Recently, I asked an audience of project and program managers to raise their hands if they liked to be micromanaged. Not surprisingly, no one did. Then I asked them to raise their hands if they were micromanagers. A few honest people did. After I prodded them a bit, quite a few more put their hands up.
Why is it that people don’t like to be micromanaged, but when they become managers that’s exactly what they do?
Look, I’m not a psychiatrist, but I find this contradictory behavior a tad strange. I think project managers mircromanage because 1.) they don’t have confidence in the ability of the people who work for them; in short, they believe that their team members don’t have what it takes to get the job done; and, 2.) they hold the view (perhaps subconsciously) that no one could do the job as well as they themselves could do it so they need to stay on top of them to make sure it’s done right (meaning, the project manager’s way).
What signals do you send when you micromanage team members? I think it’s simple: you don’t trust them. You don’t think they can do the job, or worse, you let them know you think they need to be constantly prodded to get the job done. In short, you become worse than a guard in a watchtower monitoring their every move. Hey, even prisoners get to exercise in the prison yard! Not a pretty picture.
If you find yourself micromanaging people, the good news is there’s something you can, and should, do about it. For example, examine the number of reports and reviews you have with your team and eliminate some while keeping a set schedule of critical meetings. Make sure you and your reports agree as to what reports are required and when.
If you are being micromanaged confront your manager. Probe as to why he or she believes it’s necessary for you to be subject to such constant supervision and monitoring. Describe how you can provide them with the information they need without having to resort to such counterproductive tactics. I once told a manager of mine that he was acting in a way that indicated he was almost ashamed of me as one of his direct reports. Believe me, he never expected me to say that, and his behavior changed immediately.
Reasonable people will understand your feelings and make attempts to change. Some people, however, aren’t reasonable. If you’re working for a Theory X manager in Theory Y clothing, you’re in for a struggle. Not to say it can’t be done, but it’s going to take a bit longer than expected.
So, to answer my own question, are you a Project (Micro) Manager? If you don’t like to be micromanaged why in the world would someone else want to be?