do not want the folks who downsized half of your coworkers to look bad from lower productivity. Remember, your own happiness is irrelevant, just suck up and make the boss look good and maybe he will lay you off last. Dosage: Exercise one point every four hours. Do not exceed two per day. You should see a noticeable improvement within two weeks. WARNING: even small doses of this nonsense will make you sick! If symptoms persist, restart the dosage (if you're interested). Contra-indications: *Warning* Persistence with the above may improve your career prospects. If you are interested in a career in bootlicking

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

"Symptoms: It occurs more freqently during periods when information is not readily available and the manager is unclear what an employee is actually doing." Then the manager isn't doing their job. If you don't know what your team is doing, then YOU aren't talking to them. "1. Swallow pride - If you suspect that you are being micromanaged, then ask not what your manager can do for you, but what you can do for your manager (Did I make that up?)" Oh please. I'm not asking for more pain from someone who can't even manage ONE project, let alone two. "2. Stop any evil chat - It's not unusual to perpetuate the condition unnecessarily by complaining about it to your peers. Re-direct it as a positive chat with the Manager. (Wow, there's a clever idea !!!)" It's a two way street. The manager needs to communicate CLEARLY and EFFICIENTLY with the employee. "3. Be proactive in offering progress updates - Submit your updates at regular intervals without your "eyes up to heaven". (Does this info need to be dragged out of you?)" Uh, that's part of being a manager. Getting your team together and going over milestones and benchmarks. YOU, as the manager, need to do this...then YOU as the manager need to communicate with the team YOUR expectations, YOUR benchmarks, YOUR milestones. "4. Communicate and explain - Part of the manager's job is to tackle issues as they arise. Tell them. It will strengthen their case when they have to escalate it. (And everyone looks good!)" This is part of the manager COMMUNICATING with their team. "5. Deliver on time - OK, so you may have to negotiate deadlines that you know you're gonna miss. Well then, negotiate! Don???t keep it to yourself." Ok, I can't argue here...This drive me nuts. "6. Play the rules (I like this one, direct from the source topic above). - This means: start your day on time, work the expected hours in your day, don???t surf to excess, don???t abuse break-times, don't be easily distracted from your work, etc.) Basically, don't give me a reason to ask questions. If you're working productively, I'm happy." Can't argue here, except to say, are you hiring unskilled workers or do your workers complete their section of the project and not know what to do? It seems like for the most part, you are putting the onus on the employee to dictate to management what should happen. It's the other way around. The manager needs to dictate goals and expectations (including deadlines) and the employee delivers. That's it.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

for their own job security when a subordinate knows more than the manager. These paranoid fools feel inadequate and thus must take out their anger and frustrations on subordinates because they get some sort of twisted pleasure out of seeing their subordinates in misery. Masachists are a plenty in management positions.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

and insist on proofreading their subordinates emails for typos and anything that can be taken well out of context or "offend" somebody. What is this...2nd grade? We are all adults and to have a manager dictate to us how we write our emails and how they should sound is ludicrous and unprofessional. Unless these twits have an advanced degree in English grammar and language, they should stick to other things instead of dictating how emails should be written.

beechC23
beechC23

The best strategy I had for dealing with a notorious micromanager: upwards delegation. He had so little faith in the abilities of his underlings that he felt it necessary to do/decide just about anything. So I played on this by feigning the need for his "expertise" on tasks that I didn't want to do. He would enthusiastically, without fail say "leave it with me", and it would be the last I heard of it. If the person who dropped the task on my desk asked where I was with it, I would reply "oh, Joe (the micromanager, not his real name) took over that file", and they would go harass him instead :-) He had a huge pile on his desk. It was priceless! Eventually though, everyone likes to be treated like a big boy (especially when you're in your mid-40s, have been in the industry for 20+ years, and have expertise sufficiently recognized that branch plants and offices in Asia, South America and elsewhere were always begging for your services). So I quit, but upwards delegation made the remaining months there tolerable. That, and call display. I would NEVER pick up the phone when his name was on the display. I would listen to the voice mail to plan my strategy first. You'll never change these turkeys. You have to learn to use their weakness to your advantage.

