|Contents||Bulletin||Scripting in shell and Perl||Network troubleshooting||History||Humor|
Last revised: Dec 23, 2014
|News||Classification of Corporate Psychopaths||Learned helplessness||Books||Model of Corporate Psychopath Behavior||Recommended Links||The micromanagement-induced anger trap|
|Office Stockholm Syndrome||Fighting micromanagers||Documenting Micromanager Behavior||Communication with corporate psychopath||Negative Politeness||Rules of Verbal Self Defense||Five Points Verbal Response Test|
|The psychopath in the corner office||The Manipulator Bosses||The authoritarian personality||Bully Managers||Narcissistic Managers||Pathologically Incompetent Managers||Paranoid Managers|
|Surviving a Bad Performance Review||Coping with the toxic stress in IT environment||Observing and Documenting Behavior of Corporate Psychopaths||Get Any Accusations in Writing||The Fiefdom Syndrome||Lysenkoism||Bureaucratic Inertia|
|Bureaucratic ritualism||Groupthink||Conformism||Conformism pressures in large organizations||Fraud Caused by Social Pressures||Humor||Etc|
|The psychopath is one of the most fascinating and distressing problems of human experience.
"Control freak" is one of those terms for which the meaning is starting to get distorted:
"control freak is one who has an obsessive need to exert control over people and situations:
Ironically, targets of abusive bosses tend to be high achievers, perfectionists and workaholics. Often bully bosses try to mask their own insecurities by striking out.
Q: What are three most common types of managers in large IT departments:
A: Micromanagers, nanomanagers, and picomanagers
Softpanorama micromanagement humor collection
In modern IT corporation having an report to a micromanager as a subordinate at some point of your career is as inevitable as death and taxes. Micromanager is probably the most popular subcategory of toxic managers or, in less politically correct terms, a special type of corporate psychopath (if we are talking about extreme cases). It's all about power and micromanaging is one of the worst form of exerting excessive power over subordinates, very destructive for the company behaviour indeed. From purely organizational standpoint micro-management is a management style that typically results in degraded performance. The only exceptions are cases when the manager is a super-competent visionary, but even in this case your mileage can vary.
Knowing how to deal with micromanager is a skill that is not easily acquired nor mastered, but is an essential requirement to your survival in large corporation environment and, often the key to preservation of your physical and, especially, psychical health. Negative health effects are usually typical consequence of the combination of a workaholic culture and chronic toxic stress inflicted by control freaks: they are similar to combat stress. In milder form micromanagement is rampant. According to some surveys nearly eight out of ten employees are victims of a micromanaging boss at some point of their career.
If we consider bulling as most typical behavior of corporate psychopath in general and micromanagers in particular, then data suggest that:
A the same time I would like to warn that "Control freak" is one of those terms for which the meaning is starting to get distorted and became a nasty little clutch:
Usually psychopaths constitute around `1% of human population. Even if we assume that in management position the concentration is 10 times higher due to natural selection still that gives us 10% as an estimate. The adaptation to working with control freak is always difficult and, as a rule, creates habits of thinking and acting that can be dysfunctional in "normal" office environment. Few people are completely unchanged or unscathed by the experience. Some scars are inevitable. At the very least, such person typically suffers long-term consequences from having been subjected to outbursts of anger, danger of exclusion, deprivation of vital information, and extremely atypical patterns and norms of interacting with a control freak.
At the same time control freak do not, in general, make people "crazy." But there is definitely a psychological damage. Some experience "flashbacks" like solders suffering from PTSD (Coping With Flashbacks and Dissociation in PTSD) for a couple of years, but they gradually subside. The most lasting psychological damage, at least for some people, includes negative changes of behavioral patterns.
The various psychological mechanisms that must be employed to adjust (and, to survive) become increasingly "natural," second nature, and, to a degree, internalized. Such a process is subtle and difficult to discern as it occurs. As office clearly became a dangerous places people rather quickly become hypervigilant and alert for signs of threat or personal risk. Because the stakes are high, and because there are people in their immediate environment (and first of all control freak) poised to take advantage of weakness or exploit carelessness or inattention, interpersonal distrust and suspicion develops as a defense mechanism. Emotional over-control and a generalized lack of spontaneity may occur as a result. Admissions of vulnerability are potentially dangerous because they invite exploitation. Office becomes something like a part-time prison, a barely controlled jungle where the aggressive and the strong exploits the weak, and the weak are dreadfully aware of it. Like prisoners, such office workers are forced to become remarkably skilled "self-monitors" who calculate the anticipated effects that every aspect of their behavior, and such calculations became a second nature. Some learn to find safety in social invisibility by becoming as inconspicuous and unobtrusively disconnected from others as possible. The self-imposed social withdrawal and isolation may mean that they retreat deeply into themselves, trust virtually no one and leading isolated lives of quiet desperation. In extreme cases this pattern of behaviour closely resembles that of clinical depression. Diminished sense of self-worth and personal value are also pretty typical in such cases.
As office wisdom suggests "people don't quit their jobs; they quit their bosses." According to Merriam-Webster micro-management is “managing especially with excessive control or attention to details”. Wikipedia also noted that micro-management was “generally seen with a negative connotation”. Professional management consultants generally agree that
"…micro-managers cause serious problems for their staff members and for the companies that employ them". It is important to understand that in its essence "
Micro-management is a personality aberration of insecure individuals. In other words it is driven by deep and overwhelming feeling of personal insecurity, which is suppressed and transformed info desire for excessive control. Such behavior often in borderline insane and in a very deep sense of this word irrational. That means that it is naive to expect the ability to react to logical, rational augments by the affected individual. In a deep sense of the word they are "possessed" by their desire to control everything. Often with the price being their own health and the health of their subordinates. It's a form of addition to power.
Control freaks are driven by deep and overwhelming feeling of personal insecurity, which is suppressed and transformed info desire for excessive control. In a deep sense of the word they are "possessed" by their desire to control everything. Often with the price being their own health and the health of their subordinates. It's a form of addition to power.
In IT environment paranoid micromanagers flourish due to stagnation and bureaucratization of many IT departments as well as excessive centralization and downsizing trends. Paradoxically due to downsizing and offshoring micromanagers had found in IT especially fertile ground. While micromanagers constitute a significant subset of managers in any large corporation, they are especially destructive in software development environment, may be due the complexity of the environment in which programmers operates.
If we are talking about micromanagement we usually assume significant level of incompetence. Extremely competent manager usually does not produce such a strong allergic reaction. People try to follow their direction more eagerly and most people like to learn something form people who are superior to them in their chosen specialty. Although everything has its limits.
This page is written as a self-help material for those who need to buy some time or are unwilling or incapable to leave ASAP. It is important to understand that it such situation you cannot hide in your cubicle; this is a war more resembling hand combat in the trenches. Do not take your situation lightly. This is a very serious personal situation that can deeply affect your career and health.
Do not take your situation lightly. This is a very serious personal situation that can deeply affect your career and health.
And if micromanager is toxic, then despite your best efforts you might be not able to survive for long. Unless you are prepared on the level of Green Berets (which should become your role model anyway, at least as long as you stay in this environment ;-) you might not be in the same office the next year, the next month, or after another (negative) performance review. If you want to stay (for example, buying some time to obtain some important certification) you might be suffering post traumatic stress syndrome after leaving this environment. Like is the case with many solders who spent some time at the front lines: chronic stress destroys most humans really fast.
Still it is useful to understand that micro-managers came in various flavors and can combine features of different types of sociopaths. It also important to understand how severe your case really is. Also they are not on "permanently high" and degree of debilitating over-control can vary in intensity depending of the general environment and particular psychological state of the individual micromanager. Failures usually increase intensity of this style.
Studying and documenting your particular micromanagers behaviour might help you to find more optimal line of behaviour in typical situations and adapt your communication and behaviors to keep a safe social distance form such an individual. See, for example, Negative Politeness. What is more important, better understanding (which is achievable only via maintaining written log of event, for example in form of the diary) tend to lessen the level of stress you are experiencing. As soon as you see repeating pattern in the behavior of your boss you will have much lesser level of stress then a person for whom boss behavior remains unpredictable. Repetitive patterns of actions are actually more common for micromanagers then even for Authoritarians, who come close next.
That's why keeping a diary at home and writing to it each evening is so important: it helps to reveal such repeatable patterns of behavior, make the particular more predictable and less new encounters with him/her less threatening emotionally. In other words writing your personal diary each night reduce chronic stress, that you are subjected in such an environment and improves your situational awareness. Higher situational awareness is the key for preventing blunders.
Keeping a diary at home and writing to it each evening is so important: it helps to reveal such repeatable patterns of behavior, make the particular more predictable and less new encounters with him/her less threatening emotionally. In other words writing your personal diary each night reduce chronic stress, that you are subjected in such an environment and improves your situational awareness. Higher situational awareness is the key for preventing blunders.
Warning: you are dealing with really dangerous animal, which at times, is out of control ! And this is not exaggeration.
It is easier to cope with a micromanager by considering him/her as a psychiatric patient (addicts to power and control, instead of addicts to morphine , heroin or cocaine; actually the latter can be present too and cocaine addicts often demonstrate similar symptoms as sociopaths) who somehow escaped treatment. And the most sad fact is that most of them are female managers. sometimes pretty attractive females. As we mentioned above this might be a side effect of affirmative action (aka blowback) when instead of promoting the best people, corporations are promoting incompetent and power hungry females because they need to meet quotas.
Viewing micromanager as psychiatric patients, as addicts greatly helps to restore self-respect severely damaged by control freaks. Like in problem marriages micromanaging usually also indicates hidden personality problems of a targeted individual: like all psychopaths micromanager has an acute eye on human weaknesses and intuitively know how and when to exploit vulnerable individuals. In other words expect that micromanager will try to exploit your individual weaknesses. They also enjoy ambushes, when they confront unprepared victim with some accusation and if victim does not understand that he/she is ambushed and forget to ask for the discussion should be postponed they are just crushed by well prepared attack. All this creates evil, toxic workplace.
Being a special type of corporate psychopaths control freaks are completely free from such thing as remorse: they like to inflict pain and sufferings to demonstrate their power over you; in other word they are often sadistic. Perceiving a threat the micromanager will take steps to have you punished or even terminated to regain control. As they can be views as addicts to power and control, like addicts they usually stop at nothing to satisfy their cravings for power and control.
Most micromanagers are simultaneously workplace bullies, ruthless dictators like petty variant of Mao or Stalin who based of particular circumstances try to twist political and social environment to inflict psychological abuse on a carefully chosen target. Paradoxically often their target is a mirror of micromanager: perfectionist, workaholic with the only difference that he/she is a competent one.
So you should not believe naive recommendation of some papers or books to confront micromanager and try somehow communicate your working problem to him. This is deep psychological (or borderline psychiatric) condition and rational arguments have no power to change such a behavior. As in other case of maladaptation, such as various addictions, it is self-reinforcing.
Trying to explain such a manager his behavior and irrationality of over control most often is interpreted as a threat. Which might just increase his/her sense of insecurity -- the effect you probably do not want. That means that going this path you need to account for a possibility to find yourself unemployed much quicker then expect, or, in best case, instantly find yourself in a considerably more unpleasant situation and under more pressure at work then before. In other words your mileage may vary.
People who are leaving often want revenge. But this is usually not an optimal like of behavior. There is a saying revenge is a dish that should be served cold.
