IT Employment

Micromanagers going too far

There's nothing wrong with being production-minded, but managers can go too far, as is the case with one manager Toni Bowers addresses.

There's a bit of dialogue in the great movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? that goes:

Pete (John Turturro): Wait a minute. Who elected you leader of this outfit?

Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney): Well Pete, I figured it should be the one with the capacity for abstract thought.

Although that last line is hilarious, particularly coming from George Clooney's goofy character, it is also succinct and true. The worst managers are those who think ONLY in production-line black and white. Tactical is great in day-to-day work, but at some point, managers have to think abstractly. (And by that I don't mean using abstract jargon to communicate. I'll bet even the person who coined the term "lowest hanging fruit" when referring to projects has moved on to more creative means of expression.)

In today's video, I talk about an email I received from a TechRepublic member whose boss is perhaps the most tactical (micromanaging, dreadful) person I've ever heard of. Click below to watch.

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.

23 comments
creativenrg11
creativenrg11

I might be alone in this, but i'd rather read and move on than watch and listen - unless there's valuable visuals such as diagrams, charts, etc., i don't see the point in watching someone talk to me. No offense, Toni, most of your postings are on the spot, and i follow your postings with more attention than any other, but if you're gonna do videos, please include a transcript.

Cerebral*Origami
Cerebral*Origami

Aww when I heard about MICROmanaging I thought I could put a chip in all my employees' heads and control them like the SIMS what a let down. :)

christina.hopkins
christina.hopkins

Leadership isn't about telling people how to do their jobs. It is about motivating people to solve problems to make a positive difference in the company for the customers. Projects need management, not people. I have worked for these control freaks at times in my career and they make life miserable and leave me feeling powerless. But for these people to stay in their positions is a clear message from upper management. Either they don't care or they support that behavior. The best thing one can do if they work for a control freak like that is to look for work elsewhere because pushing back just doesn't work. I know that first hand.

cbader
cbader

I cant stand micromanagers. I only lasted three months with the last one I had to deal with.

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

Micromanagement on a more than grand scale, like you say Toni the management should lead not try to control the workers every move. I just see no way that that level of trying to control the folks can come to any good for anyone.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I had a supervisor in the USAF that did that exact same thing, back in the early days of the electronic office. He not only gave us a sequential checklist, he timed it: 0745, or before the workday starts - Get your coffee or soda - Socialize with co-workers - Boot computer and log on 0800 - Be at your desk - Check messages and inbox - Check email 0830 - etc. For some obscure reason, I may still have that checklist somewhere. If I run across it whilst cleaning out files, I'll send you a copy, Toni.

jkameleon
jkameleon

That manager must have got Dr. Kersten's book "The Art of Demotivation" for birthday or something, and mistakenly taken it seriously. http://despair.com/artofde.html BTW, I like your videos. Make some more them, would you?

shane.freman
shane.freman

A) I don't always have my headphones at the office B) I don't want to subject my coworkers to an unnecessary distraction C) When watching this in terminal server the video is about 2 seconds ahead of the audio so watching it is pointless D) Why wouldn't you want the transcript for SEO purposes Anymore I rarely follow Jason Hiner's content or IT Dojo blog because they went to video. I love reading this blog and hope this won't cause me to stop.

jck
jck

I'd love to see a transcript of that, Toni. As much information as you all provide to help them manage assets, you should give managers tools not to be overbearing...especially to the point of the idiocy you talked about in this piece. I've had a boss like that by the way. Checklist? Hm. First, we have open our carton of milk. Then, we open our Twinkie. I love the piece, Toni. Keep up the great work :)

TraceyClark77
TraceyClark77

I would also rather read & move on as this takes me a lot less time. On this machine, I also don't have a choice as there is no sound. Without a transcript the video is, unfortunately, useless to me. Transcripts would also help your readers who are hearing impaired.

tantonou
tantonou

We are discouraged from using streaming audio/video in our environment due to a small bandwidth pipe. I ethically honor that request so I'd rather read information than have it delivered via video.

Richard Noel
Richard Noel

I too appreciate having a transcript. I also enjoy Toni's postings more than most and probably wouldn't have even opened this link, had I not see Ms. Bowers name in the byline.

moore-margaret
moore-margaret

I've been working for 35 years and the only time I've been fired was by a micromanager.....I just couldn't abide by everything on her not to do lists......

propellerheadus
propellerheadus

The manager in question was one position above me, and about equal in technical skill. He insisted that all of the tech people work in a single room with computer screens fully visible so that he could walk around and see what we were doing at any time. I can't work that way, especially when someone is questioning my expertise in my specialities who doesn't know about the things I know. I was on the project for a reason, yes? Anyway, I got myself kicked off of it when there was nothing else to do (this was many years ago for anyone who might know me... OF COURSE I'd never get myself kicked off a project on purpose these days... and these days I enter projects on a volunteer basis, so this is not a problem). My career manager called me up after I did that and asked what the problem was. I told her. She didn't care for my methods, but understood what I had to do. The micromanager didn't last out the year. Apparently some others on the project found other creative ways to get off of it for the same reasons I did.

ron.magnuson
ron.magnuson

Your comment about pulling versus pushing are spot on. One of the many lessons learned in the Marine Corps back when dirt was new was " you can't push a chain." Real leadership is about pulling people where you want them to be. Of course, that means you have to out in front. Real scary for lots of modern "managers"

toni.bowers
toni.bowers

Love to see the checklist. I wouldn't have believed the one that was sent to me if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. Also, I like how your old supervisor said, "Get your coffee or soda." Or soda. What a generous, abstract-thinking man!

pamacher
pamacher

We have standard work sheet that lists assigned standard work along with all tasks and projects we are working, reviewed weekly by management. This is in addition to the weekly reviews for tasks and projects.

Kam Guerra
Kam Guerra

It sounds like the precursor to the agile development checklist.

frwagne
frwagne

this video was very brief, and worked well with her presentation style - like an 'elevator speech'. I like it. Do more, Toni!

steve.harbron
steve.harbron

The problem for this kind of micro-manager is, leading from the front makes you visible. I have worked with several that only appear after all the issues have been resolved, to then take the glory of a job well done. Pity that you could never find them when you needed something authorising.

christina.hopkins
christina.hopkins

Nothing. I found that even when that much status reporting had to be done, they didn't even read it! It is much more productive to have a relationship with your staff that encourages them to come to you for direction in cases that need a decision from a higher management level. Not being "tuned in" to your workers is akined to not being "tuned in" to customers. Most likely company performance is suffering right along with those being micromanaged.

tuomo
tuomo

Two years ago looking a contract in a huge software company in west-coast which is advertising"agile" development I was presented a list like that and asked can I follow it? Well, it was an architect job, not an operator job, what do you think? So, no, to get something done (in agreed time, in agreed budget, whatever) I can't do that. The project was on "fast track", supposed to have results in three months - now, two years later they still are on phase one - go figure, good luck for them! Micromanagement - a little earlier in another company we were ordered two days telephone training? And given a detailed list how and when to use the phones? The irony, half of us had been designing and working on telephone systems over 20 years, actually I started in early 80's. So, even the vendor manuals were half right, the company rules we were supposed to follow caused so much troubles that one of the customers was ready to sue us! Of course the manager was praised, though moved to another job and the rules were quietly forgotten. I did see this starting in 70's when the "performance management", people with stop watches and note pads did go round. Didn't work then, has never worked and will never work but always someone tries. All it has ever caused is trouble but seems that (almost) every company has to try it, forget about results and try it again?