Death By Micro

March 29, 2021
Steven McCormack
1 min

I can't think of a more corrosive habit. One that quickly strangles the life out of most teams. I have seen it applied in many different guises; the autocratic company director, the incompetent general manager. The ego driven upstart. And each time we see the same crappy results, which only results in yet more micro-terror.

At first it might not be that obvious. A query here and there, or a desire to know intimate details of your work. Healthy enough, perhaps? Just a desire to be on top of things, but not to be involved? Yet before you know it, there are emails flying at you from every direction. Any rhythm or working style is soon under constant attack from the rampant micro-trooper. And that, my friends, can be rather exhausting.

The low level anxiety creates a variety of responses. Some folks become despondent, uninterested. And that is ultimately the micro-tyrants dream, to be manager their own army of automatons. And whether they know it or not, it keeps in check their own fears and resultant desire to control. This scenario can play out for years if you are not careful.

Other folks get frustrated, but only under the surface. Eventually the grumblings become too much. They pull the chord, leave the team, and management continues undeterred. Admittedly, that has been me on a couple of occasions.

Play To Self Interest

However, there is another approach. Embrace the micro - and create a buffer. After all, these individuals are driven by fear. Of their clients. Of their families. Of their superiors. They just want to look more assured, less stressed and be in line for promotion. You can, and should, play on this. For example, create a control document or dashboard for your projects or responsibilities. It gives them insta-access to details, without having to disrupt your day or attention. Set them up, add a dash of colour, and put them somewhere everyone can access. Don't even ask for permission. Just demonstrate.

Encourage your micro-Stalin to refer to these files first. Should this begin to work, then widen the buffer. Condense team meetings to once a week. Try and physically extract yourself from their presence. It is not easy, especially in the early days. You will be building your buffers and taking direct hits at the same time. But the payoff can be exceptional; a track record of fending off an emotional agitator. You'll help build a happier team, and boost your confidence. It can be done.

Signing out, Steven.

Cover photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash.


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