There are not that many articles deconstructing accurately the mechanisms at play when relationships deteriorate between an employee and a manager. Or if there are they don't often break to the surface of the self-help noise.
This clever article from Terri Lorz (extract and link below) made me think of my own position as both an employee and a manager and reminded me of the vicious circle that can easily be triggered by some situation and how, what is often considered a management flaw is not only the responsibility of the manager.
I'm talking about micro-management.
While it is true that some managers may feed their ego on the power they have to hire and fire or believe that the right way to do things is only their way, I believe that this is a dated vision of management that is not so common these days.
What are left are management styles and managers that are willing to do their best but are more or less empowered by their context, more or less experienced (or trained) and more or less inspired by direct reports they may not have chosen themselves.
One of the griefs employees often raise against their managers is micro-management. This evil habit of managers with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to want to control everything.
Maybe it's because my own leadership style is largely biased toward the idea that the devil is in the details but I do not buy into micro-management being this unilateral flaw of bad management.
What about the responsibility of the employee in good management?
Good employees cause good managers - and get good managers if they deserve one. Not always but often.
Employees have a responsibility in the management relationship. Always.
When an employee believes they are owed freedom and flexibility they express the frustration of a situation where their work is double-checked, controlled or heavily influenced.
But maybe it's for good reasons. Maybe it's not because of the evil ways of their managers.
I don't believe most managers take pleasure in doing the job of their team members twice ...and then do their own job anyway. Micro-management is a burden for all parties. But when it occurs it can also be legitimate.
A great team is the result of many personalities: the very creative who can go off on a tangent, the achiever who wants to go fast and can overlook the devil in the details, the perfectionist who may lose track of the deadline.
Sometimes it takes bespoke micro-management to get everyone to the finish line - and teamwork does mean to give up a little bit of ourselves.
Manage your manager!
If you are reading this article you are most likely a manager interrogating your management approach or an employee suffering from micro-management.
To the former I say micro-manage without fear if you fit my description above and you genuinely want your staff to succeed as a team.
To the latter it is now time you learn to manage your boss!
It's called Managing Up and it's used by the best employees, the ones who deserve the best managers.
One day the manager starts to dislike “that employee” and nags, complains and micro-manages. The relationship goes from bad to worse and by the time a mediator is called in the manager hates "that employee" and has a long list of problems to justify termination. “That employee” hates the micro-managing, controlling boss and has a list of stories to demonstrate how bad the manager is.