Friday, May 05, 2006

What Makes a Micromanager Tick?

Almost everyone, at some point during their professional career or work experience, encounters a micromanager. Micromanagers like to tell their employees when to eat, what to have on their desks and whom to talk to, when, where and how. Often times the employee stay with the company and tolerate this type of individual because they like the company's goals, styles, pay structure, benefits or any other number of reasons. But, how should you handle a micromanager? To do this successfully you first need to understand what makes a micromanager "tick" or behave the way they do.

First, micromanagers crave control and giving it up (either in reality or if they perceive they are going to give it up) makes them anxious. They will believe that their own skills and abilities are the very best around and that no one can do things better than they can. Often micromanagers will tell you they embrace collaborative management and leadership practices, but their own insecurities will eventually be the driving force behind their actions. This type of behavior will squash any opportunities for growth and development of employees and ultimately will demoralize everyone who comes in contact with them. If you are fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have a micromanager for boss who also owns the company, then the situation can be much worse.

Before you turn in your resignation, here are some things you can try:

Tactful feedback. Do not respond to the micromanager by being rebellious or resistant to his/her control, this will only make them want to tighten their control over you. Instead, talk about your need to grow, to be given more autonomy, or your concern about the morale of the team. Remember that no one wants to hear that they are a "control freak." But, you will get much further with the micromanager if you appeal to his/her ego as a leader rather than using criticism of their abilities.

Support from others. If that does not work, try enlisting the support and help from the other managers or owners of the business. If the micromanagers actions and behaviors are starting to affect the company's bottom line, they will be less tolerate or willing to give them "free reign." When talking with others remember to discuss the situation in the context of your own specific department, state the facts and then give concrete examples of how things could be better. A wise manager once reminded me to never attack the individual, but always to explain the situation.

Introspection. Be willing to examine your own role in the situation and how your own actions and behaviors are interpreted by others or the micromanager. Are you giving this person any reason for their actions towards you? Is your work and productivity meeting your own job requirements and of high quality? Is it possible that you are either consciously, or unconsciously, trying to undermine this individual? If you find that you may be part of the problem, take corrective action immediately. Not doing so will make the micromanager even more insecure.

Dealing with a micromanager can be tricky at best. But, if you have a simple understanding of what motivates or drives this individual then you can take steps to ensure that you never give them a reason to feel insecure or threatened by your actions.

If you are a leader or manager, you, too, may want to spend some time in careful introspection to determine if you are exhibiting any of these types of behaviors that may cause your employees, or those you lead, to react in a negative manner.


Copyright M. A. Webb, 2004-2006. All Rights Reserved

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