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No one likes being micromanaged, but could you be micromanaging without knowing it?
I have asked the question, “Do you like being micromanaged?” many times. I have yet to find anyone in one of our classes who raises their hand and says, “Oh yeah, I like it when my boss micromanages me.” I’ve also asked, “Do you feel micromanaged?” and about a third of the people raise their hands quietly, especially if their boss is in the room.
When you’re micromanaged, you have that sense that your boss doesn’t trust you.
I often think back to road trips with my kids when they’d say, “Dad, are we there yet? Are we there yet? When are we stopping?” This is like a micromanaging boss, “Are you done yet? Are you done yet? Oh, I wouldn’t do that. I think you should do this.”
If you end up checking in too frequently, interfering with your team’s work, or prescribing how you think they need to do it, then you’re a micromanager.
You might counteract with, “Oh, no, that’s how I ensure excellence and quality.” But when you start interfering too much in the how, your team starts to think that you don’t trust them in doing the job correctly.
Like most things, it begins with clear expectations, because usually, if your team isn’t meeting your expectations, it’s because they don’t understand clearly what they are. Define for them the kind of detail you’re looking for; what kind of images you might want if it’s a report; the timetable for getting it done. Set the expectations and once you do that, your team will understand what will satisfy you at the end of the project.
As a manager, you still need to check in to observe and to coach, but remember that you should stop interfering in the details and instead pull back and focus on the end results.
If the results aren’t what you’d like, then have conversations with your team on how to deliver the results that you want more consistently.
You can almost reverse-engineer what I just talked about. Ask your boss why they feel the need to check-in so often. Now, be careful, because when you ask they may get a little defensive so it’s important to keep your tone of voice under control and ask, “I’m curious, help me understand this.” Ask your boss why they want it done a certain way or why they check in with you as frequently as they do.
You could ask them to clarify the expectations. “I want to make sure that I get this up to your standard and deliver it consistently. Can you explain to me what your expectations are in terms of the level of detail, the length of the report you’re looking for, that sort of thing?”
The final thing that you need to do to stop your boss from micromanaging you is to deliver the results that he or she expects. If you deliver the results that they want and they still are micromanaging, then you could probably say, “Help me understand this a little bit better, because I really get the sense that you either don’t like the work that I’m doing or how I’m doing it, and I want to clarify it because I want to meet your expectations consistently.” Your manager might get a little defensive at first, but overall, the end result is going to be less chance of them checking in, micromanaging and interfering your work, and more chance of you delivering on the results that they want and have more freedom to do your work.
Micromanaging is usually based on a sense of fear and insecurity that the leader feels towards whether their team can perform to expectations. Once the leader shows confidence in the team to generate results, the team’s performance should increase over time.
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