The micromanager

Feb. 18, 2008
“The great corrupter of public man is the ego ... looking at the mirror distracts one‘s attention from the problem.” --Dean Acheson, secretary of state under President Harry Truman. OK, we all know that details matter in trucking, largely because a ...

“The great corrupter of public man is the ego ... looking at the mirror distracts one‘s attention from the problem.” --Dean Acheson, secretary of state under President Harry Truman.

OK, we all know that details matter in trucking, largely because a few pennies here and there can make the difference between profits and losses for a carrier. But there is such a thing as going overboard on the details - micromanaging things to a point where employee (especially driver) morale goes south. Micromanagement is no stranger to trucking, too, due to the ‘family-owned‘ nature of many carriers out there. I mean, if it‘s a company your family built up over decades, you are dang certain to be engrossed in the details - it‘s your baby, after all. In many cases, too, it‘s your name on the side of the trucks and trailers as well.

But micromanagement has a lot of pitfalls - especially in terms of its impact on human relations. That‘s why I‘m going to let Professor Jerry Osteryoung from the College of Business at Florida State University address the subject. He‘s seen the negative impact micromanagement can create first hand, as well as the benefits micromanagement‘s opposite - delegation and trust - can bring to the table as well. Professor Osteryoung, the floor is yours:

“When I first started to work as an engineer (this was a long time ago), I had a boss that had to make changes to our work no matter what we brought him. Eventually, the staff got tired of his comments. They stopped showing him work-related projects when they could avoid it, and the projects they did show him had little of their creativity, as they knew he was just going to make several suggestions (more like orders) for improvements.

In this case, his micromanaging caused the morale of the engineering department to drop so low that they had to replace the manager. The sad thing about this episode is that he, like most micromanagers, did not even realize he was micromanaging. Employees, on the other hand, always seem to know when they are being micromanaged.

The classic definition of a micromanager (sometimes referred to as a meddler) is someone who closely watches and controls the work of staff. Rather than delegating work to be done, the manager watches all the projects very closely. This is just not a good management style at all. Micromanaging destroys the morale of an entire organization and discourages people from trying to be creative and effective. More often than not, staff needs to be told that they did a good job without any corrections or modifications.

While you clearly need to know what is going on in your organization, staying in the know is significantly different than watching and commenting on every decision. Try to understand when you are being given information as compared when you are being asked for advice. So many emails are there just to inform you, and staff does not want or appreciate your comments on them. Another type of micromanager is someone who has been with the company for years and has worked up to a management position. This individual thinks that their role is still to produce rather than to manage people. This type of manager alienates staff and becomes ineffective.

In order to fix the problem, you first need to find out if you are a micromanager. The best way to do this is to ask someone you trust to find out what the staff feels about your management style, since they are the ones who are really impacted by this type of management. I have seen many micromanagers change their ways to become great managers once they were made aware of their tendencies.

One thing that seems to help micromanagers is to simply understand the difference between helping and meddling. One of the best ways to see if you are meddling is to ask staff to tell you, with no repercussions, when you are meddling. As staff does not like to be micromanaged, I promise they will tell you if you ask them.

I think the real secret to helping a micromanager is remembering that staff is valuable and that they are being paid to do a good job. Many micromanagers just do not trust their staff, and this is a difficult problem to fix. One micromanaging entrepreneur that I was working with had some issues from his childhood that prevented him from trusting employees and being promoted. He went in for counseling and was able to fix the trust issue, and as a result, the staff noticed a significant change. The staff felt so free because their manager was able to let go of his micromanaging tendencies and trust them with their tasks.”

Of course, changing your management style is no easy task - especially if it‘s produced good results to date for your carrier. But the whole point isn‘t to focus just on what‘s happening today: it‘s about preparing for the future as well, being in the best position possible to handle new and different challenges down the road.

To contact Professor Jerry Osteryoung, you can e-mail him at [email protected] or call 850-644-3372.

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