“What you learn in slow times, you apply in busy times”
The unpleasant fact is that the range of your activities is limited during a period under a micromanaging supervisor. However on your own initiative, there is the opportunity to sharpen problem solving skills so that they can be used effectively when “slow times” of the servitude ends. Then, you will be able to make the most of the “busy times” when you are back in control of your own work.
There is plenty of advice out there about methods to deal with a micromanager. Recurrent points are:
(i) Avoid negative actions that can affect your long term position
(ii) Understand and modify behaviors as possible.
(iii) Explore options.
People make a good living prescribing advice, but like similar advice for raising children, you can listen to it, take in what makes sense for your own situation, but must act in your own way. Finding a safe way out from under a micromanager takes time. The process of freeing oneself has a way of dragging morale and performance down. It’s important for both your career and your state of mind to have a daily activity fully within your control that can improve skills. An example of one such activity is outlined below.
Recognizing Solutions @ Lowest cost added position
The thesis of the micromanager is to dictate lower level activities tasks in more detail than necessary. These activities may be resource, schedule or skill related. Micromanagers tend to present directions for a solution, implement them immediately, congratulate themselves, and move on. In the short term, the employees may have little input. The habit of simply doing the tasks as presented can develop, eroding abilities.
The antithesis of the micromanager is to perform tasks or fix problems at their lowest overall cost point. This antithesis is another example of applied common sense. However, this statement is difficult to put into practice because it is too general. The points below provide a more specific guide to consciously analyze the lowest cost solutions. This analysis skill can be honed on real problems observed during the micromanagement period and then used with increased effectiveness after you regain your freedom.
The two framing questions below can help to more focus attention on identifying more efficient solutions to the problem at hand. You may not be able to use them with your boss, but you can have a clearer idea of the efficient direction.
1. Who is the lowest level individual with the experience and skills to be responsible for the task?
When problems move up the management ladder in order to get resources or focus, the problem tends to stay at that level. This inertia can be recognized and overcome to push the activity back down to the appropriate level.
2. What are the essential elements of the solution? What elements have found their way into the solutions as safety net items that can be eliminated?
This question addresses the tendency to overdesign the solution, increasing the cost of the solution in terms of money, time, materials or human resources required. It drives unneeded resources out of the solution.
For a given task or problem, weigh the approach of the micromanager against that by your analysis from that of lowest cost added perspective. Sharpen your own conclusion as to the best approach.
In some cases, a way to integrate the two approaches may become apparent (see a related example the post on the link about: Thesis–> Antitithesis—> Synthesis). For sure however, problem resolution skills can be developed and used that can benefit you in the organization long after the current micromanager has become a distant memory.