When we hear the word micromanage, our brain may automatically default to that one bad boss who controlled not only what you did, but how you did it. Of course there may be a time when a supervisor may justifiably micromanage an under-performing employee. But, you may as well be unconsciously micromanaging your coworkers, family or even friends. Let’s examine a couple situations where I caught myself controlling the activities of others. As well as efforts I’m taking to prevent it, or keep doing it but in a better way.
Don’t Micromanage Your Coworkers Like a Family Member:
If you work daily very close in an office with others, you get to know everyone pretty well. You know what time each person takes their lunch break (hogs the microwave). Daily or weekly meetings. And can time their bathroom breaks pretty well based upon the amount of coffee you know each person consumes. Professional guards may drop. You may be forgetting you are working with peers. Then, you start replacing them with family roles, “This is the dad of the office who makes decisions for the family, this is the grandpa who cares how everyone is doing and this is the mom who takes care of everything everyone else forgets about.”
Soon, you start taking advantage of their family roles, and not their work roles. I hope I have not slipped in that area. However, I have noticed a difference in how I talk to them. For instance, the ‘grandpa’ of the office brought me a cup of coffee one day and with his bright Santa eyes and a big smile he proclaimed, “We got a new Keurig machine! I want you to be the first to taste it to let me know what you think and if it’s better than the old one!” My immediate response was, “Did you run it through several rinses first?” Instantly, I could tell I hurt him when he stopped smiling, “Yes, I followed the instructions in starting up the machine.”
I couldn’t have felt like a bigger d-bag.
Since I’m working on being aware of my surroundings and how my reactions impact others, I immediately apologized for how I came across and tried to add some humor to save the situation. “OH my gosh! I’m so sorry! I’m not used to cups of coffee being brought to me and I just spoke to you like I would my husband!” He instantly laughed and said after being married 40 years and raising all the daughters he has, he’s used to it. I then added, “The more appropriate work response would have been, oh thank you so much for thinking of me! Take sip if you trust coworker isn’t going to poison you. Mmm! This isn’t a kind I usually drink but I can tell it’s not burnt like what the old machine did to it!”
We had a good laugh about my initial response and how I wish I would have responded. He appreciated I was able to see how I micromanaged the situation, questioning how he made the coffee, and addressed my reaction. In looking back on the situation, I think some people may appreciate coming to the office. A place where they hope they will be treated like professionals. Often times, we do micromanage our spouses and family members. We question how they did an activity, “Did you clean the lint trap before starting the dryer?!” Instead of trusting they took out the lint and thanking them for starting the dryer.
Reflecting on Being a Micromanager:
When I told Mr. Defined Sight my work story, I then asked if I micromanage him. He didn’t hesitate, “Yeah, but I probably need it. The clean dishes will never get taken out of the dishwasher if you don’t tell me 3 times per night. Which, maybe isn’t micromanaging, it’s just reminding me.” ~ Awww, thanks for softening the news I’m a micromanager Mr. Defined Sight! And still loving me just the same. 🙂
I also thought back to my former workplace, where I was under a high amount of stress, anxiety and had a very short fuse. I recall a conversation I had with an individual who since I was a manager, was above this person yet, they were in another department but had to work through me and my team to get some things done. Every member of my team came to me individually with the same complaints. “Nicest guy in the world, but, he doesn’t get it. I can’t explain it to him anymore. I’m not getting my job done.”
Each person on my team was coming to me with the same message. My team was not reaching this guy, and some are the best teachers. Crap. It was now my turn to deal with him. So I tried, and tried and tried. I completely saw where each of my employees were coming from. We all exhausted our efforts with this person. I sent him back to his department and told him to work with his Supervisor to get a better understanding. However, he said he couldn’t go to his boss. What?!
His boss had pretty much told him he was done explaining it to him, he better get it, and I was his last resort. I (stressed out to the max) finally broke. “Listen, even if I drew it out in crayons for you, I still don’t think you are going to get it. If you haven’t caught on by now, you should be asking yourself if you are a right fit for the job you are in.”
How do I be a better Micromanager?
I was incredibly blunt and honest. It felt good at the time, and I think it was some words that did motivate the person to go back to his boss with his tail between his legs. But, knowing what I know today, I try and treat every person as if they are battling or coping with something that’s preventing them from achieving what they want to do or where they want to be. I did eventually follow-up with that person’s Supervisor. Together, we came up with a plan of how we (yes, we, since this person had to work with my team) were going to micromanage him to get him to the level of successful again. Overall, the plan worked, but I could have been a better person. It reminded me of how much I hated that job; I don’t like to micromanage people intentionally as we do enough unintentionally!
I told you a couple of my personal stories as a micromanager, now let me hear yours. Admit it – we all micromanage in some way!