Thursday, March 11, 2010

Reasons Why Micromanagement is Destructive

Last month, I wrote about "The Return of Micro-MAN-ager". It was about a comic type character that I created in the Navy and thought of again recently at work. I'm in a situation of being micromanaged. I've been wanting to write a post about why micromanagement is destructive. Apparently, it's been suffering the same fate as a post I started on why I don't worry about procrastinating anymore.

I came across a blog post by Ron Edmonson today about why people micromanage. It's pretty much what I would say: fear, insecurity, wrong team, bad vision, and control freak. I think all apply in my situation.

There are situations where micromanagement can be appropriate. I imagine those situations are related to managing teenagers and prisoners. It's not appropriate outside of some limited situations. I don't believe it's appropriate with professionals.

Here are some reasons why micromangement is destructive:

1) It destroys initiative

This one should be self-explanatory. Even experienced professionals, after a while, start to die inside under micromanagement. When a professional tries to take initiative and is rebuffed by a micromanager, it destroys initiative. What's the point of trying to do a better job if I'm going to get shot down every time? I'll just do what Micro-MAN-ager asks to get him off my back. Of course, when Micro-MAN-ager keeps changing the assignment, that makes it all the more frustrating. This is probably related to a lack of understanding, vision, and trust on the part of the micromanager.

2) It creates apathy

This is related to #1. Again, if none of my ideas are taken seriously, and I get reprimanded for suggesting something or from trying to implement something to make the product better, then I don't care anymore.

3) It results in a substandard product

When professionals grow apathetic, the product suffers. But sometimes this is the fault of the micromanager. Actually, it's always the micromanager's fault as the leader. This happened to me recently. I was given an assignment. I reviewed the assignment and came up with what I thought was a better way to do it from what I was instructed. I reviewed this with Micro-MAN-ager. He told me to just do it the way he said. So I did. Then he went to a meeting and had his butt handed to him for not doing the product in about the way I suggested being allowed to do it. Then he came back to me to ask why I didn't do it that way. "Why didn't I do it that way? BECAUSE YOU TOLD ME NOT TO, YOU FREAKING IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

4) Nobody learns anything. Nobody is able to grow

In my last job, I worked for a good supervisor. Sometimes, when something came up, it was easier for him to just handle it. He never made a big deal out of it. But, I didn't learn how to handle that problem the next time it came up.

Likewise, I'm not learning anything right now. I'm not being allowed to grow professionally. Despite a commitment not to micromanage, I'm still being micromanaged. So is the other engineer on the team. At least he stopped knocking me off my computer. I guess I can live with that for now. Baby steps...

I'm learning this lesson with my kids. Caleb loves to help. It hurts his feelings if I don't have anything he can help with. Even when he was 2, if we were carrying groceries in from the car, he'd get upset if I didn't even give him some token small item to carry. He said his feelings were hurt once when all we bought was a 40lb box of cat litter and 50 lbs of dog food. He can't help with those.

Chances are, anything I do can be done a heck of a lot faster if I just do it myself. But if I don't involve my boys, how will they ever learn? Even if I just let them hold my screwdriver for 30 seconds until they lose interest and leave to play the Wii, they learn something.


If you micromanage, please stop and think about why you do it. Are you insecure or fearful? Do you lack vision? Do you have the wrong team? What if you turned your team loose? Could things be better? Seriously, if you could do the job yourself, why hire a team?
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