If you’re being micromanaged or you think you are, try something new. View this as an opportunity to help you. You can convince yourself that the behavior isn’t personal once you understand it and become aware of its prevalence. Then you can capitalize on it.
Corporate psychologist Dave Popple, president of Psynet Group Corp. in New York City, refers to business’ “micromanagement” as the equivalent of psychology’s “controlling behavior.” It becomes problematic “when used as a defense against anxieties and insecurities,” he points out. “If you’re not performing well, and a person has to look over your shoulder, that person doesn’t necessarily qualify as a micromanager. Sometimes he’s saving you from making bigger mistakes.”
In Mountain View, Calif., transpersonal (spiritually based) psychologist Linda Blalock, a consultant in organizational change, characterizes micromanagement as “an interpretation of behavior by the person being managed: a feeling of annoyance, frustration and not being trusted” by a poor delegator and supervisor. She maintains that individuals with different world views interpret the phenomenon differently and that it presents an opportunity for you and your supervisor.
This perspective comes as good news, given results of a bilingual telephone survey by independent research firm SSRS in Media, Pa., in late May and early June. It was conducted on behalf of Accountemps, a division of Robert Half Inc., headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif. Of the more than 450 office workers polled in the United States, age 18 or older, 266 — well over 50 percent — reported that they’d been micromanaged. Most complained of productivity loss. This alarming statistic suggests that, because you’re likely to have an overbearing boss at one point or another, it’s wise to learn how to turn the situation to your advantage.
Francesca Gino, business administration professor at Harvard Business School and author of “Sidetracked,” writes that employers can subtly manipulate you into doing what they want by reframing in their communications with you (Harvard Business Review, $25). “…the framing of potential rewards, incentives and choices affects our motivation to achieve those rewards, though we usually are unaware of such framing effects.” She adds that when employers incorporate some of these tactics to draw out your individuality and skills, both you and the organization benefit. Is turnabout fair play? You can do better.
Promote a partnership with an opportunity for both of you to grow, Blalock advises. This response will also help you rise above manipulation. “Think about roadblocks to getting the work or project done and ask the micromanager to help remove them,” she says. “This gives the micromanager something legitimate to do to help the work along and perhaps find some breathing room, increasing efficiency and productivity. The tactic allows the micromanager to feel useful and satisfied that the work is done ‘correctly.’ ”
Popple shows how you can protect yourself and your career by capitalizing on having conversations with the person. Because you most likely want to be judged on a result rather than a task, ask what result the person is seeking.
“This gives you an opportunity to highlight your skill set,” Popple explains. “Talk to the person about documenting the results you see in an email. You’ll have a whole record of successes for a performance appraisal or promotion” — a real asset if you’re passed over. Does the company tie your compensation to your performance appraisal score? If so, he says you’ll be particularly motivated to use this method, because HR will see that you’re performing above average.
What’s the upshot? Blalock notes that “you can learn to anticipate the behavior and start to accommodate it.” In addition, you can make it benefit and protect your career.
Dr. Mildred L. Culp of WorkWise® welcomes your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2014 Passage Media.