Hissy Fit - July 2018

Micromanaging; Way More Than a Little Problem


“For girls, friendship is the glue of childhood. It’s what makes your memories of growing up stick with you for the rest of your life.”

Micromanaging never works. It’s demoralizing. It oppresses the talented and shuts down the oppressed. Rarely does it inspire new solutions, encourage open mindedness, or stimulate positive collaboration. More often than not, experience has shown that when people are micromanaged, an insurmountable amount of alienation, pushback, and non-productivity is created. Basically, micromanaging breeds negativity, which is highly contagious.

Micromanaged employees form alliances fueled by the hatred of their micromanager. Usually, these frenzied alliances are nourished by incessant discussions about the micromanager’s perceived kingdom, where negativity—poor conditions, poor decisions, feeling unheard, feeling undermined, feeling unappreciated and disrespected—abounds. In fact, as “watercooler” talk increases, the negativity escalates, even if nothing has changed. Left untended, the situation can grow to monstrous proportions.

Micromanaging can be seen more than ever in today’s world. Corporate micromanagers are not the only ones making people’s lives miserable. Helicopter moms are nothing more than micromanagers. We all know these mothers have good intentions, but they often forget about the energy that fuels human beings: trust, earned praise, accomplishment, and a little thing called free will. When these four factors are combined, wondrous things begin to sprout: confidence, loyalty, satisfaction, respect, and returned trust.

According to Muriel Maignan Wilkins’ article, “Signs That You’re a Micromanager,” (Harvard Business Review 2014) most micromanagers don’t even know they are doing it. Wilkins states, however, that the signs are very clear. Factors such as never quite being satisfied with deliverables; feeling frustrated because you would’ve gone about the task differently; laser focus on details and/or pointing out corrections; and constant accountability (hovering) are a few notorious micromanagement habits.

Regardless of the setting—home, work, social, media, even political— micromanagement disintegrates trusting relationships, breaks down communication, and builds animosity.

Why am I writing about micromanagement? Because it’s become the American way. We micromanage everything! Do you realize when you place a special order at a restaurant you are micromanaging? In 1989, when the movie When Harry Met Sally was released, we all thought Meg Ryan’s character was a nut when she placed her persnickety, impossible diner order. Now it’s commonplace. It’s one thing if you have a chronic allergy or special dietary needs, but if you merely think you know better than what the trained, professional chef has concocted, you’re guilty of micromanaging. I understand you may not particularly like this or that ingredient, but could you give the chef a little trust? They are trained to know what flavors are absolutely delectable with each other. I have been at dinners where I ordered “chef’s choice,” meaning surprise me. It’s always been great. I may give a few parameters, like no squid ink, please, (been there, done that, did the laundry) but it’s actually fun to occasionally relinquish control and allow others’ talents to trump yours.

The same goes for children who are virtually bruised and burdened from the wind shear of their hovering parents. Similar to corporate teams that work under the microscope, micromanaged children will eventually break down, get disgruntled, form alliances against the micromanaging enemy and even withdraw or quit. Getting things wrong and doing things wrong are both important parts of learning. Most parents want life to be all smooth sailing for their children, but the problem is one never becomes a master sailor in smooth waters. By micromanaging your children, you are stealing their decision-making abilities and the natural processes from which we learn. Just like a baby must fall down many times before walking becomes sure and steady, we all must experience “falling” before mastering. Don’t micromanage this process out of your children’s lives; it is the solid foundation of confidence, accomplishment, and purpose—the keys to satisfaction.

I was somewhat micromanaged as a child, and felt like nothing I ever did was good enough or right enough. If I vacuumed, I would be instructed to vacuum the same room again because the first time was never good enough. I had to do that until my mom said it was okay, but I knew she still wasn’t happy with my vacuuming. I had no idea what made someone a good “vacuumer”; I just knew this was yet another thing I did wrong. This style of management (micro) incorporated into almost every move you make takes a long time to slough off. To this day, I am terrified to create a painting. I’m afraid I’ll do it wrong. Even though numerous artists have ensured me there is no right or wrong in art, I still feel paralyzed. Parents—that’s a true story right there about the effects of hovering 40 years later.

Lastly, let’s talk politics, and I don’t want to fight. My theory is our politicians are micromanaged by the media and by each other, and this is hurting our democracy. For years, news stations reported the world/national news for 30 minutes (10,950 minutes per year) and the local news for 30 minutes. Newspapers were printed daily and told what politicians were doing, not who politicians were doing. Today, oodles of news stations and Internet sources—both credible and non-credible — have to fill 525,600 minutes of news a year per station/outlet. There’s just not that much REAL news out there to report without downright micromanaging the politicians we Americans elected without getting petty—really, really, really petty—while trying to come across as important.

Again, what does micromanaging cause? Disintegrated relationships, poor communication, break down of trust, alliances against the micromanager, fear of being wrong, reduced decision making abilities, disgruntlement, pushback, non-productivity, and worst of all negativity, which by the way, is contagious!

Truly, it appears as if when one political party member attempts to intelligently discuss an issue with a member from the other party, he or she gets ridiculed. They may be grown men and women, but nobody wants to get ridiculed. Have you seen the State of the Union address where everyone on one side claps, while the other side stays seated, over and over and over again, for the entire address? This has gone on during at least the last few presidential addresses, maybe more. Why are we okay with this? You mean to tell me not ONE person in the opposing party doesn’t agree with the President on ANYTHING? They may, but who has a voice when they are being micromanaged. Perhaps a better word is bullied. I’m NOT saying politicians are innocent and not a part of the problem, but imagine having to do your job in a fish bowl on display for the entire world to judge, interpret, criticize, and slant your words to their interests. This is exactly what needing to fill 525,600 minutes worth of “news” for ONE station does—micromanages our representatives, ultimately weakening our entire country.

Remember what happens when a person and/or a team is not micromanaged? Wondrous things begin to sprout: confidence, loyalty, satisfaction, respect, and trust.

Imagine the possibilities.

Lady Liberty’s flame would gallantly beam.