Meditate on Glaser's third type, probably the most common cause, and suddenly, the reasons for the epidemic become clear. For 10 years, management slots have been under attack, as organizations have trimmed budgets. When anxiety over that business reality gets out of control, an easy upshot is micromanaging. "Insecurity is pandemic, too, among managers," says Trestman. "There are strong pressures for productivity. Many managers have never been trained how to manage. These managers feel a lot of anxiety. Most micromanagers frankly feel they are doing what they need to do to produce quality work."
That's the stumbling block facing an employee who feels micromanaged and who suffers the resulting problems (poor morale, lack of creativity, no enthusiasm about the job). When a boss feels he or she is doing only what must be done, where can change arise?
Philadelphia employment lawyer and human resources specialist Robin Bond draws upon her personal experience from a past job. "I know about micromanagers. At an in-house counsel position where I worked, I had to photocopy every document I produced for review by my boss before it went out. Everything. She read everything and always had comments and changes. I had to learn to build a lot of time into every workday just to communicate with her. As long as I communicated with her, she was happy, even if I wasn't getting much done."
Getting along and going along is one coping strategy. Another is to just quit.
But there may be a shrewder way. Executive coach and leadership trainer Marcia Reynolds whispers the word she says every micromanaged employee needs to know: aikido. That's a martial art where the key is to turn an opponent's force back against him with clever footwork, leverage, and ducking. Don't see how that applies to work? Reynolds says that when she had a micromanager for a boss, she consulted a therapist who told her: He's doing the best he can. Don't fight, don't push back, don't resist. "That will only make the micromanager do it harder," says Reynolds. The therapist didn't expect Reynolds to quietly suffer, however. "He told me to model what I wanted from my boss." In other words, to act as though he were the world's best boss with the world's best employee. A funny thing happened: "When I stopped resisting him, he started trusting me. When there no longer was any resistance, he quit fighting. Doing that really empowered me. This definitely isn't giving up," says Reynolds, who at that time held a senior human resources position in a semiconductor company. "When you model what you want, sometimes that's exactly what you will get."
FOR THE MICROMANAGED
Breathe deeply and suck in this thought: Sometimes micromanaging is good for you. A more troubling thought: If you're micromanaged, you might look in the mirror to see the cause.
That's the discordant viewpoint of Jim Walter, an associate vice president in the University of Connecticut Health Center's communications department. Walter roots his claims in personal experience. He elaborates that in the first job in his career, his boss rode him hard, minutely editing Walter's every word. Nothing Walter did passed out of the shop without a thorough going-over."Yes, I felt frustrated," recalls Walter. "But now I realize it was good for me."