She asked me to cc her my emails, even the most trivial ones. Sometimes she would knock on my office door to ask me if I was okay because I had spent a lot of time in the bathroom, when actually only five minutes have passed. She checked when I walked in and when I left my office to see how long I had been away. The pressure she exerted by checking every detail of my work was suffocating, more than exaggerated and above all counterproductive. She would also yell at me from time to time and throw my reports on my desk while I was working. This is what happened to me when I worked with a micromanager.
What exactly is micromanagement?
It is a managerial practice through which a micromanager exercises exhaustive control of the actions, tasks, functions and responsibilities of the people subordinated to them at a hierarchical level.
This type of manager may also ask to see an email before it is sent, and they may want to be informed of all the decisions that employees need to take, because they think that their staff cannot take decisions. A micromanager combines impatience and distrust with absolute control of the tasks assigned to their subordinates.
The situation looks like the schemes used by the “Thought Police” to scrupulously monitor every moment of the characters in George Orwell’s 1984 novel. As in that book, the consequences of this practice of strict control on employees are devastating. The boss gains peace of mind but staff suffer from it and are also less productive.
Actually, this system creates bottlenecks that cause a slowdown in all activities. This type of manager wants to earn a good reputation and avoid blaming that something was wrongly done.
But the worst part falls on the employees. Many times they do not know how to give priority, because the boss constantly changes their priorities based on the urgency that arrives, or because a superior asks them or it is the market that requires that. Employees lose creativity and self-esteem. A culture of fear is established, where everything is subject to the orders of the superior. This can lead to sickness absenteeism.
Apart from real psychosomatic diseases that can arise, psychological situations can also develop for which the person feels worthless, becoming smaller and smaller until they doubt their abilities. You begin to ask yourself: – Am I capable of doing it? – Am I in the wrong job? – Why do they control me like this, what have I done wrong? – And it can also happen that you quit your job, even if you have a good salary.
When a situation cannot be changed or accepted, you should leave it. This is one of the principle that I learned during my coaching training, and this is what I did. I quit the job.
It is important to know that people do not quit jobs, they leave bosses.
A piece of advice here. When you go for a job interview, ask them a question like “How are you going to help me be successful?”.
Why do managers fall into this trap?
If a micromanager spoils the work environment, employees’ health, and it is harmful even to them who lose productivity and may also lose staff, why can’t this total and constant control be avoided? A boss doesn’t have enough work to do?
Let’s see some possible causes.
First, managers themselves suffer pressure from the environment, be it from their own bosses, shareholders, markets or competition.
Second, incompetence. Either managers feel insecure because their staff perform an excellent job compared to their own.
The third cause is clear and straightforward: the boss’s obsessive personality makes them unable to organize and manage the work.
Whatever the cause is, it is necessary to analyse what is happening in order to put an end to the situation as soon as possible. How would you do that?
First, you should go to the human resources (HR) of your company. Actually this happened to me while working in HR, so I asked for legal advice. It would be the second step if HR can’t help you out.
As an alternative, you could turn to your superior and ask them to implement one or more techniques, perhaps with the help of a coach.
One technique could be that of the traffic light. Together with the boss, you define the admissible and acceptable control limits that are not to be exceeded. If these limits should be overcome, some signals will be sent to the manager. When the manager receives them, they identify their behaviour and try to control it.
Another strategy is to define the profile of the boss and of each team member, analysing their personal, professional and communication style and characteristics. Once this x-ray is completed, the boss shall answer the following questions:
1. Which leadership model they would like to use with each employee;
2. What leadership style each employee would need;
3. What leadership style they would use with each employee.
By doing so, a manager can realize that the type of leadership they are using is in line with that person’s role, but it is not what that employee needs. By adopting this paradigm shift, the boss begins to think not from their own point of view, but from that of the subordinate. While this strategy may sound like science fiction (and maybe it really is for certain people, not everyone is open to change), with time and a willingness, success is assured.
Have you ever worked under the supervision of a micromanager?
To find more about work and the workplace, please visit my blog crisbiecoach.