Being Micromanaged to Death?
I have been thinking about micromanagement lately; not how to micromanage, but how to deal with it. It seems that several friends and colleagues have had this visited on them recently and are driving themselves nuts with frustration about it.
I had a boss once who as an old nurse saw the world in terms of "nurses and others." She was a Regional vice president overseeing 16 hospitals and only a handful of her reports, myself included, fell into the pariah class of "non nurse." She would lecture us on everything from patient care to health economics with phrases always beginning "as a nurse, I can tell you..."
It did not matter that some of us had advanced degrees in business and were qualified in other areas of healthcare outside of nursing. We would commiserate among ourselves and strategize about how to deal with her while maintaining our sanity.She was known to drive people to tears on a regular basis-in fact we thought she enjoyed it.
One thing we learned later on - as we compared notes- is that she frustrated her nurse-reports equally because she berated them with "as a nurse you should know...." Or she would try to run each nursing department in each hospital with outdated nursing principles, not having practiced nursing herself for years. I finally figured out her issue was control and a penchant for micromanagement.
Whether in the lab or out, micromanagement drives people nuts and is counterproductive in that it causes more frustration and anger than results-as evidenced by colleagues' recent experience.
I learned some methods of coping with my old boss, who we dubbed Cruella, by the way. I will share those with you.
Don't take it personally. This is very hard to do, but try to realize this person is usually just a Type A personality, a control freak; and her reactions are not necessarily reflective of your actions, and certainly not your worth or intrinsic value. It's easy to start internalizing all the "you shoulds." Don't.
Communicate. The experts will say have a serious talk with her. That is likely to make you look weak and whiny and leave you bloody and maimed. Instead, communicate often in reports, memos, voicemail and emails. To her, communication is action, and action is progress. So if she sees information and frequent progress reports that keeps her busy and she also assumes you are also active. When you have a discussion and receive a slew of assignments, do the quick fixes ASAP and tell her they are done. She will see you as someone who follows up rather than let projects sit.
Be proactive. As uncomfortable as it might be, ask for meetings with her before she summons you. That not only puts the shoe on the other foot, but to her spells "action-oriented." When you speak with her tell her your progress, not your barriers. If barriers come up, have some solution to work past them. She likes to direct you, but not to feel she HAS to solve all your problems for you. In reporting challenges in your department, for example, lay out your thoughts for a solution. She might have a favorite, or hate all of yours, but at least she didn't "have to tell you what to do, once again." The result might be the same, but she will perceive you as solution-oriented. Perception is reality.
Toot your own horn. This sounds counter intuitive and does not come easily for many, including the typical laboratorian. But to a micromanager it translates to confidence and someone who is more similar to her (after all she is perfect!). That is one interaction in which "I" carries a lot of weight. Keep notes of your communication and projects you have handled well. You will need to retrieve those on short notice. You will have occasion to pull them out more than once to prove or reinforce a point. Trust me.
I would like to hear your own experience of micromanagement -what it was and how you handled it. I would also like to hear from managers who thought it important to keep a tight reign on their employees (micromanage) and why they felt they had to.