How to deal with Micromanagers

According to Harry E Chambers, author of 'My Way or the Highway - the Micromanagement Survival Guide',? Micromanagement is the excessive, unwanted, counterproductive interference and disruption of people or things.” It occurs when influence, involvement and interaction begin to subtract value from people and processes. It is the perception of inappropriate interference in someone else's activities, responsibilities, decision making and authority.”

Chambers lists the five defining behaviours of a micromanager:

  • Micromanagers exercise raw power.
    They love to flex their muscles—asserting their power and authority just because they can. While unable to subordinate themselves, they control others with an uncompromising sense of entitlement and self-interest.
  • Micromanagers dictate time.
    They like to control and manipulate others' time. They don't trust people to assess their own workload, so they routinely dictate priorities and distort deadlines. And while they guard their own time with an iron fist, they're notorious for interrupting others, misusing and mismanaging meetings and perpetuating crises.
  • Micromanagers control how work gets done.
    They want everything to be done their way. After all, the boss knows best—or so he or she believes. They dismiss others' knowledge, experience and ideas—no matter how good—then hover over them to make sure they're doing things “right.”
  • Micromanagers require undue approvals.
    They share responsibility, but not authority. As the “bottlenecks” of the workplace, they allow no one to move forward without their approval—even on routine or time-sensitive matters.
  • Micromanagers demand frequent and unnecessary reports.
    They are driven to know what's going on. They monitor workers to death—requiring a stream of needless reports that focus on activity over outcomes.

How can you deal effectively with a micromanager? Chambers offers the following strategies:

  • Find out his agenda. Determine what's really important to him, then work with him—not against him.
  • Take the information initiative. Don't wait to be asked for information. Find out what the micromanager needs to feel confident and comfortable, then get it to him—ahead of time.
  • Practice the “art” of communication. No one fears inertia more than the micromanager. Show that you're working on priority projects by communicating in three specific terms— awareness, reassurance and timelines.
  • Stay clear on expectations. Clarify your agreements in a trail of memos and e-mails.
  • Renegotiate priorities. Come up with a simple, straightforward method—such as a numerical or a colour-coded system—for renegotiating the ever-shifting priorities.
  • Be pre-emptive on deadlines. The micromanager loves to impose and even distort deadlines. Be the first to talk—offering a timeline for when you can do a task (not when you can't).
  • Play by the rules. The micromanager enjoys catching people in the act. Avoid being an easy target and play by the rules—particularly on policies regarding time and technology.
  • Learn from the “best practices” of others. The micromanager backs off with some people more than others. Watch those individuals closely to learn the secrets of their success.

Choose your battles. The micromanager will go to war on every issue. Don't try to match him. Instead, choose the battles that are most important to you.

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