I am the one who speaks for you when you've been asked a question.
I am the ruination of your personal motivation.
I weaken your spirit and water down your enthusiasm.
I hear your ideas but rarely spit them back out without adding my own twist.
I nod and smile when you talk to me then I say what I wanted to say anyway, unaffected by what you just offered.
I sometimes enlist you to take on my idea and represent it to others. In those moments I enlist your trust. Later I will intimate that you misrepresented my goals.
I give you a task, and then change everything at the last minute, so that I actually do the task, while making you feel stupid and that you've totally wasted your time in the process.
I remind you of your mother, father, gym teacher, therapist, spouse, or anyone else who may come to mind when you have feelings of being suppressed or respectfully silent in deference to the other person.
You don't share my vision, which I interpret as you don't like me. I have therefore decided not to like you. After all we don't see eye to eye. That is, you have your own opinion.
I don't care if I hurt you, at least things will be done right.
I am why you have developed the habit of quitting on yourself or only pushing an idea so far before you back off. The constant rejection and lack of ownership have stunted you too many times.
I am why you stopped gunning for the next position or move up.
I've overridden your recommendations so many times now you no longer believe in their merit.
I have even more surprises for you.
I have molded and beaten down your character so many times, it has bled into your personal life. Your commitment to things has waned over the years. The things you observe about your life, your finances, your children that you would have drastically changed, you now allow. Your nature has become passive. You think, "Why bother?"
You've lost character. You've lost respect. You lost status, pride, and a sense of accomplishment.
Suddenly you are interested in how many years you have until retirement.
Is all this an overstatement? Maybe… Maybe not…
This culprit moves in a very stealth-like manner through most organizations and if you don't think he/she inflicts the kind of aforementioned damage, think again. The key factor is trust or a lack of it. How many things go well when distrustful emotions plague progress, initiative or creation?
The tension created in any culture through a lack of trust beats at the shores of morale like a tidal wave and washes all that is gained out to sea when that faith is questioned. Inspiration grinds to a halt and people begin to echo that poisonous question, "Why should I work so hard on something that's…
…going to get changed anyway
…not going to get used anyway
…not going to be right the first time no matter how good it is?"
You figure it out yet?
The culprit is the micromanager.
He's the one that never stops to think that every great thing done in the world was usually initiated and followed through by one person; one passionate individual that built on a theme and wanted to use his/her vision to make something happen; to have a controlled outcome at their discretion without democratic input and coaching.
He never sees the value of the individual adding to the whole, making a contribution in the spirit of what the manager wanted instead of spitting out exactly what was dictated. Allowing for a bit of ownership, individuality, even perhaps constructive creativity? No, we can't have that kind of thing going on.
"Your honor, I'd like permission to cross examine this witness."
Go ahead, Mr. Ciancutti.
"Thank you. Mr. Micromanager?"
"Can you answer me a few questions?"
"Why do you have to tell everybody what to do?"
They won't know what I want if I don't tell them over and over. They'll get it wrong.
"Is that so bad?"
Well, it won't be what I want.
"And your vision is the only one that counts?"
Well they made me the manager for a reason, right?
"Quickly sir, name me a great work of art, a great theory, a stirring piece of music, a great book that was written by a group."
"Tough question, huh?"
Give me a minute.
"Let's just skip that one."
If you say so.
"Mr. Micromanager, what's at risk? I mean why are you so worried about control?"
I don't like the way you said that. I am not a control freak. I insist I am not.
"I'll rephrase the question."
I'd strongly suggest that.
"Sir, is there really any loss of control if you were to create a climate of trust in your organization so that staff felt free to express ideas, take ownership of concepts, seek cooperation and appreciation instead of mere approval all the time? Couldn't you maintain that ever-important control by guarding the final gate instead of applying a governor throttle to everything that impedes ideas and creativity?"
Mr. Ciancutti, I think you need to be reeled in a bit. I have been given a job and that job asks me to guide this department with what I envision as important. I have to tell people what to do to get them to provide what I've been asked to create.
"Do you see any merit in fostering an environment where people could freely give input and help you reach your goals by representing something other than your one opinion?"
I'm sorry young man I wasn't listening. What did you say?
"No further questions, your honor."
Mr. Ciancutti leaves the courtroom and walks through the doors into the lobby. As he approaches the elevator he hears a noise. "Psssst."
He looks left and right and then suddenly behind him.
A man in a hat and trench coat is waving to him from the shadows.
Ciancutti approaches cautiously, "May I help you?"
From behind his sunglasses the man whispers, "I… uh… I'm one of them."
"One of what?"
"The uh –- you know… micro… guy you were talking about."
"Oh, I see. Well what do you want with me?"
"Yeah well, I uh… how do I stop being this way? I mean I know nothing good is coming of it but the pressures on me are terrific and if I lose control by letting people think for themselves or contribute haphazardly I… I… Do you have any suggestions?"
Yeah. I do. I think the answers for micromanagers are pretty simple really. The main problem that contributes to the need for micromanagement is the pressure of deadlines and budgets.
A person that has to "get it done" can't afford the luxury of standing around talking about it. Although good clock management gives an effective manager the time to garner input and work suggestions in, this very premise would not take special effort if it was part of the daily routine; part of the standard way to do business.
Ever watch some football teams blow the game in the last minute as they frantically scurry down the field trying to get a game-tying field goal? You think any of those guys have time to ask anybody's opinion? You think any of the players know the format to offer their opinion?
Yet, coaches that practice a two-minute drill over and over get all kinds of contributions from the players on the field. They have the time to consider it and listen. They can usually execute that last-minute score and make it look like a matter of habit. Effective managers have the same opportunity and obligation.
If the environment is open and listening and the format is in place for contributing, the micromanager will hear the suggestions and debate the points long before the deadline is breathing down on him/her. In that atmosphere employee opinion can be expressed, manager agreement or disagreement can be understood and the need to micromanage will be minimized.
It takes commitment on both sides. It takes respect on both sides. If the manager creates an environment of trust, the employee will make useful contributions and not impede progress with personal priorities or obstacles to completion. This relationship can only grow richer with time.
It's really about empowering staff to make decisions. If someone is asked to complete a task, then all hell breaks loose at the last minute because the manager decided to change everything, down to the last dot, it creates that deadly complacent atmosphere.
The micromanager who wants to be the humanistic manager has only to make a conscious choice of building an environment based on mutual trust. And isn't that what they're really hired to do?
Ronald D. Ciancutti is the purchasing manager for Cleveland Metroparks. Ron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ron will be giving presentations on Purchasing, Ins & Outs, Tips & Tricks and Developing & Building Relationships in Your Community at LIVE! 06 at Deer Creek Resort & Conference Center, near Columbus, Ohio, Sept. 19-20.