Micromanagers

Nov 17 22:00 2002 Richard Lowe Print This Article

Have you ever worked for a boss who had to watch your ... Someone who ... ... meetings which ... (or more) people? A ... who always seemed to wantto do your job for

Have you ever worked for a boss who had to watch your every
move? Someone who scheduled countless meetings which involved
dozens (or more) people? A "manager" who always seemed to want
to do your job for you,Guest Posting or, worse, who always knew what was
wrong and didn't hesitate to let you know? What about the
manager who has to approve every dollar you spend, even
small things like staplers?

These are micro managers, and they are one of the worst
things that can happen to an organization. A micro manager
can start with an excellent team of incredible producers and
change them into a useless group of disorganized, unmotivated,
complainers.

I've worked for micro managers before and it's always been a
miserable experience. One was a man named Gary. This
"manager" was the owner of the company, and seemed to always
be hovering over my shoulder, demanding to know what I was
doing and making "suggestions", giving orders and sometimes
just jumping in and doing the work himself.

Working for Gary was one of the most miserable experiences of
my career, especially because his micro managing tendencies
got worse as time went on. He would show up at client
meetings totally unprepared, make comments at meetings that
had nothing to do with anything, and had to approve every
penny of expenditure.

Worse yet, when something went wrong it was funny how no one
was responsible, lest of all him. He would just jump in and
"fix it" (usually making it worse) and have this air about
himself silently saying "I knew I couldn't trust you guys".

His "know it all" attitude cost us at least one major client
and several contracts. Those of us who worked for him (and it
was clear that we worked for him) were afraid to make any
mistake lest it be driven into the ground, and dreaded the
days when he decided he "had to take a look at what we were
doing" to "be sure we were doing it right".

Sigh. Finally I wised up and moved elsewhere. I learned that
trying to work with a micro manager is a futile waste of
time - there is no such thing as "working with them" and they
do not even understand the concept.

So what are the signs of a micro manager?

Constantly checking up on your team members - The micro manager
has a need to be behind everyone's back at all times. He or she
wants to know what their team mates are doing at all times, and
will correct even the smallest thing without hesitation. Micro
managers tend to hover around their team members, making sure
that everything is "done right".

A good manager hires and trains people such that they are
intelligent and motivated enough to get their jobs done. There
is virtually never a need to treat people like robots - treat
them like intelligent human beings.

Demanding to be a part of all meetings involving your team
members - Micro managers insist on being part of every meeting,
no matter how unimportant, so they can be sure they can control
what's happening. In those meetings, you can count on a barrage
of constant comments, questions and orders from this manager on
the most trivial of subjects.

Better managers understand that they have team members who
know what they are doing and allow them to do what is
necessary without a constant need to know every detail. It's
surprising sometimes, but most people want to do a good job and
will thrive if given the opportunity.

Constantly scheduling meetings to "know what's going on" - Not
only does the micro manager want to be a part of every single
meeting, he wants to schedule lots and lots of meetings. This
gives him plenty of opportunities to correct all of the issues
"before they become problems".

Perhaps the most unneeded and useless type of meeting is the
"weekly status meeting" which involves all of the members of a
team. Good managers communicate so well with their team members
that they always know what's going on and thus do not need
these types of status meetings at all. When they do have them,
the purpose is more to let their team members know what's
happening instead of the other way around.

Inviting lots of people to meetings which are scheduled
often - Micro managers usually have no idea what they are
doing, and thus don't know who needs to be at a meeting. Thus,
they tend to invite everyone on their teams, and anyone else
that they think might want to be involved.

Virtually all meetings are unnecessary, and most people
invited to those meetings which are important do not need to
be there. Good managers understand this and thus limit their
meetings to those that are necessary. They also only invite
those people who actually have contributions to make or who
really need to know what's going on.

Not delegating authority - The micro manager will never
actually delegate any authority. He will pretend to do so, but
never will. This is the CEO who still orders office supplies,
the CIO who must approve every expenditure no matter how small,
or the supervisor who insists on approving every change to the
line. Funny how the groups managed by these guys can never seem
to get anything done ...

Excellent managers delegate authority to their team members.
For example, if they hire an office manager, then that office
manager is given the authority to stock the supply cabinet.
There is no need to personally check over each order to be
sure the proper supplies are being ordered.

Not delegating tasks - One of the most critical parts of any
manager's job is to get other people to do work. This means
ALL tasks must be delegated, except for those tasks directly
related to getting other people to do their jobs. Managers are
like movie directors or orchestra conductors - they do not act
in the movie or play an instrument in the orchestra: they get
others to do this PROPERLY and in harmony with the other
players.

Approving every expenditure - A micro manager has trouble
delegating spending authority, so much so that oftentimes
even five dollar expenditures must be personally approved by
him. The clever micro managers want "reports" of all
expenditures instead, but will chew out someone on a moments
notice if anything comes across in the report that is
unexpected.

The great managers delegate spending authority by creating a
system of authorities and limits. As long as spending is
within the guidelines, it is acceptable for the team members
to spend without approval.

Doing actual work instead of managing - The job of a manager
or supervisor is to manage people. One of the most important
parts of their job description is "managing" or "supervising".
This is also one of the hardest points for many people to
understand, especially people who have been promoted up the
line. They are not supposed to DO, they are supposed to get
others to DO. Except on the very smallest of teams, managers
who are taking part in tasks on a regular basis have not
delegated effectively and are not doing their own jobs ... and
they are not letting other people do their jobs as well.

That's the key point about good managers - they understand that
their job is to manage and/or supervise. They are not "doers"
they are people who get other people to do the right things at
the right times to the correct level of quality.

All hiring and firing decisions must be personally approved -
This is one of the signs of a real micro manager. He has
"delegated authority" for an area, but refuses to allow his
supervisors to make decisions about who to hire. He must
perform a second job interview himself to "be sure the person
is right for the organization". He will personally write the
advertisement for monster.com, insist upon interviewing
everyone himself, and "gently guide" you into hiring the
person he wants. He will question every single termination
decision mercilessly, effectively preventing you from firing
all but the utterly malicious basket cases.

Good managers delegate hiring and firing authority to their
supervisors and managers. It is perfectly acceptable for a
good manager to interview the one or two prime candidates for
a critical position, but he understands he does not need to
personally check out each and every decision himself.

You see, when a manager insists of interviewing each potential
new hire himself and will not allow his supervisors to make
firing decisions, he effectively removes a major portion of the
supervisors authority (at least in the eyes of the people he
supervises). It's clear to everyone that the supervisors
authority is limited and thus he can be challenged, ignored and
made more ineffective. In effect, his authority is dramatically
undermined.

Conclusions - So what do you do about a micro manager? Either
"fix him", get a new job or transfer to a different department.
Little is more miserable than working for the micro manager,
and if you cannot correct him, leave him to his misery.

If a micro manager works for you, then you must insist he
correct his micro managing tendencies immediately. This person
is destroying your team, reducing your profits, damaging your
credibility and dramatically increasing your turnover.

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Richard Lowe
Richard Lowe

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