Even if you already have a new position it is prudent to limit (diplomatic) hint about the problem that forced you to leave only to higher-up manger or HT person who conducts the exit interview. try to limit your information to one or two basic facts.
Even in this case my doubts about rationality of such a disclosure remain. Confronting the manager makes little or no sense at all. If it changes something but only to worse and it can have unpredictable consequences for you on your new job.
Note: Good advice about the topic is difficult to come by and depends on your concrete situation: take any recommendations with a grain of salt.
Generally you should be very skeptical about content of books and pages devoted to micromanagement: most do not understand this very complex phenomenon and completely omit the importance of studying of psychopathology aspects of this phenomenon for self-defense. This includes this particular page.
Day-to-day dealing with psychopath is not for everybody, so finding an escape route is of paramount importance for preserving your sanity and it justifies the amount of work you need to distill the content of best books on the subject. They are well worth their price.
As with any psychopath there are patterns in his/her irrational behavior so you need carefully study what makes this type of psychopath tick, what makes him/her to explode, and develop some way to deal with them. The first thing is to understand that his aggression toward you is a standard way of dealing with subordinate that he/she have found the most effective and polished due to long experience: aggression in inherent in psychopath and to tell that a psychopath is a bully is just to tell that the water is wet.
Overreacting on aggressive, humiliating behavior is the most common error people, who did not study the literature make in such situations. You need to learn to take those thing dispassionately, as a researcher in field study. Please understand that you as a person typically has nothing to do with creating such outbursts of anger. This is just the typical pattern of functioning of the particular (broken) social machine, that happens to be your manager. That's it.
Studying of diplomacy and basics of diplomatic behaviour here can really help. The first rule: don't take anything personally -- he/she does not consider you to be a human, for him you are Untermensch, subhuman, almost a dog.
Please understand that paranoid micromanagers are driven by two powerful factors, which does not include you as a person at all:
Chambers book is one of the better one on this topic and while he tries to sit between two chairs, he still provide some more or less useful recommendations that can be carefully experimented with. Do not consider him to be an ultimate guru and please be skeptical about each and every recommendation (the same like of thinking is totally applicable to this page; this is a very complex topic).
In this elaborate game of cat and mouse you need to rely on your own instincts of what might work and what probably will not. For example I have found that with many micromanagers one way to relieve stress is creating yourself completely fictitious assignments, reporting about them and competing them without doing anything. It is pretty safe game as their incompetence is often simply incredible and they can't see the reality even when it is open. They are connected to reality only via reports. You will not find this advice in Chambers book :-).
But please be aware that neither this page not any other Web page or book provide ready made, 100% reliable recipes for dealing with this type of psychopath. All they can do is to give you some tips, framework of thinking about the phenomena, and, in best case, might help to avoid making the most typical mistakes.
The most common consequences are problems with health and burnout. Insomnia is probably the first warning sign of health problems. Burnout is a natural and inevitable consequence of an uneasy relationship between employee and micromanagers; it is worth repeating that micromanagement sucks the life out of workers. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines burnout as "exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration." That's an apt description of the condition, and it explain why burnout is typical side effect of micromanagement. Burnout is especially acute in programming and system administration when after jumping though a lot of useless hoops trying to do the job despite micromanager people just give up.
Reducing the burnout from micromanagement is not just a matter of reducing the number of negatives. Indeed, like in any abusive authority-based relationship there is not a lot you can do about the negative effects of micromanagement on you as an individual. Instead, it is often more useful to think about increasing the number of positives, and of building the opposite of burnout, private safety niche and side interests and activities. Enrolling in gym is probably the easiest and the most useful countermeasure. Buying a punch bag and a pair of gloves is probably the second ;-).
Enrolling into social psychology course or other one course in your local community collage is the third valuable choice that you can make.
The key to survival is minimizing your work hours (this is a toxic workplace; consider each hour as additional exposure to the toxin) and developing a program of separation of your work and private interests in such a way that your outside interests and activities somewhat compensate the negative aspects of daily work. Unfortunately many of individuals targeted by micromanagers are workaholics and that is difficult to for them. they are already self-insolated in society and as such are easy victims. Neoliberalism as social system where greed and individualism are treated as moral values also tend to increase isolation of individuals and indirectly amplify the destructive affects of micromanagement. It actually tends to de-individualize and suppress workforce including middle class workforce and increased level of unemployment under neoliberalism hangs over the head of each worker as Damocles sword allowing management to treat them badly. In other words it revives rich traditions of slavery and torture is a immanent attribute of slavery (Slavery and Capitalism, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2014).
I believe that you can often somewhat loosen the grip of micromanager a bit. There is a classic story about the pilot who endured several years as a prisoner of war in Viet Nam. Nearly starved and frequently beaten by his captors, the pilot stunned interviewers when he said he had so much to be grateful for in the time he was held. For him, the hunger and beatings weren't the biggest problems. The hardest part of imprisonment was complete isolation in a cramped and dirty room. The pilot told about a female rat that found her way into his lonely cell. He felt blessed by her companionship and the opportunity to witness, over time, the birth and mother's care of three litters of babies. The rat was his only contact with another living being for a long time-and its presence was a gift, he said, that gave him strength and the ability to endure extreme stress and hardship.
In other words pets, even as unusual as wild rat, can help a person to survive hardships and lessen isolation and increase atomization typical for modern neoliberal society. In which conditions of "prols" somewhat reminds conditions of slaves on plantations, as the term "office slaves" suggests.
That pilot's story exemplifies another important concept for dealing with stress and burnout. First you need to distinguish between things which you are conditioned to strive to attain (better house, higher salary, more and better food, freedom to travel on vacations, etc) and minimum conditions that are needed to survive and preserve sanity (food, shelter and a contact with another living being). The less you want the easier it is to survive hardships. It is not accidental that the unwritten strategy of survival for Gulag prisoners was "Don't believe them, don't fear them, don't ask anything of them. ". Note the last part... As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn observed hardships often lead to re-evaluation of priorities in human life:
“Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.”
...Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
Actually his One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962) might be viewed as a recommended reading on the topic ;-)
The research by Dr. Karen Ballard , a program development and evaluation specialist at the University of Arkansas' Cooperative Extension Service, showed that Vietnam POWs either died quickly or "they not only survived imprisonment, but, in many cases, did remarkably well when they returned home." What distinguished the survivors? " The awareness that they had choices," Ballard says. "They may not have had a lot of choices -- they may not have had very good choices. But they had the capacity to evaluate their own resources and select the best available choices for their situations. They couldn't control all of their circumstances, but they chose to control what they could.". It is also known that animals deprived of choices lose ( at least partially) of the ability to fight for their life (Learned helplessness):
A theory of "learned helplessness" put forward by Seligman, based largely on some pretty nasty animal experiments. Seligman’s theory of learned helplessness contributed to the design of the methods of torture used in Guantanamo, as well as a training program to help captured military personnel resist the effects of torture and learned helplessness was “reverse-engineered” to assist the interrogation of detainees. The key finding is that the experience of being put in a position in which there is no possibility of escape from harm or pain can lead to an overall fatalism and resignation, in which it is believed that there is no point in trying to improve the situation. More generally, it can describe a belief in one's own powerlessness, which renders futile any attempt to learn.
Typical experiments include the demonstration that dogs, confined in a cage where they have no possibility of escaping shocks from an electrified floor, no longer attempt to escape such shocks when the opportunity is presented (this bears a resemblance to the anticipatory-avoidance learning experiment): and that rats, which normally swim for 48 hours before drowning in a tank, only manage eight hours after having been held tightly and long enough to cease struggling before being put in the tank.
Ballard says trying to figure out what those choices are is the first step away from the path that leads to chronic, toxic stress and burnout. She recommends an "honest" self-inventory to identify what's causing the stress.
"Write it down. Think about what makes you angry, unhappy, sad-what makes you not want to go to work," she advises. "Make an exhaustive list. This is a critical step to gaining control. Work on it for days if you need to."
While the main reason is clear -- it is a particular control freak, modes of his attacks and circumstances under which you are attack you need to be identified and studied. Communication skills need to be developed and followed. See Communication with Corporate Psychopaths for some suggestion. You outside of work social network need to be expanded. If you tend to live in isolation this is the first problem you need to address.
It's all about honest self-awareness and recognizing that you do have choices. Individuals who burn out under the micromanager are often the ones who are in jobs that don't play to their personal styles and preferences and who cannot quickly find alternative source of supporting self-esteem. Their strengths are not rewarded. They are constantly battling an environment that just doesn't suit them. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
But all the self-awareness in the world will not change control freak, it just identify the way it behaves. It's important to analyze whom you're dealing with in order to make choices about how to respond to them in ways that minimize your own stress. It's easy to take their behaviors personally, but most of the time it's not only about "them" its also about you and you personal weaknesses that make you a suitable target.
At the same time self-adaptation has its limit and there are other countermoves that you can undertake. This difference between wisdom of accepting things and courage of trying to change thing is best summed up in the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:
|God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him. Forever in the next.
You need both. Outline of the more high level strategy of fighting micromanager now moved to a separate page. If you plan to stay prepare to knuckle down and fight long hard battle. After all that's what man were created for. The conflict between micromanager and victim has its own complex dialectic. You might temporarily recover some lost territory and find some safer niche were it is more difficult to attack you. Like Russians with Napoleon you need to withdraw deep into your own territory suffer some deprivation, and, if you can, subject the enemy to the winter cold cutting information supply, using special mode of communication called negative politeness, and replacing vital information with spam (the word "replacing" is the key: quantity should not changed or might even slightly increase).
In case you are very sensitive to critique expect that you like solders in the front line you might have some signs of "post-traumatic stress syndrome" (PTSS) due to chronic stress. It is estimated that about 17% of returning war fighters have PTSS with clinical signs of anxiety and depression, compared with about 6% or 7% of the general population. Important aspect of PTSS is the desire to withdraw from the world, and other people. Don't do this. Fight it with physical activity, enroll in the gym, take one course in the college, double the amount of time you spend outside. Enroll into some volunteer help group and visit library on a regular basis. See also The Bully at Work for how to deal with outbursts of anger and how to counterattack direct and ruthless exercise of power.
But in any case try to max out your life out of the office and put office work on slow burner. Lower your productivity and switch a large part of your energy on documenting everything. And remember that this is not your fault. Actually micromanager sacrifice the health, morale and productivity of the organization for their own emotional comfort. Their actions speak more loudly than any administrative memo. And as a result any micromanager-led organization tend to shrink and become stagnant and out of touch with reality. Keep in mind that micromanager excels in burning "high archivers" by putting them in tar pit of unnecessary documentation, boring and repetitive assignments, etc. In this case try to find you pet projects outside organization (open source development is one avenue open for programmers) and pursue them, or concentrate on obtaining relevant to your work certification.
Out brains are deeply connected to our bodies. One way to improve your mental stability and the capacities to endure stress is to use vigorous exercise regiment. This is the point that implicitly was made by prominent neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki in her book Healthy Brain, Happy Life A Personal Program to Activate Your Brain and Do Everything Better. It looks like aerobic exercises are important for mental stability and the ability to cope with stress. Of cause, an important warning attributed to Talleyrand "Not too much zeal" is applicable here too. Some additional ideas might be extracted from the following reviews:
A neuroscientist transforms the way we think about our brain, our health, and our personal happiness in this clear, informative, and inspiring guide—a blend of personal memoir, science narrative, and immediately useful takeaways that bring the human brain into focus as never before, revealing the powerful connection between exercise, learning, memory, and cognitive abilities.