rclark
rclark

So long as they are not trying to manage you. The fact is that most of them do a credible job of hitting deadlines. They get things done. So you are going to run into lots of them, and if you happen to be in the 2% of the topgun problem solvers, you get to meet a lot of them. The zen thing is ok, but it doesn't solve the problem of immovable object vs irresitable force. You know what has to be done because you've been there done that. He (or She) knows what they want and it isn't what you know works. Classic. I've found that any worthwhile tech can deluge micromanagers with enough details to back them off a bit, give you a bit of elbow room to allow you to start making progress. At that point, you just have to keep pushing the data fast enough to keep the micromanager flapping his/her arms. It's not ideal. But it works mostly. One note on the elbow room. Don't throw an elbow to make them back off. Micromanagers are control freaks. They have to be in control, so if you complain about micromanagement, they will see it as a challenge to their authority, not a suggestion for improvement. So whatever you do, don't challenge the wolf hiding in the mild mannered control freaks skin. They can and will come at you with a face full of teeth. Now the positive side. They are managers because they get things done. Turn it around on them. Ask for help with their peers. Ask for help with higher management/budgeting and accounting. They eat that stuff up. And you don't have to play politics. Most of these guys are image driven. So they like politics. Let them play in their sand box, and you won't waste valuable tech time dancing with admin.

unhappyuser
unhappyuser

I survived the first battle by applying some of what you wrote. The one thing I was successful at was never trying to own an idea. I would drop hints at ideas and let the boss(owner) take credit. I got what I wanted and he was happy. That did not work in round two at a different job where I was KO'd early in the fight. Try as I might I couldn't figure this guy out. It got to the point where I left that job because I was so frustrated with him. After the fact, I found out they had the same issues with him ten years later, people knew about, and they did nothing! Two years after I left a third person left for the same reason and they finally moved him into a position where he oversaw no one. I guess it takes a lot for some people to learn. EMD

Gkiss
Gkiss

Well, lot's of ideas on how to deal with a micromanager. How about that if you are climbing that corporate latter and you are discovering that YOU have micromanager tendencies and have no idea where it came from? Any ideas how to curb or cure these tendencies before they became full blown?

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

He wants to put the onus of management on the employee and not the manager.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Sorry, but I am not one who goes in for all these "root causes" nonsense. I've had micromanagers breathing down my neck one time too many. The end result of capitulating, as suggested above is you end up doing two jobs, your own, AND the manager's. The mere premise that micromanaging is caused by anything but a deficiency of character is ludicrous.

erh7771
erh7771

This post couldn't be more right on IMHO. Usually a lack of communication will exacerbate a bad relationship with a micro manager but that lack of communication usually STARTS with the micromanagers expectations!!! If the MM was getting what they wanted then they'd lay off and stop screwing with you as an employee but I've more managers lately who dont want to communicate even if you push information up! Spot on, the communication is initiated by the person who expecting results not the person who is supposed to produce them.

Absolutely
Absolutely

The worst are the paranoid control freaks who expect to [b]be trusted[/b] for no reason.

SCSIcat
SCSIcat

I've done the same sort of thing in the past. However, now, I have a micromanager who is my project manager. Only thing is, she doesn't know point one about project management. I've been the one to create the WBS, project plans and schematics, and all of the reports for every project. She doesn't work on-site, and only descends every other Friday and squawks loudly with my Federal managers, while creating new work (reports, etc), and struts around like she's actually valuable. To make things worse, she seems to think I'm stupid by the way she phrases her e-mails, etc. Basically, she's the high priestess of Pigeon Project Management. It's gotten so bad that I now spend 4 - 5 days of every month creating reports and other documentation. I've got a terrible amount of work assigned, and am at the point where I'm about to leave the contract and perhaps the company. I'm wondering how best to broach these subjects with her ... how do I initiate the conversation without getting into hostilities?

lockelaton
lockelaton

I think it's the best strategy too if you can't change your job, and you can't also stand against micromanagement then just turn it "up side down". He wants the job, let him do it. Most of the micromanagers are at somewhat middle of the hierachy so if they forget to do their "management job" (if it is still called management job) it wouldn't be a too big trouble for the organisation.

