In my over 25 years of experience, I have seen every type of manager you could imagine. The one that seems to always get under my skin is the Micro Manager. I could never understand why they felt the need to do my job for me. If they want to do my job why am I here? If they want my job why didn’t they apply for it and get rid of me? Am I doing my job right? Boy, she’s a jerk, doesn’t she know I’ve been doing this for years now, and without her help? These questions and many more always seem to pop in my head. The questions that I seem to ask always revert back to how I am personally performing. Ironic isn’t it?
The first thing you need to realize is that micro managers often are not aware that they are doing it. That’s right, they don’t know that they are micro managing. They sometimes have reasons for the requests they make of you but just don’t convey the message well. Let me give you an example:
I had a new supervisor that worked to cover the weekend shifts. She was new to the company and the position, straight out of college. The first thing she did was implement a duty roster for the weekend crew that needed to be filled out by all the Team Leaders before Thursday morning. It was a giant spread sheet with each position for the shop floor having an open spot for Saturday and Sunday. She printed out the spreadsheet and posted it on the wall of the Team Leader’s office and then sent an email telling all of them to fill in the blanks by Thursday.
This was a simple task to be done by the Team Leaders, it was already part of their job to schedule workers for the weekend, but it went over like a lead balloon. All of the Team Leaders questioned her method. Things like:
Why do we have to put the names of her sheet, I already have one?
Who does she think she is making major changes like this, we haven’t needed this before?
I’ve been fine on the weekends without her here before. Why do I need her now and why does she need to know who I’m bringing in this weekend? Doesn’t she trust me to cover my area?
As you can see, the questions flew. Most of these questions were directed at the performance of the Team Leaders abilities and dealing with change. Reluctantly, the sheet was filled out. And it was filled out again for the next few weeks with snide remarks about the methods of the supervisor flying everywhere. Then one weekend an operator showed up to work that wasn’t on the schedule. This operator had spoke with the Team Leader about working but the Team Leader neglected to add them to the list. The new supervisor promptly sent them home stating they were not scheduled on the list.
You can imagine the tempers getting harder to deal with at this point. The operator went to his Team Leader and complained in anger about coming all the way to work only to be sent home. The Team Leader complaining to his boss about scheduling someone who was needed and having them sent home. And finally, the supervisor justifying her reason was that the employee was not on the schedule. Oh and the comments were flying around about how useless her schedule was.
Finally, I decided that I needed to find out what was so important about the schedule. I asked the weekend supervisor if I could talk to her for a minute. My goal was to just make her aware of what was going on without making her feel intimidated. We went into her office and I simply asked, what is so important about this schedule that you have us fill out?
Her answer: I have to know who is in the building on the weekends due to evacuations for one thing. The other is to ensure that we have adequate staffing to increase the production for the weekend. If the staffing is not adequate and I know this by Thursday morning I have a few days to configure the production schedule or find people to cover the areas that are critical.
Wow, she has a few great reasons for her schedule. My next thought was why didn’t she say that in the beginning? So, I explained to her that with a change like this she might want to explain the reasons behind the spreadsheet to the Team Leaders. I told her that I understood her reasoning now that she has stated them and I thought that the other Team Leaders would understand them as well. I followed up by asking her if she could send out a communication with her reasoning behind the spreadsheet? And I explained that change is hard for people in general so that an explanation might ease the situation in the future. She understood and agreed.
As you can see in this example, she wasn’t trying to micro manage anyone and had valid reasons for her request. Even being unaware it was perceived as micro management and easily fixed.
When you are faced with someone who seems to be micro managing you consider the overall picture before jumping to the conclusion. If you can’t see the reason, then ask, remain professional and just ask.
Another type of micro manager is the one that is jockeying for their next position. These micro managers have an agenda to make a name for themselves. They require that you make them aware of every single thing that you do. You may have been doing the job correctly for years without having to report your status every minute but that doesn’t matter to them. These micro managers are more difficult to deal with. A conversation with them might lead to nano management which is an even worse situation for you.
To handle this, first consider what information the person is asking for. Would you benefit by just sending him a daily report with status updates? Could you update the person on details midday and satisfy their need for information? If one of these ideas works for you it might be your best solution. When these won’t work you can try to have the conversation but plan it ahead of time and make sure to leave emotion out of it. Let me give you an example:
I had a manager that insisted on having daily meetings that seem to be a waste of my time. He never provided any information for me to use and he already knew the situations that I was facing with regards to the production on the floor. I attended the meetings everyday and it satisfied his need for details.
One day I had an issue with material handlers not delivering material to my production lines on time. I contacted the supervisor in materials and had the situation corrected. I then followed up by communicating the issue via email to the materials coordinator to make him aware of the corrections needed within our support groups.
Within a hour of the email being sent, I received a response that was forwarded to all of upper management by my supervisor. My supervisor stated that next time I have a situation like this I need to contact him so that he can deal with it. This type of micro managing is toxic. At this point I needed to have the conversation.
Planning the conversation starts with knowing that you cannot be emotional. Don’t think about how you feel only state what the facts are. The facts of this case involve my evaluation. My evaluation is based on my ability to handle production situations without asking for help but also knowing when I need to ask for help. With this in mind I am ready to have the conversation.
I either schedule the meeting or ask the supervisor if they have a minute to talk. Remember if they state they don’t have time when you ask, always schedule the meeting at a later time. Trying to get your point across to a person who is busy never works. In the meeting thank them for their time and then proceed into the issue you have. Don’t blame them or state they are a micro manager. Instead, explain that the situation was handled and the reason you did not ask for help from them was to develop yourself for your upcoming evaluation. Let him know that you did not inform him of the situation but would have if you were not able to resolve it. This kind of approach lets them know they are still needed and gives you reason for not involving them in every move. Remain professional and open minded to requests for updates.
In either situation, remember to think about what the other person is trying to accomplish and how you are the key to their success. Dealing with micro managers to me is the most difficult situation to be in. With a little effort and communication you can survive.