Nearing forty, Dr. Wendy Suzuki was at the pinnacle of her career. An award-winning university professor and world-renowned neuroscientist, she had tenure, her own successful research lab, prestigious awards, and international renown.
That’s when to celebrate her birthday, she booked an adventure trip that forced her to wake up to a startling reality: despite her professional success, she was overweight, lonely, and tired and knew that her life had to change. Wendy started simply—by going to an exercise class. Eventually, she noticed an improvement in her memory, her energy levels, and her ability to work quickly and move from task to task easily. Not only did Wendy begin to get fit, but she also became sharper, had more energy, and her memory improved. Being a neuroscientist, she wanted to know why.
What she learned transformed her body and her life. Now, it can transform yours.
Wendy discovered that there is a biological connection between exercise, mindfulness, and action. With exercise, your body feels more alive and your brain actually performs better. Yes—you can make yourself smarter. In this fascinating book, Suzuki makes neuroscience easy to understand, interweaving her personal story with groundbreaking research, and offering practical, short exercises—4 minute Brain Hacks—to engage your mind and improve your memory, your ability to learn new skills, and function more efficiently.
Taking us on an amazing journey inside the brain as never before, Suzuki helps us unlock the keys to neuroplasticity that can change our brains, or bodies, and, ultimately, our lives.
Bassocantor TOP 50 REVIEWER on May 19, 2015
We Have An Enormous Capacity To Change Into The Very Best Version Of Ourselves
HEALTHY BRAIN, HAPPY LIFE is a fun read, filled with all kinds of exciting ways to expand your brain power. My favorite parts of the book are these little sections that the author calls "Brain Hacks." These sections are lists of easy ways to really supercharge your brain and make use of the latent power in it.
Here's the theme in a nutshell: "One thing I know for sure is that brain plasticity endows us with an enormous capacity to change into the very best version of ourselves that we can be." Dr. Suzuki explains that she uses 20 years of research in neuroscience to apply these same principles to her own personal life. She admits that she "Went from living as a virtual lab rat --an overweight middle aged woman would had achieved many things in science, but who could not seem to figure out how to also be a healthy, happy woman..."
One of her main discoveries is the powerful mind-body link. The author emphasizes how powerful exercise is. "Exercise is responsible for the majority of the positive brain changes seen with environmental enrichment." And so, Dr. Suzuki invests much time talking about the power of the brain-body connection. Towards that end, she combines physical workouts as a way to energize your brain: "The body has a powerful influence on her brain functions and conversely but the brain has a powerful influence over how are bodies feel and work and heal." Exercise causes definite changes in your body--it boosts the level of three key chemicals that affect mood.
The key is to make your workouts intentional. Towards that end, the author suggests ways to do this--for example, proclaiming affirmations out loud. "Intentional exercise happens when you make exercise both aerobic and mental...You are fully engaged in the moment and trigger a heightened awareness of the brain body connection." In the Brain Hacks suction, the author lists different exercises that would best fit you.
Another great section is the section on creativity. You can actually improve your creative thinking; it is "a particular version of regular thinking they can be practiced and improved like any other cognitive skill." Once again, the author lists great suggestions in the Brain Hacks section on ways to jumpstart your creativity. The key point is to learn something new and "Try to use as many senses as you can." For example, one fun suggestion is to "Sit outside and blindfold yourself for 4 minutes. Then, listen to the world sounds in a new way."
All in all, HEALTHY BRAIN, HAPPY LIFE is a fun, inspiring read. The author is full of great, uplifting ideas. My favorite chapter is the one on creativity. The end of the book contains an extensive Reference section, in which the author documents the various points she makes.
Advance copy for impartial review
love2dazzle on June 10, 2015
Happy Life” by Wendy Suzuki is all about focusing on ...“Healthy Brian, Happy Life” by Wendy Suzuki is all about focusing on expanding your brain power. Our bodies and mind have a very powerful link. Dr. Suzuki has invested her life to focusing on the brain. She goes on to state that “Exercise is responsible for the majority of the positive brain changes seen with environmental enrichment.” Dr. Suzuki is making the point that we need to exercise to work our brain to its fullest potential. She goes on to make the point that you want to make sure the exercise is intentional because that is what exercise you both mentally and aerobically.
The second best way to expand your brain is by creativity. The point of creativity is to learn new things that will improve your brain and your senses. One is able to find different ways to help build and exercise their brain. The author calls some of the tips she gives “Brain Hacks” so I thought this was a great learning tool.
I thought “Healthy Brain, Happy Life” was very insightful. I thought this book had a lot of good tips and was also able to explain the brain and how things worked really well. I did enjoy reading it and learning new things on how I am able to improve my brain function.
Bruny Hudsonon June 13, 2015
Interesting theory for improving one’s life
The book “Healthy Brain, Happy Life” by Wendy Suzuki is about a success story, about the author’s life. It’s entertaining and enriching but sometimes out of touch with reality. Considering that the author is a neuroscientist, her line of reasoning sounds dubious in parts of the book, especially her generalizing concepts of life. Just because an effort has worked for her, it does not mean it will work for someone else. Nevertheless, the book deserves a five-star rating because of the author’s pleasant writing style and the well-explained examples of research in neuroscience.
Transporter chair reviewer, on July 9, 2015
I saw her interviewed on CBS and found her a charming and energetic person. I am not sure what take always I have from the book, though it interested me since I am also an Asian American woman who is an over achiever, and many of her experiences resonated. I enjoyed the read. I am not sure what type of person I would recommend it to . I am also a doctor. It was fun to review some of the neurobiology and learn some new things.
As a rule, paranoid incompetent micromanagers suffers both from paranoia and from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and as such often have a bouts of Borderline Rage. Traditionally military and retail suffered from micromanagers most. For example, in one of recent stories (Generals versus Rumsfeld) LA Times wrote that Rumsfeld can be considered to be classical micromanager (semi-competent or incompetent, but extremely arrogant and over-controlling functionary).
Generals versus Rumsfeld - Los Angeles Times
Since the day he took command of the Pentagon, Rumsfeld has been using his famous "8,000-mile screwdriver" to tilt the civil-military balance his way. According to his critics, he is Robert McNamara reborn — an arrogant micromanager, contemptuous of soldierly expertise and certain of his own infallibility.
Especially telling, in their eyes, was Rumsfeld's treatment of Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army's chief of staff, who before the Iraq invasion warned that the occupation was likely to pose large challenges. Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz immediately retaliated. For speaking unwelcome truths, Shinseki found himself pilloried, humiliated and marginalized. In the eyes of his fellow generals, Shinseki became a martyr.
OCD changes person in such a way that due to obsession with details and minute control they lose touch with reality. A control freak (micromanager) tries to control every little detail but they are not super humans and their attention span is limited: they usually bog themselves down to the extent they lose a bigger picture. And you can and should use this weakness. For example I saw control freak that give no attention of time control at all but was tremendously concerned with the creating useless detailed procedures for each minor step (documentation or procedural freak). What was funny that for this type of corporate psychopath the final result of the project did not mean much as long as everything was "proceduralized" to death.
Another common features of manager with OCD is that such people often are totalitarian "gatekeepers" and try to isolate subordinates from all independent streams of information. Expect to be cut from vital meetings, expect withholding viral information, expect that bits of information are communicated to be comply twisted and distorted. Try to create your independent network so that you get at least something not so distorted. But some micromanagers are selective and actually can encourage some outside communication that does not harm them.
If more than five people report to control freak it is logically to assume that he/she operates in chronic overload mode. Yes, they still try to control every little detail they assign to you, instead of giving you the job and leaving you to do it. But you can try to escape their deadly embrace by feeding them wrong or not-relevant information, by perusing parallel projects on your own, by structuring communication to avoid unnecessary conflicts and other means.
The worst type is very process-oriented, the type that usually bog you down in useless documentation. But the question to ask is whether they can read it ? Can you fool then by resubmitting old documents with slight modifications? Can you fool them by submitting completely bogus or not relevant documents? Those are questions that you should always ask.
There is another aspect of control freaks that deserved to be mentioned in this introductory page without going into too much detail that are provided elsewhere: for control freak Excel spreadsheet from a tool suddenly become instrument of torture. But is not it nice to counter this tendency by leaning programmability aspects of Excel and generating large useless tables using macros and VBA (of course by you should never tell that control freak that this is a generated spreadsheet; he/she should assumed that you diligently types this crap into each and every cell). I once managed to generated a huge table from raw data using Perl script and export from comma delimited format. The table that would take me a week to do manually was done in 15 minutes. Plus 30 minutes for polishing titles, subnotes and line. Generally drawing micromanager in spam -- ocean of superficial, redundant or useless information is a quite effective strategy if you master the capabilities of MS Office to the extent you can write all sorts of macros.
Another common characteristic, as pointed out by numerous posts in the News section below, is a lack of a clear vision of the end goal of a project. The problem with micromanagers is that they can abruptly change direction in the middle of the project, usually several times, and almost always reversing themselves at least once. Yes I admit that this is like spitting in your face but again there are nice countermeasures here: one the most drastic is by leading micromanager to a solution that has destructive value for the company. This is a dangerous move but if documented properly and presented to HR it can lead to demotion of the micromanager and, of course, you. In this case you of course are sacrificing yourself so at this time you better have an alternative job offer (which surprisingly, due to general hostility to micromanager, often can be found within the organization). This strategy can be called Ivan Susanin" strategy:
In 1612 there were many Polish detachments still roaming Russia, however. They supported Sigismund III Vasa, who refused to accept defeat and still laid claim to the Russian throne. One of these discovered the news and sent troops to Kostroma to find and kill the young tsar.
It is said that they did not know the road to Domnino very well, so they started to ask the locals for directions. In a wood near the village they met a logger, Ivan Susanin, who promised to take them via a "shortcut" through a forest directly to the Ipatiev Monastery, where Mikhail apparently was hiding. The enemies followed him and were never heard from again. It is presumed that Susanin led them so deep into the forest into semi-frozen swaps that they could not find a way out, and they perished in the bitter February cold.
Susanin's grandson, who Susanin secretly sent ahead via a different route, warned Mikhail Romanov, and the monks concealed him from further Polish raids. Mikhail was crowned tsar and ruled Russia for 32 years, founding the Romanov dynasty.
The other less dramatic move is to navigate micromanager to the project that despite being not the best choice for the organization has some interesting technologies or is so complex that you will have considerable freedom to study something interesting. Killing micromanager with complexity is actually a pretty useful general strategy that capitalize on the level of overload they subject themselves. And the nicest thing is that he will consider this project his own choice and as such would be inclined to provide you some training, consultant help, etc. The downsize here is the necessity to learn some monster useless system, but still it can be useful on your resume.
There are always two needed for a tango and often some problems that we experience with control freak are actually to a certain extent are problem with ourselves. Ironically, targets of micromanager tend to be high achievers, perfectionists and workaholics themselves. Often micromanager try to mask their own insecurities by striking out similar "detail-oriented" soils much like shark is attracted by blood.
Also it is important to understand that any attempt to correct the bad behavior of the micromanager will be perceived as a personal threat to his/her self-esteem. Paradoxically many micromanager self-justify their obnoxious behavior as mentoring. Perceiving a threat the micromanager might take steps to have you terminated to regain control.
