Mark’s Subversive Dictionary: “micro-management”

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UPDATED March 19/10

micro-management, 1. the art of destroying the morale and initiative of one’s employees through the unnecessary interference in the performance of their duties; generally accompanied by a disingenuous wonderment at the organization’s  inability to retain highly motivated employees.  (see also, micro-manager)

micro-manager, 1. a generally well-meaning person afflicted with the inability to effectively communicate clear priorities when providing direction to subordinates; and/or 2.  a person who, having communicated clear priorities, retards their employees’ effectiveness at every opportunity by overturning the decisions of those employees without offering the courtesy of consultation. (see also, micro-management.)

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Origin: I wrote this definition in absolute frustration while working down in the U.S. for a large defence contractor. My rental vehicle broke down on the road and the company hadn’t provided a contact number I could call for a tow. I used my own CAA to get the SUV towed to a hotel because the dealer was in a bad area of Tacoma, Washington and kept their gates locked at night.

The next day I bought booster cables, charged the dead battery and got a co-worker to follow me back to the car dealer the vehicle was leased from.  Thinking I might save the company some money, I suggested that perhaps the dealer should pay for my expenses. The dealer called a senior supervisor of mine who called another supervisor who called me into his office. I had to sit there and listen to the first supervisor chew me out over the phone. To this day, I’m not sure why he was so mad at me; he was so rude that I didn’t even bother to ask.

Despite the fact that there was no policy manual, and no instructions with the vehicle regarding what to do in the event of a breakdown, he thought that I should telepathically have known to call him in the middle of the night at his heretofore unknown telephone number. Definitely no pat on the back for my resourcefulness. I learned not to try to save the company money, and I learned it well. 

The ultimate example of a micro-management backfire

The criminal charges against Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino (Influencing Municipal Official, issued 2009) and two of his top officers, Deputy Commissioner Chris Lewis and Superintendent Ron Gentle (Obstructing Justice, 2010) are perfect examples of the extreme dangers of allowing senior managers to micro-manage — especially when they work for a police force. I hope to produce a detailed case study on this topic in the future, but for now please see the following:

Other entries in Mark’s Subversive Dictionary:

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