4 October 2009

Confessions of a Micro-Manager

Who would want to work for a micro-manager? Someone who is on your back for every little thing. Did you do this? Did you do that? And always checking up on you. Working under those conditions would make anyone nervous and question whether you are the problem and maybe you just can't do the job. Here are some reasons I think managers can get possessive:
  1. I'm not sure I can trust you. Your boss has to trust that you will be able to get the job done in order to reliquish some of their control.
  2. Do you know what you are doing? A manager has to have confidence that you know how to do your job. If they don't, they will hover until they are sure.
  3. This is the way that it is done. Some managers like to have things done their way and if you don't do it their way, they think you are doing it wrong.
I never wanted to be a manager. I had been for a short time years ago and thought it was just something I was not very good at, but years later, I became a manager again. I was nervous about it because I didn't think it was something I did well. I also worked by myself for many years and wondered if I would know how to share.

So how did I handle it the second time around? I admit it -- I micro managed and for many of the reasons I mentioned above. I just did not have confidence that this person was going to be able to assist me. You have to have the right fit in a job to make it work. I don't think it is wrong for a manager to ask themselves some of the things I noted above, but I think the answer lies in how you handle it.

Some managers don't want to deal with the situation so they let it go on and continue to micro manage, but that doesn't help anyone. You are not doing the person who is working with you a favour if you don't deal with it because perhaps they would work better with someone else or in another position. You are not doing yourself a favour because believe me, being a micro manager is hard work. You feel you have to do everything yourself and you can easily burn out. The best situation is if you work together as a team, but how can you get there?

If you are a micro-manager, ask yourself if there are areas you are trying to hold on to that could easily be given to someone else and then try giving over a few duties. It might seem hard at first and you can put some task reminders in Outlook to help you keep track of what needs to be done, but once you see the job is completed, try to give a few more things away. You will see it makes your work life much easier.

Hire smart! Make the interview count and ask the right questions. Ask yourself what things really matter to you and ask questions to bring those things up in the interview. It is good to get expectations out right away and then the person applying for the job will know what is going to be required of them and evaluate if they think they can do the job.

Here are some things an assistant can do to help their boss have more confidence in them:
  1. Repeat back what your boss asked you to do so they know you understand the request and ask questions if you don't. You should never be afraid to ask questions. I always appreciate it when people ask me questions because it reassures me that the person is on the same page as me when we have had a chance to discuss it.
  2. Have a pen and paper handy and write the task down. I always have more confidence something will get done when I see it being written down.
  3. Once you have completed a task, send your boss a quick e-mail to let them know you have done it or cc them on your email. It might seem unnecessary to you at first, but in the long run will help the situation. It saves your boss asking if you got it done and in time they will not ask because they will just know you have handled it.
  4. Take initiative and do some tasks that you know need to get done. Show your boss that you want to contribute to their success and to the organization.
Your boss may dislike being a micro manager as much as you hate working for one. It's worth trying to work it out. Since I've been on both sides, I thought I would share.

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