One common strategy of micromanager is to increase his/her power by surrounding themselves with staff members who accept their personality and work style: patsies. Weak passive employees often can benefit from micromanager and provide support in return. It is dangerous to communicate with them as information will instantly propagates to the micromanager. That further isolates you in the group, especially if the group is small.
If micro-manager is competent, which is pretty rare, this style might be not that bad, as for the subordinates it can be a valuable professional learning experience. But the problem is that 90% or 99% of micromanagers are incompetent and their efforts to hide the incompetence and compensate their rampant insecurity are borderline or cross into paranoia.
|If micro-manager is competent, which is pretty rare, this style might be not that bad, as for staff this can be a learning experience. But the problem is that 90% or 99% of micromanagers are incompetent and their efforts to hide the incompetence and compensate their rampant insecurity are borderline or cross into paranoia.|
Incompetent micromanager is one of the worst types of boss the life can give you. It's a real human tragedy to report to this beast. Not only he/she tries to control every little detail of every little project they assign to you, instead of giving you the job and leaving you to do it. They often tend to be very process-oriented, and usually will bog you down requesting tons of useless documentation.
Typically they also have other character flaws and in most cases they are also bullies. Their favorite weapon is performance review. It is important to understand that with such managers performance reviews became a torture chamber. This is an immanent component of their style and we have a separate page devoted to this. See Surviving a Bad Performance Review
|Their favorite weapon is performance review. It is important to understand that with such managers performance reviews became a torture chamber. This is an immanent component of their style and we have a separate page devoted to this. See Surviving a Bad Performance Review|
Micromanagers are probably the most common and the most prolific type of sociopaths that you can find in large corporations. They are so typical for a large corporate, you can suspect that there is some factor in this environment that are favorable to such style of behaviour, despite destructive effect of the company it produce. And this is especially true about IT environment from which I draw my experience. It is important to know that with downsizing and outsourcing IT which recently became one of the most psychopaths-friendly corporate environment, as people feel that they have nowhere to go and like in prison that gave psychopaths additional power, additional leverage.
And like all corporate psychopaths, micromanagers are addicted to control and power. And additional means that it is never enough. Like all addicts, in no way they ever consider themselves who they are. As the page Toleration of Workplace Bullies aptly put it:
Are you a micromanager? "Who me? No of course not. I'm thorough. I'm competent. Ok, so I am a little methodical. That's not bad. Is it?"
Micromanagers like many addicts, alcoholics, rageaholics, fanatics, etc. are the last person on the planet to recognize their addiction is in controlling others. The compulsion to look over your employee's shoulders has nothing to do with being meticulous or careful it has everything to do with control. Yes you. That's right I'm talking to you El Presidente. Your employees are calling you much worse. For example, ruler, extremist, bureaucrat, tyrant, bully, persecutor, tormenter. And trust me, those are the nice names. People who micromanage do so because they are the ones who feel unsure and self-doubting.
Please understand that even if micromanager is completely incompetent, he/she is the most dangerous, methodical enemy and if you cross him/her, you better beware. Such a personality is vindictive and dealing with them requires careful systematic study including daily logging your and boss actions at the evening in the diary, not just browsing this page.
Maintaining your own diary at the evening is a must. This is the most effective weapon against micromanagers as it allows you to see all their tricks and your own mistakes that otherwise will never be detected or soon forgotten.
All-in-all micromanagement is a special form of paranoia and associated feelings of insecurity and distrust. Being incompetent paranoid micromanagers rightly feels that that his/her position is threatened but he/she has no constructive ways to react to this threat. Instead the reaction became highly pathological: gatekeeping (blocking all alternative information flows that does not directly comes from the manager), making all important decisions himself and at the same time requiring frequent detailed reports and data, obsessive preoccupation with procedural details (project plans seems to be the favorite pasture).
Further, such manager while completely basic in theirs technical skills (often grossly incompetent with the level of over-promoted secretary) are unable to understand technical discussions and distinguish good suggestions from bad. To compensate this gross inadequacy they try to impose excessive procedures on everything hoping that this will guarantee making the right decision and prevent exposing their gross incompetence.
Like most other types of psychopath they rely on intimidation and in their hands over controlling became very effective method of intimidation. So the issue is not over-control as many victims think. The real issue is intimidation as a systematic method applied to direct reports. For them this method of intimidation is dominant and they use it both on direct report and family members. Actually for a psychopath sex is just a power play. Once I saw a husband of a acute female micromanager at "extended" office" party; he was a psychological wreck, completely broken individual. She completely dominated him and openly has an affair with an higher level manager, much like Ayn Rand (Ayn Rand and her adultery):
I was reading through The Virtue of Selfishness, and I decided to look up Nathaniel Branden to learn some more about him after reading his articles. To my surprise, I learned that he and Rand had an longstanding affair while they were both married to other people. I was shocked to learn this, and even more surprised to learn that Rand terminated her friendship with Branden when she learned that he was with another women (after divorcing his wife and ending his relationship with Rand) against her wishes.
...Firstly, Frank did know about the affair. In fact she asked him if it was okay before getting involved, just as Branden asked his wife first. Both agreed.
With years of experience, they polish this weapon so resistance needs to be well though out or it will be mercilessly crushed. That does not mean that you have no other defense that to hit the jerk in the head with baseball bat in a parking lot ;-), but still beware you first reactions -- they are well anticipated by the micromanager and he/she has great experience of using them against you. Stone face is the best defense.
Over-controlling is one of the most effective method of intimidation. Like many other addicts - whether alcoholics or workaholics or narcoaddicts, they fail to realize and admit that they are addicts - their addiction is in intimidation of subordinates. In other words they are sadists.
Like many other addicts - whether alcoholics or workaholics or narcoaddicts, they fail to realize and admit that they are addicts - their addiction is in intimidation (yes they are sadists). Here is a relevant quote from Wikipedia:
Sadistic personality disorder is:A) A pervasive pattern of cruel, demeaning, and aggressive behavior, beginning by early adulthood, as indicated by the repeated occurrence of at least four of the following:
B) The behavior in A has not been directed toward only one person (e.g., spouse, one child) and has not been solely for the purpose of sexual arousal (as in sexual sadism).
- Has used physical cruelty or violence for the purpose of establishing dominance in a relationship (not merely to achieve some non-interpersonal goal, such as striking someone in order to rob him/her).
- Humiliates or demeans people in the presence of others.
- Has treated or disciplined someone under his/her control unusually harshly.
- Is amused by, or takes pleasure in, the psychological or physical suffering of others (including animals).
- Has lied for the purpose of harming or inflicting pain on others (not merely to achieve some other goal).
- Gets other people to do what he/she wants by frightening them (through intimidation or even terror).
- Restricts the autonomy of people with whom he or she has a close relationship, e.g., will not let spouse leave the house unaccompanied.
- Is fascinated by violence, weapons, injury, or torture.
But what makes micromanagers especially dangerous is insecurity which often is borderlines with paranoia.
What makes micromanagers especially dangerous is pervasive paranoia. An unmistakable sign of paranoia is continual mistrust -- the most distinctive feature of any micromanager. Such managers are suspicious, touchy, humorless, quick to take offense and slow to forgive, self-righteous, argumentative, often litigious.
Please take into account those "very probable" personality features that this type of sociopaths has. Not all of them can be present in a real person and degree intensity of each may vary. But still they are pretty common and surprise should be in not finding one of trait below, rather then finding facts confirming one:
They prefer to keep distance form subordinates (while trying to be close and in case of females micromanagers even intimate with higher ups). But with subordinates they try to avoid any level of intimacy; they are typically tense, cold and brusque. Like any paranoid individual such personalities find causal connections everywhere; for them nothing is coincidental.
While all micromanagers are bullies, the reverse is not true. Still both types of psychopaths have a distinct a tendency toward sadism and derive perverse gratification from harming others. They like to hurt, frighten, tyrannize. . They do it for a sense of power and control, and will often only drop subtle hints about what they are up to. At the same time they polish their aggressive, domineering manner in such a way to disguise any intimidation as legitimate corporate behavior.
All micromanagers are simultaneously bullies, that's how they enforce the following of their instructions, but reverse is not true. Studying literature about bullies greatly helps to understand their behavior, especially in case of women. The latter often try to outdo man in their intimidation tactics.
Do not think you can talk to the person and ask them to consider changing. They do not allow anyone to challenge them, and they despise admitting mistakes. In fact, if you are questioning their decisions or behavior, they have already put a plan in motion to whisper about your own competency or value to the company or organization.
Another important feature of micromanagers is that they see "improper behavior" (their favorite term) in innocuous behavior of subordinates and irrelevant events. Even joke might be treated an "improper behavior" and cause a storm. That makes them very similar to authoritarians and many of then really are just a special type of authoritarian managers. They are constantly on guard, searching for hidden motives and threats.
Usually they are hypersensitive to critique (and not without the reason as their are incompetent or most often grossly incompetent) and take offense even where none is intended. Fear of exposure of paranoid micromanager is blended into a pattern of pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent. That's why paranoid micromanagers rarely come forward to seek help from subordinates. At least direct help.
Unfocused rage as a reaction will not help you and does no harm to a corporate psychopath. Moreover it actually benefits him/her. It takes discipline, study, and a lot of thinking as well as tactical intelligence to reposition yourself in way to be less vulnerable. The key is finding and forming proper alliances "alliances of fed-up" and alliances with higher up.
So, don't just get mad, get smart and remember that in fighting corporate psychopath you do need help from other people. Complaining to HR should be a well prepared collective action, never an individual act of despair even if due to tactical considerations it needs to be staged as a sequence of individual complains.
Sometimes this type of corporate psychopath pride themselves on their rationality and objectivity when in reality there is none. This is more typical of women managers who feel that they are different from other women (and they really are). An inability to trust, doubts about others' loyalty, distortion and fabrication, misinterpretation, and bearing grudges unnecessarily are hallmarks of the disorder. Pathological and instinctive aggressive counter-attack, the obsessive need to control others is also a prominent feature. They really like to collect evidence on subordinates.
It is paranoia that makes paranoid micromanagers addicted to control and power in a compulsive drive for gaining success. This addiction for control makes micromanagers ask for status, data and reports from their subordinates more often than is needed for constructive intervention. They pervert those management tools and convert then into torture chamber. Paradoxically female paranoid micromanagers often attack females more then males...
A very interesting feature of paranoid micromanagers is that they are more interested in the way things are done and less in the results achieved (pathologic procedure orientation). They tend to be over-involved in trivialities and paperwork, while losing strategic direction of the projects and essentially abandoning leadership. In a sense extremes meet. Like in case of laissez fair [do nothing] managers they completely lose the ball and projects often fail from the lack of leadership. If they don't that's because there are still competent subordinates who can correct even gross blunders of their bosses while suffering abuse in return. \
Micromanagement is like high blood pressure they usually cause: it varies in intensity. But despite large variety in intensity of some predefined set of "over-controlling behaviors", common pattern and common set of traits can be distilled.
For example one common type of micromanages concentrate most efforts on micromanagement of time, while the other, no less common type, pays more attention to proceduralizing every activity to death, but not care about time that much and do not control deadlines too tightly.
Still all of them have several common characteristics that I will try to summarize based on my own experience as well as available literature (Chambers book is probably the best of what I read). This approach using the concept of trait is semi-scientific at best, but still I have nothing better. At least it is readable ;-). I am still working on the list, so it is far from being orthogonal, and features overlap or even repeat (as you can expect, as they are not primary symptoms, but just symptoms of some more deep inner personality maladies):
While it’s not a diagnostic category found in the DSM IV (the therapist’s bible for diagnostic purposes) an exaggerated emphasis on control is part of a cluster of behaviors that can be labeled as compulsive and generally characterized by
perfectionism, orderliness, workaholic tendencies, an inability to make commitments or to trust others and a paranoid fear of having their flaws exposed.
