Why Micromanagement Can Sometimes Be a Good Thing

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On a flight home last week, I started thinking about the many different bosses I have had.

From my first job stocking shelves at the local Wal-Mart to save up for my first car – a Pontiac Grand Am sedan, if you are curious – to my current position as VP of Strategy and Industry Relations at Ceridian, I have been blessed in the sense that for the most part, my bosses have gotten progressively better as I advanced in my career.

As I was thinking about these different people, I asked myself what made me like them and enjoy working for them?

Appreciating micromanagement

Inevitably my thought process led me to understand that at this point in my career, having a micromanager would not work for me.

And I am glad that my current position is designed in such a way where I get to define my goals, how to accomplish them, and report back. In other words, “Boss, here is what I want to accomplish this year, here are my KPIs, this is what I need, and I will keep you posted.”

That said, this approach would not have worked earlier in my career. I needed and appreciated micromanagement that helped me grow.

Then recently, I came across this article in Fast Company about Ted Karkus, CEO of ProPhase Labs (makers of Cold-EEZE Cold Remedy), which discussed his management style and pride in being a micromanager. The article highlights four (4) specific situations when micromanagement made sense for him and to his organization.

Thinking back to my career, it made sense to me why micromanaging can sometimes be a good thing for the employee. Here are four reasons why:

1. It allows us to learn our job quicker

There are many reasons why we look for a new job, but often one of the main goals is to get a better job than we currently have. Even if it’s the same exact job we are doing, but at a different company or a different group, there is a bit of a learning curve.

In my case, having a micromanager allowed me to learn the job quicker and perform much better. Having someone holding your hand early on is not a bad thing, and it often helps you figure out the political landscape and some of the nuances of the job even quicker.

2. It allows us to understand our boss

My uncle, who was the first on my mother’s side of the family to go to college (he eventually earned two undergraduate and two graduate degrees) said to me, “I don’t care where you work and what you do, the shortest road to success is to make your boss look good.”

I have taken his advice. And part of my modus operandi is to understand how my boss is measured, what he/she cares about, and how I can move the needle on it.

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Even if some of us are uncomfortable asking directly what our bosses report on to their bosses, micromanaging tells us. The more something is micromanaged, the more it matters to your boss and his/her boss.

3. It provides more frequent feedback

The smart people at Bersin (part of Deloitte Consulting) and others state that the most impactful talent management strategies are ditching the annual review in favor of more frequent feedback and coaching.

Well, micromanagement provides the opportunity for detailed, honest, and straightforward feedback.

4. It gives us better career mobility

Let’s face it: Many of us have been in a role where we felt that one of the reasons we are unable to move internally is because our boss may not be able to fill the job that we are doing. We are either afraid to ask for a move – up or laterally – or our boss is afraid to recommend us for one.

Micromanagement, in a way, keeps our bosses involved, and if an opportunity arises for us to move up or across, it helps reduce some of the anxiety that comes with a boss losing a key member of the team.

What style works best for you?

My purpose here is not to say that micromanagement is the best approach. There are periods in my career where I enjoyed hands-on bosses and appreciated them, and others where I didn’t. This may not be everyone’s preference, and too much of one thing is never good.

Nevertheless, I encourage all of us to think back to our careers and bosses and understand what style worked best for us. I know it has changed my outlook.

This originally appeared on Ceridian’s HCM blog.

Jayson Saba is Ceridian’s Vice President of Market Research & Industry Relations. He leads Ceridian’s market research, competitive intelligence and industry analyst relations. Prior to joining Ceridian, Jayson was the lead analyst covering core HR, Workforce Management and Outsourcing at the HCM practice of Boston-based Aberdeen Group. During his tenure, he wrote and published over 100 research papers and benchmark reports.

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