When It's Okay To Micromanage

Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA
Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA

Nobody likes to be micromanaged and we usually associate it with an overbearing boss who just likes to stick his nose into everyone’s business. Micro-management, however, does have its rightful place in many workplace situations.

Recently I was meeting with a regulatory and compliance officer for a technology firm and she shared about the challenges she faces in influencing her colleagues about the importance of her role. Sure, she can be a pain in the butt, she admitted, but her primary job is to manage and mitigate risk. Cyber hacking, stolen passwords, implanted malware are all real and meaningful dangers for her company and any one of them can sink their on-line business and with it, revenues and reputation.

Most of the time we think about the manager’s role as maximizing performance of their team members but there is also a place for managers to help the team “slow down” just to make sure everything is going right. This is about managing risk.

For example, if a proposal is being submitted, a manager may want to review the financial aspects to make certain the numbers match up to the internally prepared pro-forma. Perhaps there is a presentation that one of the staff members is giving to the senior leadership and which will reflect upon that manager and how her team is performing. She will want to make sure that the information is all accurate and that the leadership group comes away with an accurate understanding of project progress.

Managers, on the other hand, can make certain that they do their job to explain their rationale for “micromanaging” a situation with the language they use with their team members. It’s one thing to say,” make sure you send me that proposal to review. I want to make sure it’s accurate,” versus, “I appreciate all that you’ve done to prepare for the meeting, I’d like to give it a final review to make sure we both are on target and align on the key points.”

Managing risk has become a critically important part of the workplace. Business is more complex and the chances for significant errors grow exponentially with the uncertainty surrounding business information. Sometimes, in those instances, exerting control is essential.

Your Challenge This Week: Engage your team in a discussion about how you manage the risk elements of your work projects. Are they openly discussed or hidden under wraps with everyone hoping that problems magically get taken care of for everyone? Bring some light to the topic and you may find that what people think is micro-management actually becomes grateful management.

© Richard Citrin, All rights reserved, 2019


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