From the fact that micromanagers are special type of psychopaths we can also deduct that:
In the beginning, you made snap decisions, you issued commands, employees and associates flocked to be under your umbrella. But then one day, your crowd of fans started shrinking, and as your audience grew smaller, the logical thing to do was, as the kings of yore did, surround yourself with a court of well-wishers and groupies.
There are two types of subordinates that micromanager like:
"Just do what I did, I bided my time working for an impossible boss (he was the IT director) and I had worked my way up from being a junior support to be the support supervisor (they didn't have a support manager). He wouldn't make decisions, constantly gave conflicting instructions (even when the originals were in writing).
I lasted 18 months in total for the company, the last 6 were as the supervisor. Then one day I walked and he called me for a meeting to discuss his next 'great plan', I handed him my resignation, he didn't see it coming. I must confess I took immense satisfaction doing this to him but not the company or my co workers.
I keep in touch from time to time but my old boss has not said a single word to me since that day."
It's really a tremendous waste of energy, of course, because you can never fully control someone else, at least, not forever. Letting go of the control urge frees up energy and makes the family business ownership world much more comfortable and enjoyable for all.
Chambers in his book on micromanagement suggest the formula: Micromanagement = Fear + Comfort + Confusion. This formula helps him to bring order to the variety of destructive managerial behaviors that fall under the term “micromanagement”, including:
Chambers also tries to suggest a simple classification of different types of micromanagers:
Those four are distinct behaviors and they can be present in various combinations. For example there are micromanagers that tightly control methodology (procedure freaks) and require excessive reporting (documentation freaks) but do not practice excessive monitoring and do not control time (pure control freaks).
Micromanagers destroy their staff both individually (as human beings primarily by destroying self-respect) and as a social organism. In no time instead of a team you have a pack of stray dogs. Among typical negative consequences of micromanagement we can mention:
Excessive demands for approval extinguish risk taking, fail to develop others and prepare them to take over the micromanager’s job, leave people unprepared for crises, bring potential for abuse, impose costs on customers, and result in underutilization of assets.
Excessive and dysfunctional monitoring and reporting involves more specific flaws that include an inability or unwillingness to establish and communicate expectations, monitoring through back channels; being unsupportive of telecommuting and working from remote locations; and monitoring the wrong things—being blinded by activity (also known as “input bias”), restrictions on process, monitoring short-term costs vs. outcome or long-term impact, and monitoring limited indicators rather than outcomes.From my own experience, paranoid micromanagers generally try to exploit subordinates faults
In addition to creating stress and discontent among employees, the micromanager's style has three distinct features:
You can counter this with relentless quest for
self-education and obtaining additional certifications. One of the best possible moves is to start
attending some evening classes, especially if company provides reimbursement. That helps to diminish
anger and frustration as well as constant replays of recent hostile encounters with the jerk. It's
better study something them to replay the same situation in you head again and again. Use
your time wisely during working day reserving as much time for self-education as you can. Otherwise
it will be stolen by micromanager anyway. Sometimes slowing down the project is a correct
thing to do as he/she does not value the efforts anyway.
Don't be surprised if Excel spreadsheet from a tool suddenly become instruments of torture. Everything needs to be documented, real work be damned. This kind of manager at extreme form can requires a memo requesting permission to use the bathroom :-). Another common characteristic, as pointed out by numerous posts here, is a lack of a clear vision of the end goal of a project. They will change direction in the middle of the project, usually several times, and almost always reversing themselves at least once.
The true micromanager becomes so obsessed with details that "the big picture" becomes lost in a flood of insignificant tasks and documents to the extent that it impair the job in question. Essentially, a micromanager wants you to document and justify every action (after clearing it with him first, of course), do as you are told, leave the decisions to him, and so on. Moreover it also wants to justify his own inaction -- many paranoid micromanagers are notoriously indecisive and will torture you getting unnecessary for the decision task, the decision that any competent manager can take on the spot.
Micromanagers are often using submissive subordinates (patsies) to create a hostile environment because they are too insecure to interact with worker bees themselves. You can expect that paranoid micromanagers all of a sudden, expect a from you stellar performance on the task that they never managed to explain or that was passed in grossly mangled form from one of their patsies. They also are pathologically economical in email and refuse to answer your emails or put anything in writing. Some are also technology agnostic despite working in IT environment and refuse to implement basic IT productivity tools like trouble tickets processing software (helpdesk or a bug tracking system).
Actually you never work "with" a micromanager and you, probably should never work "for" one longer then absolutely necessary. It is very dangerous to work for paranoid micromanagers for a long time because he/she will eventually make you mad, intolerant, obstructive, physically or mentally ill, or insubordinate.
I would like to stress again and again: one of the most distinct feature of paranoid micromanagers is their obsession with meaningless procedures and extracting from you endless stream of useless reports that supposedly are needed to make some minor decision (which they just cannot make, anyway).
Do not expect help from HR, they are instrument of management and as such inclined to swipe the dirt under the carpet. IT is often thought of as a dead expense anyway -- not seen as a potential revenue stream generator so the instances of nepotism and protectionism are more common and chances of cronies or substandard people to fill those management positions is really high. For some unknown reason percentage of paranoid micromanagers among women in IT is statistically higher. Actually in the animal world female predators are considerably more dangerous then male predictors of the same species. This is true both for scorpions and for lions. In this sense affirmative gender-based promotion to management might have an interesting side effect on IT environment if we assume that the first candidates for promotion among female will be female sociopaths. .
Remember that the person who is micromanaging you is your boss. And his position permits exhibiting traits that are destructive for human relations even in mild situation with impunity. That returns us to the question of how long you plan to stay. Moreover that means that any attempt to correct the bad behavior of the micromanager are doomed and will be simply perceived as a hostile actions by the paranoid micromanagers. You actually can get under a higher level of oppression them before.
Only if you have other person who also is ready to blow the whistle you have some chance on success. In this case HR feels danger and typically will react, although it might not in a way you which them to react.
It is important to know that micromanagers are often females and that the majority of victims are also females. Female micromanager are more "kitty-catty" and usually are more dangerous opponent then male micromanagers. In this case "affirmative action" became a really nasty, perverted joke (you can be sure that they will be among active member of any "Female employees career mentioning" or "minorities empowerment" initiative).
Female micromanagers often are hardest on their own sex
In case you are male be assured that will use their gender as a bulletproof west. In case you are a female they will definitely try to appeal to female solidarity, complain about nasty male-oriented culture of the company, "glass ceiling" and/or exploit common for females problems.
In Lovefraud Blog post When women are sociopaths-psychopaths the author aptly noted:
There is actually very little research data available regarding sociopathy in non-criminals and in women. The little research that has been done reveals that sociopathy in women entails two or three main features that are similar to those found in men. Namely, female sociopaths lack empathy and enjoy manipulating and exploiting others. Violent and impulsive behavior is less common in sociopathic women. This fact may make them more dangerous, as they more easily blend in with the rest of society.
The key traits of sociopathic females
A recent study of adolescent girls in detention performed by Crystal L. Schrum, M.A. and Randall T. Salekin, Ph.D. of the University of Alabama and reported in Behavioral Sciences and the Law, revealed the core qualities that best described young female sociopaths. The teens were callous and lacked empathy, had a grandiose sense of self worth and were conning and manipulative. They were also likely to engage in impersonal sexual relationships. Importantly, the researchers revealed that female sociopaths did not necessarily have “shallow emotions.” Again the lack of impulsivity and shallow emotions may make a female sociopath more difficult to spot.
... ... ...
The case of Michelle Drake also illustrates something else about female sociopaths. The courts are more likely to go easy on them. This attitude of the courts may reflect the fact that many people excuse the behavior of female sociopaths and feel sorry for them. Look at the cases of women in the news lately. We don’t know if the women involved are sociopaths, however, these cases do illustrate the double standard that exists in how we judge female as opposed to male antisocial behavior. Several women teachers have been found guilty of sexually exploiting students. They were treated very leniently for the same crimes that would have put a man in jail for many years.
Fighting micromanager is not for everybody and requires careful planning, studying the enemy and a lot of courage. Flight is a better option. In any case you need to be aware that reporting to micromanager negatively influence your personality and your health. In a way you are in the situation similar to prisoners (Architects of C.I.A. Interrogation Drew on Psychology to Induce ‘Helplessness’ - NYTimes.com)
Severe stress disrupts people’s thinking, and fast. Dr. Morgan recently studied American troops’ levels of compliance and suggestibility after the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) course, a training exercise that includes what he calls a “mini-exposure” to many of the interrogation techniques the C.I.A. was using, including confinement and sleep deprivation. The result: a subset became more compliant, but the vast majority also became more suggestible when given misinformation. “Essentially you’re making people less reliable and more stupid,” he said. “You can see the problem.”
Still if circumstances are such that you need to prolong the agony you can learn how to do with less damage. The details are documented in a separate page. Among them:
Remember, generals are worthless without soldiers. And on that note, be a brave soldier, not a sycophantic pawn! As Scott Berkun aptly noted:
The best advice for having a bad manager is to seek other employment. Don’t undervalue your happiness: it’s impossible to be happy if you work directly for someone you can’t stand. It may be difficult to find another job, but if you are willing to make compromises in other areas (salary, position, project, location, etc.) it will certainly be possible. Being happy and underpaid is a much better way to spend a life than unhappy and anything else.
Making life changes, even progressive beneficial ones, is difficult and leaving a bad manager might require weeks or months of less than pleasant living. However, on the other side of any decision to leave is something you can’t get where you currently are: the possibility of a good manager, and the sanity that it will bring you. The “never quit, tough it out” attitude is a mistake if you are in a situation that can never result in your satisfaction. I think the act of finding a new job, or even quitting before you've found one, can be a way to take more control. It puts you back at center of your life, where you belong. There are risks involved, but it puts you, and not your manager or company, at the center of them.
But for the sake of this essay I’ll assume that you are either unwilling or unable to leave. Maybe you’re looking for something new and have to endure a bad manager until you’ve found it, or perhaps your family is heavily dependent on you and your options are limited. That’s fine. Just remember to re-read the first paragraph every month or so to make sure you’re considering all your choices, and not hiding behind the deceptive safety of a merely acceptable job, when what you need is something more.
|"Wake up call: The vast majority of managers at every level in American business and
government are mindless thugs, abusive kiss up kick down morons who have not
the ability to lead. Welcome to the culture that is the United States of America!"
Al Franken, cited via quote in Kissing up, kicking down
See also News section in the main page It covers wider spectrum of material...
The Burning Platform
WALTHAM, MA—Frustrated with a growing list of unacceptable workplace indignities, fed-up Catamount Systems employee Marc Holden is just about 14 years away from walking out the front door of his office and never returning, sources confirmed Thursday. “I swear to God, if things don’t improve around here real fast, I am out of here in 14 years or so—I am not bluffing,” Holden said, noting that if he has to endure just a decade and a half more of company-wide incompetence and pointless micromanagement, he is gone for good. “Seriously, I don’t think I can take any more than 3,000 more days of this before I snap.
