by Dean Duane Strojny
Within the course of three months I was told by different staff that I was both a micromanager and the best director to work for. Now of course, the compliment was very well received. Not many people have a positive experience with their boss. Over the years, I have heard many stories about directors who avoid conflict, do not provide support, and generally are too busy with law faculty and administrators to pay any attention to their hard working support staff and librarians. I hope to never be in that category, but the micromanager accusation hit me hard. Over the years, with more duties added to my slate including overseeing departments outside of the library, I had hoped I moved away from micromanaging tendencies.
The Harvard Business Review lists the following signs of micromanagers:
- You’re never quite satisfied with deliverables.
- You often feel frustrated because you would’ve gone about the task differently.
- You laser in on the details and take great pride and /or pain in making corrections.
- You constantly want to know where all your team members are and what they’re working on.
- You ask for frequent updates on where things stand.
- You prefer to be cc’d on emails.
HBR goes on to say:
Let’s face it. Paying attention to details and making sure the work is getting done are important. So it’s easy to chalk all of the above up to a necessary part of managing. But they aren’t necessary all the time. The problem with micromanagers is that they apply the same level of intensity, scrutiny and in-your-face approach to every task, whether warranted or not. The bottom line is: you need to stop. It’s harming your team’s morale and – ultimately – their productivity.
Everyone has some of the above tendencies. The challenge is how to control them. Deliverables should be spelled out clearly. Directors need to participate by being available for questions, answering them promptly, and allowing staff to complete the job on their own terms. Unless a task needs to be done a specific way, let them determine how it is done. My most recent complaint to my Heads of Public Services was about our head count statistic form. Each of the four library locations had a slightly different form. One had a different time. My job in the last year has been to summarize this information for our President since we are having ongoing discussions on what our extended hours should be. The need for consistent forms reeled its ugly head, and I made that fact known. If I am to defend the hours and staffing, I need to compare apples to apples. Was this micromanaging? Another recent complaint came from someone who did not want to move to an online calendaring system and share their work calendar with me. They had not been supervised that way in the past and thought I just was being too nosey. Was this micromanaging? I share the details of my calendar with everyone in the library. Downward sharing is fine? Often expected? Yet upward sharing isn’t?
On the opposite end of the management spectrum is the uninvolved supervisor. Does your library director know you? Can they carry on at least a five minute conversation with you? My thought is that I need to know enough about at least the full-time staff to know that they are leading happy and healthy lives outside of the office because if that is the case, then I know they will be happier at work. If your mother is in a nursing home, I want to know how that is going. If your child is on a sports team and really enjoys it, that gives me some perspective on what motivates you.
In retrospect, I have come to terms that I am a decent supervisor with room for improvement. That is what I thought before I received recent feedback from staff. If nothing else, it made me re-evaluate things and assess my management skills. So, do not hesitate to let the boss know what you think. It really can be useful on both sides with you letting a little steam off and the director having a growth opportunity. If you are the boss, be open to constant improvement. It will benefit not only you but also your work environment.
Look at this article to gauge where you are concerning managing.