FAIRBANKS - The following story is true, and the names have been disguised to protect a supervisor’s job:
Farley, a supervisor at a prestigious organization, was complaining to me the other day about his employees’ grumbling, uncooperativeness and poor customer service. I asked him, “Did you hire them that way, or did you make them like that on the job?”
I’m afraid that put an end to that potential consulting contract!
Based upon extensive research I have conducted via MBWA — Management by Wandering Around — it appears that mismotivating micromanagement is a widespread problem in organizations, which is made worse because micromanagers do not realize that they are doing so. Dictionary.com defines micromanagement as “to manage or control with excessive attention to minor details.” The key words in this definition are not “manage or control” — those are good things — rather, the key words that one should pay attention to are “excessive attention” and “minor details.”
Futurist Joel A. Barker asserts that the “role of leadership is to find, recognize and secure the future.” If the leader is doing this, then he or she will not have time to micromanage the present. Taking care of the present is the follower’s (i.e., the employee) job. If the leader does not pay attention to the future, then no one will give thanks for what the leader has done for two reasons: Firstly, the leader is doing the follower’s job, and secondly, chances are good that the future will not be very rosy due to the leader’s micromanaging.
Micromanagers really don’t know they are micromanaging, and they suffer from their good intentions. Their motivations are usually pure while having the best interest of the organization in their hearts. They want the organization to succeed and be all that it could be. They work hard and spend far more time at work than they should. They tend to be perfectionists. But, by doing their followers’ jobs they are not delegating effectively, they make mistakes and they always end up losing their most competent followers who physically (or mentally) quit.
So, the question is, “How do I know if I’m guilty of micromanaging my employees?” If you get a few copies of this column under your door, then that might be a clue. If not, still ask yourself whether you train well and then delegate without always having to check. Are you willing to let your employees fail? Or, more importantly, do you surround yourself with competent, well-trained and motivated employees whom you not only listen to but also are willing to take their advice over your own? Most importantly, is your focus on the future or are you overly concerned with what is happening right now?
Farley met me for lunch, and I attempted to salvage the consulting contract. He disclosed that his boss required him and the other supervisors to call and report activity every hour. He then had to file a report each evening and after his 55 hour/week shift ended (this is true!). Remember, supervisors who are not served well, do not serve the rank-and-file well, who will, in turn, not serve the customers well. I decided that there was not much I could do to help Farley, but I would have loved to tackle his boss.
Farley’s boss is wasting everyone’s time — including his own — while also wasting profits and spreading dissatisfaction throughout the organization. Farley, who is very competent, is looking for a new job.
Micromanaging isn’t always “bad”; in some occasions, it is appropriate to be a micromanager. If your employees are lazy, unmotivated or incompetent, then a leader would be a fool to not micromanage them until possibly needing to fire them if those employees’ habits do not change.
But then, that would beg the question: “Did you hire them that way, or did you make them like that on the job?”
Charle Dexter is a professor of applied business emeritus. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column is provided as a public service by the UAF Community and Technical Colleges.