Mark my words, if 2029 rolls around and it’s still the same old shit around here, I’m cleaning out my desk, getting on that elevator, and never coming back.” Holden added that if his boss belittled him in front of the entire staff just 200 more times, he would storm right into his office and tell him exactly where he can stick it.
January 2, 2011 ipsych
In the field of organizational psychology, this type of leader was first recognized in the 1950’s. You may find yourself working for or with this type of person, and yet no one else in authority seems to recognize it.
The KU/KD person is very charming and perhaps adored by those who are friends or equal-status colleagues. They go out of their way to compliment their peers or those they view as in higher positions. However, if you are a person who is seen as inferior or who has a lower position in a company or organization, watch out! You will be subject to a barrage of negativity and blame you may have never experienced before.
The KU/KD person was likely raised by an authoritarian parent, thus molding how they interact with fellow people in authority, and those who are under their authority. Unfortunately, the KU/KD person also gravitates towards positions of authority, thus spreading their influence.
Symptoms of this Personality
In my own person experience, I find this listing of symptoms of the KU/KD person right on target.
- Mistakes are concealed
- People are under constant stress
- Power is based on fear, not respect
- Information is withheld and distorted
- Information flow is primarily from top down
- Behavior is forced; does not come naturally
- Behavior is not consistent with true feelings, which adds to the stress
- Conflicts and problems are blamed on the dependent’s “poor attitudes” and “character flaws.”
(From the Authoritarian Personality study, 1950, UC-Berkley).
What can you do?
Unfortunately, this is a type of personality disorder, and there is little you can do when working for or with this type of person. If you are working for this person long term, you need to leave the organization or company as soon as possible. Their negativity will be extremely stressful and ultimately do damage to your career.
Do not think you can convince others in authority who are this person’s peers or supervisors that this person is negative and destructive. They are charismatic and have spent years developing the dedicated and “wonderful” persona.
Do not think you can talk to the person and ask them to consider changing. They do not allow anyone to challenge them, and they despise admitting mistakes. In fact, if you are questioning their decisions or behavior, they have already put a plan in motion to whisper about your own competency or value to the company or organization.
Think your boss is a horror? Some of these film honchos probably make him or her look like Mother Teresa.
- STAR WARS (1977) -- The scariest military boss of all time? Darth Vader. One disagreement and zappo, you're vaporized.
- 9 TO 5 (1980) -- Three working women -- Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton -- get revenge on Dabney Coleman, their sexist bigot of a boss. Retribution was never so sweet.
- WALL STREET (1987) -- Young, on-the-make stockbroker Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) goes to work for the "greed is good" guy, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). When Gekko tries to take down the airline Bud's dad (Martin Sheen) works for, the young guy realizes Gordon is a slimeball.
- WORKING GIRL (1988) -- High-powered boss (Sigourney Weaver) is totally two-faced, tries to steal underling Melanie Griffith's ideas and her guy (Harrison Ford).
- GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (1992) -- In one seven-minute scene, Alec Baldwin, playing a character named Blake, who browbeats and threatens a group of real estate salesmen, proves he's one of the most vicious bosses ever. "The good news is, you're fired. The bad news is, you've got one week to regain your jobs -- starting tonight."
- SWIMMING WITH SHARKS (1994) -- Young writer (Frank Whaley) signs on as an assistant to a movie mogul (Kevin Spacey) and discovers he's a screaming, abusive creep. Think Ari Gold of "Entourage," but worse. Much worse.
- THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE (1997) -- Young attorney (Keanu Reeves) discovers the head of his law firm (Al Pacino) is actually Satan. Holy sulfur and brimstone!
- OFFICE SPACE (1999) -- Workers at a software company are constantly bullied and harassed by their smarmy boss (Gary Cole). Can payback be in the near future?
- THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (2006) -- Yet another demanding and insensitive boss from hell, this time a high-powered fashion magazine editor (Meryl Streep) brutalizing her assistant (Anne Hathaway). Can Anna Wintour really be this bad?
Seth Gordon knows from bad bosses. He once worked as a dishwasher in an old folks home, where his micromanaging supervisor told him everything he did was wrong -- whether it was stacking the plates, cleaning things in the right order or moving fast enough. "It was really about her need to be in charge," Gordon says, "and I've seen versions of that ever since in different forms."
Which makes Gordon the perfect person to direct "Horrible Bosses," opening July 9, a comedy about three workers who decide to murder their oppressive supervisors. The film features Jason Bateman as an underling browbeaten by sadistic Kevin Spacey; Jason Sudeikis oppressed by in-over-his-head Colin Farrell; and dental assistant Charlie Day sexually harassed by dentist Jennifer Aniston.
"I have had some terrible bosses in my time, and I find that premise really relatable," Gordon says. "And when I found out how tough it is out there, a story about frustration in the workplace was good timing. A lot of people can relate to that frustration; a job they don't want to be in, but have no choice."
"We've all had the boss who makes you drive home saying in your head the things you think you should have said," adds Michael Markowitz, who conceived the story and is one of three writers on the film. "And I started thinking about the economy, and suddenly it wasn't a choice to be in your job, and I thought about being trapped in your job."
There's little doubt that "Horrible Bosses" plugs into a universal set of emotions -- frustration with insensitive bosses and feelings of impotence regarding what to do about the work situation. And whether the boss is a micromanager, a bully or engages in sexual harassment, the feelings tend to be the same. "These [supervisors] might be good at their job, but nothing else," says Lisa Orndorff of the Society for Human Resource Management. "They don't have the people skills, and when trying to connect the dots between the people and their work, there's a disconnect there. They're missing the bigger picture of what will make their department successful."
That's certainly the case with "Horrible Bosses," which features three common bad-boss types. Spacey is "a sadistic micromanager who enjoys being in power and being in charge for its own sake," says Gordon, who adds that one of the reasons he cast the Oscar-winning actor was because of his unforgettable performance as an abusive movie mogul in the film "Swimming With Sharks." (See sidebar.)
Farrell, on the other hand, who plays against type and wears a cosmically bad hairpiece, "comes into the business with sheer nepotism," Markowitz says. "He has no skills. He's in over his head and doesn't know it." And even though the sexually harassing Jennifer Aniston character was written for someone "nowhere near her level of attractiveness," according to Markowitz, "it doesn't matter how attractive the person is. It's demeaning. It's not about sex; it's about power."
On a Hitchcock track
So what's a put-upon worker to do? In a plot that riffs on the classic Alfred Hitchcock movie "Strangers on a Train" -- which is actually mentioned in "Horrible Bosses" -- the boys decide to murder each other's oppressor. This being a comedy, it's no surprise that they don't exactly succeed. And in the real world, of course, homicide isn't a real option -- unless you want to spend the rest of your life making license plates in Attica.
"The main reason people leave their jobs is their boss," Orndorff says. "The one thing I tell people" with employment issues "is keep breathing, get through today. If there's an issue, talk to your boss. If you want the work relationship to succeed, there has to be give-and-take on both sides. There's always two sides of the story, and you need to find a way to work together."
"The key is to compartmentalize," Markowitz adds. "It's so easy to grumble all through dinner, thinking about how much that man or woman is making you miserable. You have to shut it off; you can't give the boss that power. Get a hobby. Focus more on your relationships. Make that the focus of your life."
And, he adds, "My point in the movie is that you don't have to kill your boss. Just the thought you could, empowers you."
Yet, according to Gordon, there is another solution, one that might not deal directly with the issue but provides plenty of personal satisfaction.
"I think a well-crafted prank can solve almost any issue in the workplace," he says. "There are forms of Ex-Lax that taste like chocolate, and can also be mixed well in certain coffees, particularly if it's covered up with creamer. It's all about the workers banding together to complete the prank, and that can make the workplace a fun place to be."
Corporate cog Nick (Jason Bateman) has a horrible boss: sadistic micro manager Harken (Kevin Spacey).
September 22, 2011 | Harvard Business Review
No one likes a boss who excessively scrutinizes work and constantly checks in. Not only is this micromanaging behavior annoying, it can stunt your professional growth. If you have a controlling boss, you don't have to suffer. By assuaging a micromanager's stress, you may be able to secure the autonomy you need to get your work done and advance your career.
What the Experts Say
Micromanagers abound in today's organizations but typically, it has nothing to do with performance. "It's more about your bosses' level of internal anxiety and need to control situations than anything about you," says Jenny Chatman, a professor of management at Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley who researches and consults on organizational culture. The bad news is fighting back won't work. "If you rebel against it, you will just get more of it," says Jean-François Manzoni, a professor of management at INSEAD and co-author of The Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome: How Good Managers Cause Great People to Fail. So you can't change the way your boss leads, but you can change the way you follow using the these tactics.
Evaluate the behavior
Manzoni cautions that all controlling bosses are not cut of the same cloth. On one end of the spectrum you have managers who have very high standards who like some degree of control. They may regularly send you back to rework something that doesn't measure up. Manzoni offers Steve Jobs as an example of this kind of boss. They pay a great deal of attention to detail and exercise some degree of control but they don't stifle those who work for them. In fact, you may be able to learn a great deal from them.
At the other end of the spectrum are people Manzoni describes as "pathological micromanagers who need to make it clear to themselves and others that they are in charge." These are the bosses that give you little to no autonomy, insist they be involved in every detail of your work, and are more concerned about specifics, such as font size, rather than the big picture. "Micromanagers are obsessed with control. You know you are working with one if he or she gets involved in a level of detail that is way below his or her pay grade," says Chatman.
Don't fight it
Both experts agree that it's counterproductive to rail against micromanagement. "If you push back in one way or another — passively or aggressively — your manager may conclude you can't be trusted and get more involved," says Manzoni.
There is now strong evidence to suggest that humans have the same type of "mirror neurons" found in monkeys. It's what these neurons do that's amazing--they activate in the same way when you're watching someone else do something as they do when you're doing it yourself! This mirroring process/capability is thought to be behind our ability to empathize, but you can imagine the role these neurons have played in keeping us alive as a species. We learn from watching others. We learn from imitating (mirroring) others. The potential problem, though, is that these neurons go happily about their business of imitating others without our conscious intention.
Think about that...
Although the neuroscientific findings are new, your sports coach and your parents didn't need to know the cause to recognize the effects:
"Choose your role models carefully."
"Watching Michael Jordan will help you get better."
"You're hanging out with the wrong crowd; they're a bad influence."
"Don't watch people doing it wrong... watch the experts!"
We've all experienced it. How often have you found yourself sliding into the accent of those around you? Spend a month in England and even a California valley girl sounds different. Spend a week in Texas and even a native New Yorker starts slowing down his speech. How often have you found yourself laughing, dressing, skiing like your closest friend? Has someone ever observed that you and a close friend or significant other had similar mannerisms? When I was in junior high school, it was tough for people to tell my best friends and I apart on the phone--we all sounded so much alike that we could fool even our parents.
But the effect of our innate ability and need to imitate goes way past teenage phone tricks. Spend time with a nervous, anxious person and physiological monitoring would most likely show you mimicking the anxiety and nervousness, in ways that affect your brain and body in a concrete, measurable way. Find yourself in a room full of pissed off people and feel the smile slide right off your face. Listen to people complaining endlessly about work, and you'll find yourself starting to do the same. How many of us have been horrified to suddenly realize that we've spent the last half-hour caught up in a gossip session--despite our strong aversion to gossip? The behavior of others we're around is nearly irresistible.
December 26, 2005
Of course micromanagers don't actually create zombies--they simply inspire (or force) zombieism on the job.