IT_Commando
IT_Commando

Then there's the micromanager who is completely intimidated by a savvy, extra-technical technician and instead of backing off finds nits and picks to write you up on so they can back you off and make you tow their line- despite the initiative and proactiveness that you bring to the table... They can always find a reason to write you up- my favorite lines were "undermining authority" and "mutinous attitude" in the one's mine gave me... Somehow, I still got 2 employee of the quarter awards despite my seditious nature though, of course they weren't nominated by him, they were from my customer managers... So No, I don't believe they can all be cured and adjusted the way the article read...

eddiekeator
eddiekeator

I agree with this post, however, the definition that I have of a micro manager is one that hovers over your desk and had has to be the idea man/woman, has to have you check in and out and basically suck the life out of the position, project and department. Control freaks ... oh please - I think there are more of them then you think. Some are more aware that they are control freaks and are able to work with it... and then there are those who recognize the control issues in others and adjust accordingly. My issue is how to deal with the dragon breathing over your shoulder yahoos who don't know how to inspire and lead. I did have such a manager, who drank coffee all day, and when we would come to my desk, I would take out a tin of breath mints and lay them out on my desk and offer them to him, while taking one myself. Did he get the hint, no. But it did make any conversation tolerable.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

I certainly know how to do my job and do it well, and I get very pissed off when an individual attempts to micromanage me and tells me how to do my job. If he/she thinks they can do it better, then why don't they? Either put your money where your mouth is or shut the #$%$%$^ up!

nfhiggs
nfhiggs

who (thank GOD!) retired a few months ago, was such a control freak that he actually gave his replacement a list of names of people who "were not to be promoted or moved because they were unreliable" because at some point in their career they made a mistake which he became aware of. In one case the incident occurred in 1989! Thankfully, his replacement 'filed' the list in the shredder.

Chaz Chance#
Chaz Chance#

I use this in combination with the zen thing. First (zen) get rid of all your feelings of irritation and animosity. They will blind you to the possibilities, as outlined by rclark, and lead you into doing something self-destructive. Self-destructive things include: 1) complaining about him where you can be overheard 2) attempting to make his projects go wrong or slowly 3) oh, just fill in here any of the other things we want to do to someone, but shouldn't. Second, apply the Judo technique of using the opponents force against them. Instead of pushing them away, pull them towards you. They want to manage every detail, so give them more and more details of your job to manage. It works like a charm. Very quickly, they start to pull back to prevent themselves being swamped. As you have done it without malice (see the first thing) they won't get upset at you (often a career stopper). One manager I had reacted by giving ME more responsibility and control! Was that using my own technique against me? Maybe, but the extra responsibility went down well at the next pay review, so I was happy. It also looks good on my CV.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Booking: The act of following every policy in the book to rigid and unyielding precision. The net effect of this is dragging work to a halt while keeping your hands clean, makes the micromanager look very VERY bad.

sgt_shultz
sgt_shultz

do you write for tech republic and if not, why don't you? thanks for your post

kimkelley
kimkelley

I worked for a company and the owner was the micromanager of the entire place. No one could ever do anything right and everything had to go through him. That was fine when he owned a mom and pop shop but his company grew to 65+ people and he still does it to this day. So many things are piled on his desk that he blames people for things not getting done although 2 weeks later he finds those tasks in the bottom of the pile on his desk. Needless to say, the turn around in his company is absolutely horrible. The week I left, 4 other people left as well. Now he is attempting to get the same amount of work done with less than 40 people and his company is going down quick. Oh, he is also one of those that screams, yells and curses at all his employees and everthing is always someone else's fault. I never understood how someone can control everything but blame everything bad on someone else. In the end, you get what you deserve.

Gkiss
Gkiss

....for taking your time to reply and help - I really appreciate it. You raise some good points, and instead of giving advice - just made me think. That is really cool. Thanks again, and I hope I can return the favor one day. Judy

