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Is micromanagement killing Generation X/Y?

This blog was originally published by John, the Chief Information Security Officer for Young Government Leaders, on the YGL website: http://www.younggovernmentleaders.org/blog.htm

Is micromanagement killing generation X/Y?

“The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
Theodore Roosevelt

Humans have incredible potential. If you set a path for advancement and challenge people you will often be pleasantly surprised. One of the biggest struggles a senior manager can face is a lower level manager that refuses to allow his or her people to grow. Employee satisfaction will last only so long and management must encourage growth at all levels and hold those accountable.

When an employee feels micromanaged they become pressured and demoralized thereby distancing themselves from work. In the worst scenario, the employee may focus only to earn their salary, leaving motivation at home resulting in little productivity.

To avoid this situation, managers should establish goals with organization mission and employee development plans and each must stay updated and aligned. Otherwise the employee receives a sense of confusion and lack of satisfaction in their work. I recently went through this exercise and had a hard time mapping my personal goals to the organization’s mission so what’s the problem here?

A read from a colleague that speculated “micromanagement is so prevalent because it passed from generation of leaders that were applauded and promoted in this backwards environment”

If you feel unrestricted and empowered I believe you will hold increase morale and ambition. When this happens, you feel comfortable thinking independently and pitching new ideas fostering performance, innovation, and creativity.

Can you relate to this quote?

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14 Comments

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Profile Photo Steve Ressler

I agree. One of my great hopes to move around micromanagement is the birth of Ideagoras (Idea banks). Organizations like TSA and Dell have them where any employee can submit an ideas, employees vote the best ideas, and leaderhsip implements the top ideas. It allows an outlet for ideas even if you are being micromanaged.

Profile Photo Scott Horvath

I completely agree. I’ve worked several jobs where my direct supervisor and their management were all micromanagers. The entire time there I never felt as if I had accomplished anything, even though I actually had. It was as if the product that I had built hadn’t been contributed to by me. Every aspect of it was from someone else’s thoughts and direction and not my own. They might as well have just built it themselves and left me out of it.

Fortunately, I’m now in a position where it’s completely the opposite and I can tell you that I actually enjoy going to work now and building new products and testing new ideas. I’m definitely not micromanaged anymore. I actually feel like what I do is contributing to the overall goals of the office and organization. I’m given the chance to run with an idea and see how it plays out. Because I’m not micromanaged I end up wanting to do more on my own and work harder simply because I know I won’t be shot down all the time, and because I don’t have someone peaking over my shoulder questioning every little action I take. It makes a big difference when you’re not micromanaged.

But with less micromanagement comes more “my management” and responsibility for your own actions. If you’re not the type of person that can effectively manage their own duties and keep track of what you’re doing then you’re not going to get very far.

Profile Photo Kate Yemelyanov

Oh good. I just saw this on the YGL blog and wanted to comment, but comments weren’t enabled. Micromanagement is the workplace equivalent of helicopter parenting. I posit that that both arose in the normative void created by the social revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s. With no clear set of social norms and expectations to lean on in instructing their subordinates/offspring, the bosses/parents of the baby boom adopted this tack to prevent injury and failure for their work/family units. Maybe the children of the helicopter parents will be okay with this, but for me and my fellow Xers it’s not an effective style (unless the goal is sabotage, of course).

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hi all! Thanks for support on my post. I fixed the comment feature.

My hope is that one day all of us become SESers and model effective management styles

Profile Photo Margaret

My question would be, if the boss is micromanaging, who is doing the job of thinking about the big picture? Micromanagement is not only dangerous for the employer-employee relationship but for the health of the overall unit the boss is managing.

I suppose this is where “leading up” comes in: trying to shape your boss’ thinking and actions. Trying to divert his or her attention away from your work and back onto their own. “You know, boss, my work is important but it’s really crucial that we make sure my part fits into the team’s overall strategy. Can you help me understand how I fit into the big picture?” The problem is, that shouldn’t be the employee’s job and it’s probably too naive to think that will fix the micromanagement problem for good.

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Margie – exactly! I feel like we are thinking way too tactical and missing the strategic goals we should aim to achieve.

My motto which I dont know where it came from but it would be – “focus on the important, not the urgent”

Profile Photo Kate Yemelyanov

Sometimes close management is appropriate, like if you’re training someone to handle a new responsibility or working with an employee who needs help focusing. But the difference between managing something closely and micromanagement is that the latter stifles initiative (“you will do what I tell you to do, how and when I tell you to do it”) while the former gives some latitude within narrow but clearly defined parameters (“here are the tasks to be performed, here is what I need to see and when”). Being closely managed can be very helpful when you’re taking on something new or out of your depth; being micromanaged always stinks.

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I understand your point but I think it could be worded differently. If I’m training or mentoring someone closely I dont feel that as “managing”. Hold people accountable, let them breath a little and see where it goes! If they wander too far from the pack give them a tug and some feedback so they know what’s going on.

Profile Photo George B.

I gotta believe that there are plenty of Gen X/Y’ers out there that are micro managers. I don’t believe it is a generational thing. I am 66 and have been given a lot of latitude from some bosses in my career, in turn I have provided latitude to many.

Some people require more hands on than others. Some job duties require a tactical approach others more strategic. If you are in a 24X7 operational environment – a tactical approach is of essence – the health and safety of the system. If you are a advanced systems engineer a strategic approach to pushing the limits of technology within your time frame is paramount.

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Thanks Aquia for the comment. That may be true because it is passed from generation to generation of leaders so genx/y may be learning it from their mentors.

Of course operational environments require more hands on.

Profile Photo Jeff S

I had a micromanager boss when I first got to DC. This manager wordsmithed everything that was sent to them and would change letters and reports constantly. They also didnt have any idea on how to delegate work which left them constantly behind on projects. My new boss is hands off you got the work done so your doing fine. He will offer suggestions but doesnt constantly need to change things into govt speak. A most excellent manager if there ever was one.