A practical book the provides valuable tools for confronting life's difficult challenges!!!,
December 29, 2006
By Stephen Pletko "Uncle Stevie" (London, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
Self-rate yourself on a scale from 1 (meaning little agreement) to 5 (meaning strongly agree) on the following ten items:
(1) In a crisis or chaotic situation, I calm myself and focus on taking useful actions.
(2) I'm usually optimistic, seeing difficulties as temporary and believe things will eventually turn out well.
(3) I can tolerate high levels of uncertainty and ambiguity.
(4) I'm good at bouncing back from difficulties and quickly adapt to new developments.
(5) I'm self-confident and have a healthy concept of who I am.
(6) I prefer to work without a written job description since I'm more effective when I'm free to do what I think is best in each situation.
(7) I trust my intuition and "read" people well.
(8) I'm a good listener and have good empathy skills.
(9) I've been made stronger and better by difficult experiences.
(10) I've converted misfortune into good luck and even found benefits in bad experiences.
A low score of (under 25) means your resiliency skills are weak and you would greatly benefit from this amazing, easy-to-read, psychobabble-free book by Dr. Al Siebert, a clinical psychologist and Director of "The Resiliency Center". (`Resiliency' means (i) coping well with ongoing negative change (ii) sustaining good health and energy under constant pressure (iii) bouncing back from setbacks and adversities (iv) changing to a new way of living and working when an old way no longer works (v) and doing all this without acting in harmful ways.)
A middle score of (25 to 45) means your resiliency skills are adequate but probably can be greatly enhanced by using this book.
A high score of (over 45) means you have good resiliency skills and this book will validate many things you are doing right.
This book in a nutshell presents five resiliency "levels" or skills (level four is divided into 4 sub-levels while level 5 is divided into 3 sub-levels) so, in affect, the reader is presented with ten essential resiliency skills that Siebert has distilled from "the emerging new science of resiliency psychology." This book, besides other important things, shows you how to:
(1) Sustain strong, healthy energy in non-stop pressure and change
(2) Bounce back quickly from setbacks
(3) Gain strength from adversities
(4) Convert misfortune into good fortune
(5) Overcome tendencies to feel like a victim, and stay detached from victim reactions of others
(6) Overcome the three main resiliency barriers.
Who is this book written for? Siebert explains: "The resiliency guidelines in this book focus mainly on resiliency in the workplace, but they apply broadly to all aspects of life." (Actually, I think Siebert is being too restrictive in saying that these principles "focus mainly on resiliency in the workplace." Personally, I think these principles are essential to know so as to effectively play the game of life.)
What will this book NOT tell you? It "will not tell you what to do or how to act or think...Resilient people are those who decide that somehow, some way, they will do the very best they can to survive, cope, and make things turn out well." This book helps you develop your own unique way of being resilient by being both self-reliant and socially responsible.
As a physically disabled person, my personal favorite chapter was entitled "Mastering Extreme Resiliency Challenges." Included here are true stories from 9/11 survivors. I feel Siebert outdoes himself in this penultimate chapter.
Finally, this book has some key features. Important definitions, exercises, and other important and essential information are isolated from the main narrative as inserts so as to highlight key ideas. Each chapter is broken up into sections with anecdotes, examples, and true stories instead of having one long narrative. At the end of each chapter are insightful "Resiliency Development Activities" that help you utilize and think about the information from each chapter.
In conclusion, this is truly a helpful and unique book. Discover for yourself why this book was named the winner of the 2006 Independent Publisher Book Awards in the "Self Help" category at BookExpo America (the largest book publishing event in the United States) and why it was endorsed by the past president of the American Psychological Association!!
Our Life is Not Determined By What Happens But How We React,
October 28, 2005
After reading Dr. Al Siebert's enlightening book, The Resiliency Advantage, I was reminded of the old adage that was often drummed into me by my parents, that our life is not determined by what happens to us but how we react to what happens, not by what life brings to us, but by the attitudes we bring to life. Thinking positively creates a chain reaction pertaining to our thoughts, events and outcomes-a kind of catalyst that can create extraordinary results.
By Norman Goldman "Editor of Bookpleasures.com" (Montreal) - See all my reviews
Siebert begins his book by telling his readers how he came to the conclusion that clinical psychology and psychiatry are not mental health professions but rather mental illness professions. There does not seem to be any focus on what makes individuals mentally healthy, but rather on what causes mental illnesses and how do we go about treating these illnesses.
This prompted Siebert to do extensive research as to why some people survive many of life's ordeals while others seem to continually flounder. As a result of his thirst for knowledge of the subject matter he developed a good understanding of what he calls "the survivor personality."
In 1996 he published his first book on the topic, "The Survivor Personality," and we now have the follow up, The Resiliency Advantage, that reflects the tremendous amount of knowledge Siebert accumulated in his search for the causes and effects of the survivor personality.
According to Siebert there exist several levels of resiliency that he deals with in depth in his book: optimizing your health, emotions and well-being; developing good problem solving skills; strengthening your inner selfs; unleashing your curiosity and enjoy learning from the school of life; power of positive expectations; integrating paradoxical abilities; allowing everything to work well or the synergy talent; the talent for serendipity.
In order to reinforce the learning of these principles, Siebert provides many exercises, as well as brief case histories showing just how they work out in practice.
There is some excellent material in this book, particularly the sections dealing with learning from failures, benefits of curious and playful questioning, the power of positive expectations, hope, optimism, and self-reliance. It is also heartening to learn, as the author points out, that resiliency psychology, a relatively new discipline, is making good progress and is now recognized as quite vital in understanding how it can help people fare better during adversity and recover more quickly from life's ordeals.
Writing about new disciplines is always a challenge, given the negative feedback one often receives from the traditionalists. However, Siebert has risen to the occasion with his breezy style of writing, and he admirably presents an accessible work that could have easily strayed, leaving his readers with a sense of boredom.
Norm Goldman Editor of Bookpleasures
“Thus, when a project manager states, ‘I need you to do ‘X’ by Friday at 5 p.m.,” and calls the person to whom the task was assigned several times a day monitoring progress, the person is a classic micro-manager,” says Kimberly Mount, an adjunct professor of organizational psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and a leadership development consultant.
The classic micro-manager cannot resist meddling at every step in a project. Good project managers parcel out work, then let team members go off and percolate individually and without interference. Not a micro-manager. These lines can be finely drawn, so understand that what makes micro-management particularly treacherous is “it is too much of a good thing,” says Stefanie Smith, head of Stratex, a coaching firm.
Chew on this factoid: according to Harry Chambers, author of My Way or the Highway: The Micromanagement Survival Guide , 71% of us indicate we are victims of micromanagement.
Would your team members say they are in that super-majority?
What causes micro-management? Experts point to three drivers:
Extreme detail orientation a.k.a, perfectionism. Self-centeredness. That is, “[T]he belief you are smarter than the others,” says Todd Dewett, an associate professor of management at Wayne State University. Anxiety. When you are worried that a flubbed project could drive your team’s work to Bangalore, India (or from Bangalore to Karachi … or wherever), it is easy to fall into eyeballing every step.
“Micro-management is a symptom of thinking things are out of control,” adds consultant Don Maruska, author of How Great Decisions Get Made .
Say that a project manager who doesn’t fear possible job loss is delusional bordering on Pollyanna and you may be right, meaning that, in many cases, the building blocks for micro-management have a foundation in reality. But that does not make it a good thing, particularly not when it is exhaustively documented that a micro-manager sucks the enthusiasm out a project team (Who wants to give his/her all when the boss redoes everything anyway?).
Even worse. A classic symptom of the micro-manager is that he cannot get his own work done, says organizational consultant Simma Lieberman. So busy supervising the work of others, the micro-manager frequently finds his own to-do list gets ignored. And that is no way to win job security.
A second type of neurotic leader identified by Kets de Vries (1994) is the suspicious type. These managers feel like they can't trust anyone, so they are constantly on their guard. Therefore, they are always preparing to retaliate against all assaults from menacing forces. To help them prepare for assaults, they seek large inputs of information. Because of their hypersensitivity, distrustfulness, and suspiciousness, they try to control their work environment by being over-involved in rules and details.
According to Westen & Shedler (1999), individuals with a paranoid personality disorder are hostile people who express anger out of proportion to the situation. This anger is a result of their perception that others are trying to do them harm. They tend to misinterpret others' intentions as malevolent, frequently getting into power struggles and arguments. Once a conflict arises, the paranoid executive will tend to hold a grudge and be very critical of the other person, losing all capacity to see anything good in the other person. Projecting unacceptable feelings onto others, they tend to come across as self-righteous and moralistic. Once a major problem arises they see it as disastrous and unsolvable, but they won't confide their concerns to others for fear of betrayal.
The suspicious executive mistrusts everyone. S/he can be described as intense, cynical, inflexible, and distrustful. Because of their continuing paranoia, which is typically unjustified, suspicious personalities defend against any perceived threat--real or imagined. Stubborn and rigid, they rarely relax or let up their guard.
They maintain that hypervigilance is their key to survival. Everyone in the organization is seen as a potential menace, so the suspicious executive keeps a safe distance from colleagues. This distance makes interactions seem impersonal and callous. They seem void of kindness, sentimentality, and compassion. On the occasions when suspicious personalities exhibit humor, it is usually thinly veiled hostility--expressed in a stabbing and sarcastic manner (Carson & Carson, 1997; Carson & Carson, 1998).
Suspicious executives need to control in order to ensure their safety and security. When they are not in charge, the suspicious personality feels vulnerable. However, they hide such concerns because to expose weaknesses would give others an upper hand. Therefore, the paranoid tries to conceal feelings of foreboding, tension, and distress. They bluff their way through danger by acting fearless, inaccessible, and potentially vengeful. To protect themselves, suspicious executives emphasize organizational structure, centralized power, environmental intelligence, and diversification (Kets de Vries & Miller, 1984).
Management fashions are adopted by suspicious executives to reduce risk, increase control, and augment power. Fashions are then dropped to cover up failed initiatives, thus avoiding criticism and attack (cf. Carson & Carson, 1997; Carson & Carson, 1998).
February 01, 2006 ( www.beatyourowndrum.com ) I have several other posts on Micromanagers in my September archives, so if your manager is a micromanager go check them out.
Micromanagers are insidious. I will not state this any other way, because I feel ALL micromanagers should be doing something else than managing. I am sure there is something that they are more qualified to do.
If you work "with" or "for" one, you are groaning right now. Actually you never work "with" a micromanager and you should never work "for" one.
Micromanagers do not allow you to work "with" them. They are either doing your job or telling you how to do it. Then when you do not do something exactly the way they tell you, watch out. So it is impossible to work "with" a micromanager.
It is also impossible to work "for" one, because it will eventually make you mad, intolerant, insolent, obstructive, physically or mentally ill, or insubordinate.
Micromanagers do not stay within their own domain because they subscribe to a fundamental principle. The entire office is their domain. Watch the micromanager in your office - every office has at least one. They will assign tasks to people they have no authority over. They will call meetings about issues that pertain to another manager's domain.
If you get assigned a task by someone who does not have authority to do so, go to your manager and discuss it. That is assuming your manager is NOT a micromanager. If s/he is a micromanager you should not be talking about anything you are not asked to talk about while you are out searching for your new job. I am being totally serious. It is like creating a feeding frenzy for sharks.