Tell It Like I See It
Tell It Like I See It

Well, if you realize that you have such micromanager tendencies, then you are already halfway there. The very fact that you are recognizing this and seeking improvement is an indication you might be cured (eventually anyway). Unfortunately, arriving at such a cure for yourself is very subjective and personal. It is something that ultimately only you can do. However, I'll give at least one suggestion to get someone started. To attempt to improve, I'd start with questioning your beliefs and motives. Start with *WHY* you feel the need to micromanage. Keep asking yourself questions until you can find something you can do about it. For example, if you ask "Why do I need to micromanage?" and your answer is along the lines of "because I don't trust my people to do this." So, "why don't you trust your people?" If you answer "They don't know how to do this." Well, if they don't know how to do something, you've hit an actionable item. Teach them how to do it! Then you can trust them to do it. If, on the other hand you answer the question about the need to micromanage with something like "because they might make me look bad," then you need to start asking what they could do that would make you look bad. From there you might get an actionable item as well. However you arrive at it, take action on the actionable item. Remove that "justification" for your tendencies. Get it completely out of the environment, if possible. This is the minimum you could do. I say that getting it out of the environment is the minimum because the alternative is a much more complicated process -- it involves changing YOURSELF and your attitudes, habits, thoughts (and possibly your very nature). That is simply a tough thing to do; but, if it is done and done right, it can have much better results. To make this personal change you'd have to keep an eye out on all your actions. Constantly look for times when you may be micromanaging. Consciously stop yourself from doing it. You may find that performing the first suggestion (questioning why you micromanage) will eventually be played out in your mind each and every time you need to make a decision. When you get really good at it, you'll realize you were about to micromanage. Once that happens, you may also realize an alternate course of action. Either way, this would likely be a long process. So be prepared if you start. As an added item, I'd consider getting more knowledgeable on leadership. My personal experiences are that micromanagers are poor leaders who try to compensate by keeping tight control. This is, in a sense, a variation on the "fear" factor mentioned elsewhere. Just don't let the leadership stuff get to your head and become a military dictator sort of person.

Absolutely
Absolutely

Funny, once I figured out what you mean. :) I agree with both you and jmgarvin, but I have just one thing to add. In some situations, the only way to be a successful employee is to do the managers' jobs for them. God only knows how they got to be in such positions, but it's easy to tell when incompetents have been installed deliberately. They won't be going anywhere, even if they are obviously shirking the duties of real managers. [i]It seems like for the most part, you are putting the onus on the employee to dictate to management what should happen. It's the other way around. The manager needs to dictate goals and expectations (including deadlines) and the employee delivers.[/i] That is indeed how it's supposed to be, but the basic premise of the thread is that something is amiss, and must be dealt with, ie is not subject to change or correction.

Chaz Chance#
Chaz Chance#

Here in the UK we have a saying. Its "work to rule". The job can't be done without the workers, despite what the bean-counters and project managers think. The next time your project manager wants to assign a task to you, point out that to do that you will have to drop something else, and ask which task the PM thinks you should drop. If you are overloaded already, suggest tasks which will actually take more work, so if you do still get assigned the new task, your work load will get easier. I know it seems hard at first, but straighten your spine, stiffen that top lip, and say: "Look, I know this is really important, but I am not sure that I can make the deadlines at the moment. There is no way I can take on any more without dropping something else." Each time, it gets easier. My project managers have learned to only come to me when its really important. Trivial reports get given to the brown-nose's who never say "no" to anyone with a more impressive job title. Under no circumstances allow yourself to pressured into doing so much work that you end up getting stressed. Making yourself ill through overwork does no do yourself OR the company any good at all. Remember to always say a job will take twice as long as it really takes. Then, when you do the job in the amount of time it should take, you are a star.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

If that fails, then all hope is lost for the idiot micromanager.

erh7771
erh7771

The solution in the article is very clear and I've seen it work but I've had a manager like the one you're describing who would tell me that "I'm talking over his head" almost every time I engaged a person from networking or Sys admin or even a consulting group from the outside in a conversation. The control freak couldn't control the decision because I didn't break it down for him enough and he didn't have time to listen to details to make informed decision either. It was frustrating, I attempted to work with him by talking slower with non technical terms, or just not being around him when technical discussions arose but I was team lead and he wanted to be in all the meetings I attended or would set these technical meetings up himself "for me to be in on". Yeah, after getting the negative feedback from him on my review regard "talking over team mates heads" I said that's enough and went to another company making way more money.

direkconek
direkconek

Rather than meeting force with force, you use theirs against them. Booking has in my experience been the most effective way to get a manager or client to quickly and radically re-evaluate dumb and counterproductive projects and policies.