learning to trust my own opinions and expertise
Well, I had my little tantrum yesterday, and now that I’ve got it out of my system I want to look a little bit closer, and with a lot more seriousness, at some of the things that I have done (or supported others in doing) and how they might have contributed to the problems that are currently frustrating me – that is, ongoing conflict between members of my team.
All interpersonal conflict is complex – it can’t be explained by a single action or reaction, but one point that I want to focus on and explore is the impact of micro-management on staff conflict. What sparked off this line of thought was a colleague telling me that micro-management EQUALS bullying.
That’s a pretty strong statement – bullying is a very serious accusation, and whilst I don’t hesitate to acknowledge that continuous micro-management is a useless and damaging style of managing staff, I don’t agree that in and of itself, it is bullying.
Earlier today I felt pretty confident that there are times that micro-management is a valid, albeit serious, intervention to use on a temporary basis with staff that are under performing. But as I’ve thought and thought about it, I am starting to doubt myself.
Is micro-management ever OK? And does it ever actually help to improve a situation? I’m really keen to hear the views of anyone interested enough to have read this far (!) and I will provide the following two examples as food for thought:
Staff member A wants her job to be something that it isn’t, and spends a large amount of time focussing on work that suits her interests rather than the allocated work required to move the team forward in the proper direction. In spite of conversations from her supervisor regarding this unacceptable performance, and clear directions on the work projects that are required, the staff member gives only cursory attention to these tasks and continues to concentrate her efforts in the wrong direction.
Staff member B does not like his job or the people he works with. He seems to deliberately obstruct meetings and discussions, and because he cannot see the point of the tasks that he is given, completes them only to the absolute bare minimum. Again the supervisor talks with the staff member about this unacceptable performance, however the situation does not improve.
As I write these examples, it is really clear that there is more going on than a simple failure to complete allocated work. Both staff members are disgruntled with their roles and the work they are allocated is not satisfying to them on a personal or professional basis. Conflict between the staff members and supervisors already exists to some point. I don’t want to give the impression that this was ignored – time and effort was put into trying to repair these disconnects. I cannot change the job and the work required, this is tied to the project outcomes, but some of the strategies that were put in place with the intention of improving the situation included: developing team mission/visions; social break-outs & team building activities; performance counselling; allocation of more autonomous projects; and identification of tasks of interest that some time could be given to.
When there was no significant or sustained improvement in performance, I supported the supervisors in the decision to intervene and manage the staff members’ workloads more directly. In effect to give clear and detailed instructions of the work required to be completed, along with some instruction on how to progress those tasks, and to allocate set deadlines to tasks. A very definition of micro-management.
My thinking was this:
But now I am starting to doubt how any intervention strategy based on such a negative premise could possibly have long-lasting positive outcomes for team relationships, self-esteem, initiative, accountability, respect for management and project completion. The only “positive” outcome that I am now seeing is where a decision has already been made to performance manage someone out of an organisation or role.
And when I look at my scenarios, it is clear that whilst there has been performance improvement, there is simmering mistrust and disaffection between staff members and supervisors which takes only minor friction to cause a bubble over that puts us back at the beginning.
So back to my question: Can micro-management ever be a valid intervention strategy for poor work performance?
I am genuinely interested in your experiences and opinions as a manager, supervisor or staff member, so please share.