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Featured Article:

Micro- The Four-Letter Word of Management

Ralph Peterson

Eight-thousand, nine-hundred and seventy-two; that is how many nickels I would have if I received a nickel from every manager that ever said, “I shouldn’t have to…” 

“I shouldn’t have to check up on her all the time…” 

“I shouldn’t have to constantly be showing him what to do…” 

“I shouldn’t have to explain it to them every, single, time…”

“I shouldn’t have to call her every day to make sure she looked at the schedule…”

“I shouldn’t have to wonder who is showing up every day…” 

“I shouldn’t have to, this… and I shouldn’t have too, that…”

The truth is, if you want to be a good manager, you will have to be a micro-manager. Micro-managing is a necessary management tool that needs to be employed. Who you have to micro-manage and how often, is unfortunately not up to you; it is up to them. Some employees will need more, others will need less, all of them will need some. 

Most employees who say they do not want to be micro-managed, simply mean that they do not want anyone checking up on their work because they don’t want to be held accountable. 

I am speaking from experience. I have been the type of employee who, if I didn’t think you were going to check on my work I wouldn’t do it. Or, if I did do it, I wouldn’t have done it well. After a while (and it doesn’t take long), if I didn’t think you cared enough to check, then I too, wouldn’t care. 

In fact, there are still times when I get too busy or don’t think I need to check up on someone only to find out that the task they said they completed, wasn’t completed. When I ask them why they lied to me, they usually fall silent, not sure what to say, but I do.

“It’s because you didn’t think I was going to look,” I say, a knowing smile on my lips. They nod slowly, reluctantly, and then seeing my smile, they smile. 

“You got me,” they say. “You got me.” 

It’s not hard to understand why employees do this. Can you imagine working your butt off trying to make sure you’re doing the best job possible only to have it go unnoticed? Can you imagine if even your manager didn’t care enough to check in with you, to see what you have been up to? I have and it sucks. 

On the other hand, if I knew my manager was going to check on my work, not only would I have it all done, but I would have done a really great job. In this sense, micro-managing isn’t bad; it’s magic. 

It isn’t just employees either; I know a lot of managers who say they do not want to be micro-managers. In fact, they believe the word “micro” is the four-letter word of management. However, and again I am talking from experience here, what managers are really saying isn’t, “I shouldn’t have to…” They are saying, “I don’t want to…”

“I don’t want to check up on her all the time…” 

“I don’t want to constantly be showing him what to do…” 

“I don’t want to explain it to them every single time…”

“I don’t want to make sure she knows her schedule…”

“I don’t want to make sure I know who is showing up every day…” 

In essence, what they are saying is: “I don’t want to be a good manager.”

When I was new to management, I too believed micro-managing was bad. That all it showed was a lack of trust in your employees. In a bizarre twist of reality, that only a lazy manager like me could come up with, I believed that good workers didn’t need or want to be micro-managed. And so, in a weird way, I thought I was helping my employees become better workers by not checking in on them. Can you imagine the results I was getting?

I’ll give you a hint, they were not good; they were bad.

Checking in, overseeing and making sure your staff are doing what they are supposed to be doing, when they are supposed to be doing it, is the job of the manager. The number of times you have to check in on them, or the number of times you have to explain things to them, is not up to you; it is up to them.

Managers who believe, “they shouldn’t have too,” or “micro-managing is bad” cost their companies millions and millions of dollars in lost productivity. Worse, this attitude often results in defective products, mishandled and broken equipment, attitudes, lawsuits, disgruntled employees, fist fights, arguments, high attrition rates and loss of customers. 

Imagine being a customer to one of these managers and having to rely on them to produce a product or service for you. I am sure you, like me, have had an instance where you ordered something that was supposed to take one week to get to you and it took four. Or you ordered one thing and they sent you something completely different. 

When it is someone’s birthday present that is late, or flowers that are not delivered on the right day, it sucks. However, when it is life-saving medical equipment or medication, and the company that supplies those products or services have managers that believe they “shouldn’t have to be a micro-manager,” it is more than just inconvenient, it is dangerous and often times has dire consequences.

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