Give a micromanager an inch, they will take a mile and then some. If you are a manager and you just had something assigned to you by a micromanager that is your peer, ignore it. I would never confront the micromanager directly. You are asking for more trouble than you need to deal with. Usually if you ignore the request, (even after 6 attempts) the micromanager will find someone else to do it. After all the office is their domain and they know there are plenty of suckers who will obey.
In short, rule of thumb is:
Avoid any interaction with a micromanager at all costs. If you avoid them, they will avoid you.
Again if you report to one, you know what you should be doing.
Show respect. Even if your boss hasn't yet won your loyalty, he or she is still entitled to your respect. Your boss is responsible for your work and the work of your colleagues. That can be a significant burden. Try to understand the business from your boss's perspective. Try to treat him or her with the respect the position and the responsibility warrant.
The most important function for a manager is X = -Y, where X is employee brain use and Y is degree of management. To use the horse whisperer's advice, The more you use your reins, the less they'll use their brains."
If you asked 100 managers which they'd prefer--employees who think, or mindless zombies who respond only (and exactly) as ordered, you'd get 100 responses of, "What a ridiculous question. We hire smart people and stay out of their way so they can do their jobs." And if you asked 100 managers to define their management style, none would claim to be micromanagers. Probe deeper, though, and the truth begins to emerge.
Ask managers if their direct reports can make decisions as well as the manager can, and they hesitate. Ask if the manager could step in at a moment's notice and perform the employee's job, and too many managers would say--with pride--"yes."
Do you have a micromanager? Are you a micromanager? Are all micromanagers clueless or and/or evil? Of course not. Most micromanagers I've known (or had) were driven by one or both of the following:
1) Not enough time
Taking the time to give employees the same data, knowledge, and skills needed to do things right can be a luxury many managers just can't afford. Or so they think. While it's oh so tempting to just step in and DO IT, micromanagement doesn't scale. Better to:
Take the time it takes [now] so it takes less time [later]."
2) Concern for quality
Micromanagers often believe that they know more, and more importantly -- care more. Often they're right. But it's a downward spiral--
Of course micromanagers don't actually create zombies--they simply inspire (or force) zombieism on the job. Follow those work zombies home, and their zombiness vanishes. Thier eyes light up, their brain kicks in, and their passion for playing with their kids, championing a cause, or just playing their favorite after-work hobby emerges. You see the side of them that micromanagement crushes.
Aug 22, 2005 (workplaceinfo.com.au). As this series of articles on micromanagement has emphasised, micromanagers can be very tenacious people. Their management style is influenced by their fears, control mentality, personality and need for comfort, which are often very deeply ingrained. Progress with reducing their tendency to micromanage will be gradual and incremental, but it can be achieved.
... ... ...
- Collect information from others who are affected by the micromanager. It is best to encourage them to contribute openly to the performance management process, but if they prefer anonymity (which is often the case), corroborate their information with evidence from other people and add your own observations.
If you tell a micromanager that 'someone' (anonymous) has complained, the manager is likely to form his/her own suspicions and confront the suspect. If you divulge a name, this is guaranteed to happen. They in turn may deny saying anything, in order to protect themselves, and your position is then undermined. When collecting evidence, take care to separate facts from personal agendas.
- 360-degree feedback tools can provide valuable collective data without revealing sources. If they are part of the organisation’s overall performance management system, even better, as the fact that all managers are evaluated simultaneously prevents a micromanager claiming that there is a witch hunt.
- Group discussions with other employees can help gather information, but be sure not to cross the line between evaluation and investigation/witch hunt. Micromanagers often have paranoid tendencies, so they will probably suspect or find out that you are up to something. A possible smokescreen is to evaluate several other managers in the same way at the same time.
- Direct confrontation with a micromanager may be necessary in 'crisis' situations, for example where several employees resign or threaten to do so, there is 'group anger' at a manager, or there are accusations of bullying. If this happens, try to make your approach respectful, non-personal and non-threatening.
- Presenting the perceptions of others is useful information that gives the micromanager less to defend. The focus is on the impact on others rather than what the manager actually does. You can present the issue as a need to change behaviour so that the perceptions by others will be more favourable. Point out that people have more influence over others if the others perceive them favourably.
... ... ...
What if none of this works?
Unfortunately, there are some cases where micromanagement arises from deep-seated personality traits. These managers may find it impossible to change their behaviour significantly. There are also others who, for whatever reason, are determined not to change.
Where this happens, there are two options:
- Damage control. Take them out of the loop for some activities, in order to limit their interference and disruption. Change approval processes and reduce the need for them to work in collaboration with others. Be aware of any efforts to make themselves indispensable. These steps will probably harm their career prospects, but there are inevitable consequences for resisting improvements.
- Removal from management role.
"Who, me? No, of course not. I'm thorough. I'm competent. OK, so I am a little methodical. That's not bad, is it?"
Micromanagers, like many addicts -- alcoholics, rageaholics, fanatics, etc. -- are the last people on the planet to recognize that their addiction is in controlling others. The compulsion to look over your employees' shoulders has nothing to do with being meticulous or careful -- it has everything to do with control.
Yes, you. That's right, I'm talking to you, El Presidente. Your employees are calling you much worse. For example, they might be calling you a ruler, extremist, bureaucrat, tyrant, bully, persecutor and tormenter. And trust me, those are the nice names. People who micromanage do so because they are the ones who feel unsure and self-doubting about their abilities.
As you folks know, I have extensive experience working for micromanagers. While I do not believe that every workaholic is a micromanager, I would have to say this is the case most of the time. I’ll tell you why.
Definition of a Workaholic: One who has a compulsive and unrelenting need to work. It is sometimes linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder… just like someone who micromanages.
Definition of a Micromanager: One who directs or controls in a detailed, often meddlesome manner.
As I’ve mentioned before, many micromanagers are individuals suffering from a compulsive disorder (which may be helped by a swift kick, or not).
Need to control
you bring work home
You think about work and how to “fix” things while at home or on vacation
You want to do it all yourself; you do not properly delegate tasks
Need to control
You want to do it all yourself; you do not properly delegate tasks
As with micromanagers, workaholics also tend to suffer from low self esteem. Micromanagement and workaholism are irrational behaviors. Both result in damaged/diminished social relationships, health problems and distorted thinking. Long ago, the term workaholic was used as a compliment. Since business changed and office cultures evolved, so has the term.
If someone you know is a workaholic, it may be time to throw them a life preserver and tow them to safety. They can be shown the way. If someone you know is a micromanager, tie an anvil to their ankle and throw them overboard. They won’t be missed.
Unfortunately, it is an attitude still held many business owners. Even more unfortunately, this narrow-minded style of leadership approach has brought many of their businesses to a painful end.
The illusion of infallibility
That companies led by this type of leader more often than not come to bad ends should come as no surprise. Such leadership is the ultimate consequence of living and working in denial. While the business is floundering, the talent pool is heading south, and (somewhat self-fulfilling) rumors of failure are circulating. The boss is lashing out and blaming friend and foe that they are to blame for declining sales, increased expenses, cash-flow problems, poor advertising, lousy quality and that no one cares.
And the longer the list of problems, the longer the list of others to blame, from the banks to the unappreciative customers and employees.
But never the boss. And the attitude is understandable. After all, who took an idea, went to friends, family, investors and anyone who was willing to provide a bit of the stake? Who fought the odds and advice against starting the business? Who worried the first few months about not making it? Who beat back the creditors while getting established? Who pushed and prodded everyone to make it a success?
Why, you did, of course! No one has earned a better claim to infallibility than you.
Losing your Midas touch
But when the problems start, you desperately wonder why your golden touch is no longer working. Did Lady Luck withdraw her blessing, did your mojo run out, did you lose your personal good luck charm? Clearly, the gods must be conspiring against you.
In the beginning, you made snap decisions, you issued commands, employees and associates flocked to be under your umbrella. But then one day, your crowd of fans started shrinking, and as your audience grew smaller, the logical thing to do was, as the kings of yore did, surround yourself with a court of well-wishers and groupies.Your commands are obeyed, and you tolerate no disagreement. After all, your genius created this empire. Who are these impudent, disloyal serfs to question your wisdom? But strangely, those commands that in the past led to greatness, don't seem to have the same magical effect. And of course, in your wisdom, you find fault not with the command but with the ineptitude of those who are supposed to be carrying out your wishes.
And when your employees and customers fail to remember and appreciate all you have done for them, what do you do? Fire a few folks, tell a few demanding customers to shop elsewhere and blame the latest group of liberals for creating a population that does not want to work and fails to recognize the heroism of the entrepreneurial class. As you approach the possibility of failure, it seems that higher powers have taken issue with your hubris and decided to clip your wings.
A shot at redemption
But like Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol," there is still time for your redemption.
To begin with, listen to the prophets of the past who tell us that leadership to launch a company and leadership to administer a company are two very different creatures.
In the beginning it was all you. Now success demands teamwork. To expect blind faith and mindless employees is to live in another time. If you want loyalty, enthusiasm and a hard working group of guys and gals to build your business, promote them from serfs to knighthood. Ask their advice, get their opinions, remove any sense of killing the messenger and become the Vince Lombardi of your business.
Sadly, so many leaders of American commerce and industry have created a climate of fear and insecurity as employees worry about factory closings and the trend of job outsourcing. These bottom-line addicts treat employees -- a valuable resource -- as some expendable commodity. This is not the first time our corporate leaders have been accused of short-term thinking.
While your business is your life, working for you is part of the life of your employees. If you want a caring and committed work force who feel a genuine sense of belonging and partnership (that does not mean making the work place a social club), you'll have to relinquish the reins of total control and empower your employees.
If you want a team of employees that will complement you and make your business a success for everyone involved, hire wisely and focus on teamwork. A leader, skilled in managing for the most, brings the greatness out in his or her people and deposits it in the bank.
Paul Adams is Professor Emeritus of Business Administration at Ramapo College of New Jersey and the Author of "Fail Proof Your Business: Beat the Odds and be Successful." E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Four out of five workers say they've been a victim of micromanagement. But what does the term really mean? In his very readable new book My Way or the Highway-the Micromanagement Survival Guide, author Harry E. Chambers writes, "Basically, micromanagement is the excessive, unwanted, counterproductive interference and disruption of people or things." It occurs when influence, involvement and interaction begin to subtract value from people and processes. It is the perception of inappropriate interference in someone else's activities, responsibilities, decision making and authority."
Chambers lists the five defining behaviors of a micromanager. Most of them deeply rooted in insecurity:
- Micromanagers exercise raw power.
They love to flex their muscles-asserting their power and authority just because they can. While unable to subordinate themselves, they control others with an uncompromising sense of entitlement and self-interest.
- Micromanagers dictate time.
They like to control and manipulate others' time. They don't trust people to assess their own workload, so they routinely dictate priorities and distort deadlines. And while they guard their own time with an iron fist, they're notorious for interrupting others, misusing and mismanaging meetings and perpetuating crises.
- Micromanagers control how work gets done.
They want everything to be done their way. After all, the boss knows best-or so he or she believes. They dismiss others' knowledge, experience and ideas-no matter how good-then hover over them to make sure they're doing things "right."
- Micromanagers require undue approvals.
They share responsibility, but not authority. As the "bottlenecks" of the workplace, they allow no one to move forward without their approval-even on routine or time-sensitive matters.
- Micromanagers demand frequent and unnecessary reports.
They are driven to know what's going on. They monitor workers to death-requiring a stream of needless reports that focus on activity over outcomes.
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