Accused of being a Micro Manager? It might be true – and you should definitely try not to be one – but some workplaces do make that hard.

by Shaun Kieran

I’ve done a few workshops where dealing with the accusation of being a “micro manager” has taken up a lot of time in the Q & A. It’s a topic that can really get people cranked up.

Very often, what’s going on when that topic gets broached is that a supervisor is in the middle of a situation with an employee, the term “micro-managing” has been tossed into the discussion, and the manager is not sure how to react.

The textbooks all say micro-managing isn’t good – that it impedes employee initiative, generates resentment, and indicates a “controlling” mind set. And as far as it goes, that’s right. In a healthy workplace culture with a reasonable distribution of reasonable people, micro-managing is both unnecessary and disrespectful. It can actually reduce employee productivity.

The problem is that in the real world that view tends to overlook, or at least sidestep, the issue of accountability. In many workplaces, what distinguishes a manager is his or her willingness to step up, oversee, and really take responsibility for getting the work product done.

Since managers are very aware that their own job performance is being closely monitored and measured, there’s an entirely reasonable urgency around addressing and following up on problems. In fact, the failure to anticipate and properly navigate problems is one of the main reasons managers lose their jobs. Many supervisors have learned from bitter experience – not their need to control everything – to be vigilant, proactive, and prepared to repeat themselves, early and often, in order to achieve and sustain quality .  And that takes us back to the beginning. What’s a reasonable level of checking in and monitoring, when does it morph into micro-managing – and who decides?

The obvious, but not necessarily easy, answer is to be sure you’re on the same page with your own manager regarding how you interact with your employees. The idea is to get the whole process percolating as it should, with as little supervisory direction as possible, but as much as is minimally necessary to get there. The supervisor’s own boss should help with getting that right.

Developing a personal style focused on expecting workplace performance and emotional maturity is the most effective way to ensure good, consistent quality while also providing the good will and support that most employees need and truly appreciate.

Shaun Kieran

ShaunKpro@gmail.com

 (207) 767-3864