I sincerely believe that there is not a single person in the world who believes he or she is a micromanager. Check with any micromanager you know. And by that I don’t mean go in saying, “Do you know you’re a micro-manager?” Rather, try the subtle approach. “Don’t you just hate micro-managers?” And I’ll bet you dollars to daily reports they reply with something to the effect of, “Oh my gosh, yes. I can’t stand them. I hate working with them, I hate working for them, I hate having them work for me. I really don’t know why the company doesn’t take steps to eliminate them from our office. By the way, have you finished today’s report on why the weekly reports over monthly reporting are overdue?”
And, when you get that response, just walk away with that special smile you save for those times when you know you’re right, but the CEO disagrees, and you know you ain’t never gonna win that argument. Because the first step in curing micromanaging, like so many other diseases, seems to be recognizing you have a problem.
I came to this realization when I realized (hence the term realization) that the micromanagers I have worked for over the years didn’t seem to know that they were, indeed, micromanagers. A recent example: About two years ago I confronted the person to whom I reported about her tendency (that’s a nice term for it) to micromanage. No, I wasn’t stupid enough to use the actual phrase, but her reaction indicated that she easily understood what I was referring to and she was amazed that I would think she was “over managing” me. (You’ll have to trust me on this one. It was more than just the constant need for updates on where we were on various metrics and measures; it was that this constant reporting on those metrics and measures was more important than any information related to the actual content and quality of audit work.) She was genuinely shocked. “Do you think I micromanage? I wouldn’t want to do that. I just need to know where you are on these items.” The first step is recognizing you have a problem.
More recently, I heard two managers talking to their employees. It’s kind of a matrix thing so, at various times, they talk to the same people. In one meeting, I heard one of the managers explain that, while he knew the other manager required some very specific procedures, he didn’t care as much about whether they were followed. However, he had some other specific things he required. In a subsequent meeting, I heard the second manager say that the first manager required a lot of meetings and updates, but he didn’t feel they were necessary. Subsequently, I spoke to some of the employees who unanimously agreed that one of the two managers was definitely a micromanager. It is apparent he does not realize this fact. The first step is recognizing you have a problem.
And we auditors bring this on ourselves; we seem to take every possible opportunity to train ourselves to be some of the worst micromanagers in existence. Take a look at your own audit processes. How many reviews of every workpaper are required? How many levels have to review those workpapers? How many times are requests for changes made by upper management to workpapers, reports, memos, etc? We have built micromanaging into our auditing DNA.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating allowing slipshod audit work. I’m just wondering how much we have brought this micromanaging plague upon ourselves – and if your first response is “but we are auditors and we have to have necessary requirements related to quality and if we don’t keep close tabs on our work we will surely fail in all we do” then I reply, “The first step is recognizing you have a problem.”
But here’s the really scary thought - if people who are micromanagers never know they are, how do you know you aren’t a micromanager? I’m serious, take a breather and think about what it is you are asking others to do. How many of those questions you ask are just about making you feel better, not about making the work better? How many times do you go back to a person and ask for additional information even though you have complete comfort in their ability to do the work? And if you just feel that, while you know you have a good group working for you, you just don’t have complete comfort with their ability to do it all correctly, ask yourself if they have ever really given you any reason to doubt them? I hope you are getting the thrust of these questions.
Because, at the end of this questioning, if you find yourself justifying your actions with such reasons/excuses as “I have to micromanage right now; it’s a tough time” or “I’m having problems with an auditor so I have to do it with all my auditors” or “My boss micromanages me, so I have to micromanage the auditors”, then you may just be a micromanager. And, speaking for all of us who have facilitated your micromanaging over the years, we beg you to stop. The only one you are hurting is yourself…and the audit department.
And the first step (everyone sing it with me now)…