Judging by the almost-universal understanding of the term micromanager, many of us have experienced micromanagement. It's pretty easy to detect micromanaging when someone else is doing it, but it's difficult to see it when we're doing it ourselves. Micromanagers are everywhere — even inside us.
One reason it's so hard to see our own micromanaging behavior is our reluctance to face the possibility that we're hurting other people. That's why our own behavior can be easier to see if we look at how we micromanage ourselves.Here are some warning signs that your inner micromanager might need some retraining:
- You feel guilty about sleeping late, even on your days off, and even if you're exhausted.
- Whenever you get a parking ticket, you feel really horrible — out of all proportion to the offense.
- You don't have a "free" minute. Every bit of time is accounted for. It's been months since you've had the experience of just hanging out, in the way you did so easily in your teens.
- You berate yourself if you do something just well enough. You could have done better.
- You rarely celebrate achievements or acknowledge successes, because you're afraid that if you do, you might get too comfortable or ease off.
- When you put anything at all on your To-Do list, you have a clear idea of the right way to do it. You rarely let yourself try new or more interesting approaches.
is difficult to detect
when we're doing
it ourselvesWhen you travel somewhere, even for a routine errand, you always take the "best" route — never trying a different, more scenic, or more adventurous one.
- You constantly ask yourself when you'll complete some particular task. When you do complete it, or if it goes on hold for reasons beyond your control, you start nagging yourself about some other task.
- You question yourself about decisions you can't undo.
- You blame yourself if a decision you made turns out badly, even if you did your best with the information you had at the time.
- You compare yourself to others, especially when the comparison is unfavorable to you. You give too little weight — or don't even acknowledge — aspects of those comparisons that are favorable to you.
- You don't trust yourself with difficult decisions. You give more weight to the advice of others, even when they couldn't possibly know any more than you do.
- You keep a close eye on all your spending, requiring that every penny be accounted for and every expenditure be justified.
If any of these rang bells, and you want some training for your inner micromanager, remember that there's no best way to do it. Any way that works is a good way. On your next day off, you can start by sleeping late. Top Next Issue
For a survey of tactics for managing pressure, take a look at the series that begins with "Managing Pressure: Communications and Expectations," Point Lookout for December 13, 2006.
For more about micromanagement, see "When Your Boss Is a Micromanager," Point Lookout for December 5, 2001; "There Are No Micromanagers," Point Lookout for January 7, 2004; "How to Tell If You Work for a Nanomanager," Point Lookout for March 7, 2007; "Reverse Micromanagement," Point Lookout for July 18, 2007; and "Lateral Micromanagement," Point Lookout for September 10, 2008.
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More articles on Emotions at Work:
- Responding to Rumors
- Have you ever heard nasty rumors about yourself? When rumors are damaging, they can hurt our careers,
our self-esteem, and even our health. Sadly, our response to rumors often compounds the serious damage
- Begging the Question
- Begging the question is a common, usually undetected, rhetorical fallacy. It leads to unsupported conclusions
and painful places we just can't live with. What can we do when it happens?
- When You Can't Even Think About It
- Some problems are so difficult or scary that we can't even think about how to face them. Until we can
think, action is not a good idea. How can we engage our brains for the really scary problems?
- Not Really Part of the Team: II
- When some team members hang back, declining to show initiative, we tend to overlook the possibility
that their behavior is a response to something happening within or around the team. Too often we hold
responsible the person who's hanging back. What other explanations are possible?
- Scope Creep, Hot Hands, and the Illusion of Control
- Despite our awareness of scope creep's dangerous effects on projects and other efforts, we seem unable
to prevent it. Two cognitive biases — the "hot hand fallacy" and "the illusion
of control" — might provide explanations.
See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.
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- When we attribute the behavior of members of groups to some cause, either personal or situational, we tend to make systematic errors. Those errors can be expensive and avoidable. Available here and by RSS on February 21.
- And on February 28: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: I
- Briefly, when people exhibit narcissistic behavior they're engaging in activity that systematically places their own interests and welfare ahead of the interests and welfare of anyone or anything else. It's behavior that threatens the welfare of the organization and everyone employed there. Available here and by RSS on February 28.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.