What’s the Reverse of Micro-Managing?

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This topic contains 9 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Philip L. Hoffman 8 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #103106

    Steve Ressler

    So I was hanging out with my father last week who is a retired fed who worked his way up from line worker at IRS all the way up to managing thousands of people.

    We were talking about management and I asked him what is the #1 mistake most people make as managers…

    He said….


    Basically his point was that actually most people are afraid of micro-managing since they are often managing their former co-workers or never were trained properly. So they dont provide enough guidance, clarity, information on tasks.

    When in actuality…people want to be managed. Want to be given directions and clear assignments.

    Thoughts? Is there a word for reverse micro-managing? Under-managing?

  • #103124

    Philip L. Hoffman

    Your father has wisdom that needs hearing, so thanks for bringing it here. Far too many federal organizations promote without adequate training, and while a few technical SME’s are good managers by nature, most are not. Yet they end up being the Office Directors – in no small part because they stuck it out.

    Federal agencies need to train people to be managers, and that training needs to be an explicit part of the employee’s development and performance plans. Agencies also need to make standards of practice for managers clear, and managers in turn need to communicate that along the chain below them.

    I often wonder, however, how much of the lack of real active management in our organizations falls back to the fact that our most senior managers are political appointees, and thus not really part of the culture of the agency.

  • #103122

    Steve Ressler

    Great point…that’s the #1 thing I hear from people. You get promoted for technical skills which does not make you a good manager. And actually often the reverse. As if technically skilled, you want to be left alone and do your thing…which leads to undermgmt

  • #103120

    Philip L. Hoffman

    It goes further then that. Or organization seems to promote for both technical skill and education level, so you have to have a science Ph.D. to get many GS-15 equivalent management positions. No scientist I know, myself included, was ever trained in management. But you rarely see managers without the degree.

  • #103118

    Steve Ressler

    Interesting…Hard part too is that it’s hard to define great mgmt vs tactical skills.

  • #103116

    Henry Brown

    more than passing relevance is my favorite quote is “You manage things, you lead people.” from Admiral Hopper. and when you combine the fact, that as you and others have said, the training for leaders is minimal even to the point that the old saying “leaders are born not made” has more than a passing influence in some organization. …

    Probably, the best supervisor I ever had fully understood that everyone was not the same and that it took special skills to recognize what motivated each staff member and to apply the motivation to that individual. In some cases that means providing detailed guidance/directions in other cases that means simply providing the goal(s) and letting the employee go for it.

    In the case of supervisors being directed to lead their previous co-workers a case could be made that a significant percentage of new leaders initially “ASS U ME” that detailed guidance is NOT a requirement regardless of where the individual team members are on the Maslow’s Triangle. And it is only through training and or experience that the supervisor learns to lead effectively.

    One of the ways that the US Navy use to deal with this issue was shortly after promotion to a new leadership position every effort was made to insure that the new leader was NOT in charge of previous co-workers. and in many cases leadership training was part of the transfer process.

  • #103114

    Steve, I don’t know that there’s an actual term for this. I personally refer to it as “hands-off” management. Yes, I agree with your father. Employees want guidance, and they want expectations to be clearly defined. A company has a vision; management implements that vision through oversight, direction, and training. When completely left to themselves without feedback (negative and positive), the full potential of employees is wasted. I wish they would teach a course to managers (and maybe I’ll do it myself)… I’d call it “The 7 Deadly Sins of Micro-Management… and the 10 Mortal Wounds of Hands-Off Management”.

  • #103112

    Chandra M. Broadnax

    Micro management has such a bad connotation in the US. Depending on which side of the fence a manager’s strengths are, it seems logical that micro and macro management should go hand in hand in order to lead effectively.

  • #103110

    Denise Petet

    I have a supervisor that micromanages. To the point that you, as an adult, feel like you’re being treated like an incompetent child as you are grilled if you did this or did that or did this or checked on that. And I’m like ‘you know, i was doing this job before you were hired and you couldn’t even do my job, so how about you trust me and respect me and let me do it?’

    There’s no one answer. Sometimes a simple ‘here’s the goal, here’s the guidelines, here’s the rules, get it done’ is enough. For others, they need constant prodding and input.

    However, on the downside of micromanaging, you end up with a bunch of employees that either resent the heck out of you or are so stifled and stymied that they don’t grow at all and what you’ll get are the mediocre ones staying and the good ones – the ones that can lead – leaving for greener pastures where they feel respected. If you’re obsessed with making sure everyone is working FOR you, few will be able to work WITH you.

    So if you’re a micromanager that likes to be ‘large and in charge’ that’s great. If you ever want to be able to take a day off and not worry about the employees doing their jobs without your ‘input’ then you better give them some leash and let them run.

    In many ways, a manger’s job is to mentor and tutor employees to eventually fill his/her job – while they get their own jobs done. If you hands off too much, you don’t mentor, if you micromanage you don’t mentor, you stifle.

    As to the appointee situation, yeah, that is an issue. Because, quite often, the appointee only has a passing knowledge of what they’re managing, but often feels the need to look and sound competent. And most of them lack the strength of character to admit ‘hey, i’m just an appointee’ and find a good second in command that actually knows the job who can run the place.

    I think, if the work is getting done, things are accounted for and no one is taking advantage, you can hands of manage…but if the opposite is true, better earn your paycheck and do the job you’ve been appointed to or hired for.

  • #103108

    Reading all of this I am thinking…look at it from the manager’s perspective. (I am not a manager.) Usually they have about ten million things to do every day besides micromanage their staffs. So if they are going out of their way to do this, look for the logical reason first:

    1 – Is the manager under a lot of pressure to show results? (of course)

    2 – Is the staff performing up to par? (if not everyone is, then manager will be nervous about everyone’s performance b/c the staff is judged as a team)

    3 – Is the relationship with the employee adversarial, and therefore the manager has to document poor performance?

    4 – Does manager see employee as untrustworthy, inconsistent, etc.

    If none of these apply we are in the realm of the psychological/irrational.

    I also agree that training can be helpful for technical folks.

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