In my 29 years as an employee, supervisor and manager I have had many “bosses” all with their own style and “hot buttons.” As I reflect on what I liked and disliked about them, micromanagement seems to be the area that was the biggest challenge for me. I would like to discuss how micromanagement affects employees and ultimately the overall operation. Some would argue that there is a time and place for micromanaging, I personally have not found too much success in the practice over the long haul.
Early on in my management career, micromanaging was all I knew to get things done. My rationale was, I was selected to be a manager because I had excelled at getting things done. I felt I knew how to get results and my systems would certainly carry us to greatness. For a little while it did actually work, but soon my world seemed to collapse around me and I was left wondering why.
Nothing could have prepared me for the feeling of betrayal I experienced the first time I discovered one of my employees not doing what they were supposed to do. After all, they were my loyal coworkers; I was just one of them not too long ago. It seemed that not everyone felt my way was the best way to get things done. In an effort to make corrections, I started to micromanage every aspect of their work. I did not expect the push back from my “friends” and I became stressed out. I did not achieve any of my goals. Our performance was not getting better. Nobody seemed happy.
It was during this time that I got a new boss to report to who was also a micromanager. I remember feeling very angry about this new person. I could not get passed the thought that this person wasn’t in my department every day, how can he know anything about my job? I felt like quitting. That is when it hit me, if I felt like this about my boss, most certainly my techs had similar feelings for me.
Luckily, I had a good support group to lean on and I got help to combat my issues. What I learned was to focus on outcomes, clear and defined outcomes. I let the techs workout their own schedules and how they wanted to work. I just provided them with absolutes and goals, like coverage times and quality indicators; I left the how up to them.
It is not easy to trust and give up control of things that are important. I think to be successful at not micromanaging, there has to be a fundamental paradigm shift for one to be completely free of it (micromanaging). You must see your employees as people who want to do a great job and who want to have fulfilling positive lives. When I think of our employees from this angle it allows me to focus on the “why” and instead of the “who.” I think when we focus on why things aren’t going the way we plan, instead of solely on who isn’t getting it done, we identify true root causes to issues. How would you ever know there is a system problem or a process problem if all you did was focus on the person not getting it done?
One great advantage of not micromanaging your people is it does allow the manager time to focus on special projects and more strategic issues. By getting out of the daily activity a manager can work on developing his people, networking with customers or projects that can benefit the entire organization at a higher level.
My favorite line is, “You only have two types of employees; those who are committed and those who are compliant.” Micromanagement almost always cultivates compliant employees (those employees that do just enough to stay employed) because they do not feel empowered to do things their way and improve their own work practices.
Fortunately for me, the leadership team I get to work with today is not made up of micromanagers. They empower me to do what I need to do to run a great program. They give me the guard rails I need to keep me out of trouble, but ultimately I am free to run the daily activity as I see fit. In turn, I have given my employees the flexibility to manage their workloads on their own with limited interference from me.
Jim Fedele, CBET, is the director of clinical engineering for Susquehanna Health Systems in Williamsport, Pa. He can be reached for questions and/or comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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