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Posted: January 21, 2013

Confessions of a micromanager

Don't waste their time and yours

David Sneed

And now a tale of micromanagement:

In the interests of domestic harmony, I washed the dishes and asked Natalie, my 14-year-old, to vacuum the living room. It was comforting to hear the roar and clump as she dragged Ms. Hoover across the sky blue shag.

 “I’m done, Dad!” she beamed from her toes, arms behind her back. I went to check.

Everything small enough to fit up the snout was gone, including, if I heard right, about 36 cents and two barrettes. But the socks, papers, dishes and cat were all still there.

I realized I had asked her for the wrong thing.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I misspoke when I told you to vacuum.  What I meant was ‘Please remove from the floor everything that doesn’t belong there.’ Use whatever means you think appropriate including, but not limited to, the vacuum cleaner.”

My mistake was that I gave her a task, not the result I hoped to achieve.

She thought this was funny, but she got the gist. Five minutes later we were both happy because, even though she didn’t clean up the way I would have, the result was the one I wanted.

Bosses do this a lot. We don’t believe our workers can find the way so we tell them HOW to do something instead of what we want accomplished. Employees hate this.

Now I don’t know about you, but when my guys are cheerful the days are smoother, customers are happier, and there are fewer fires to put out. The price for harmony, though, is that I have to watch them fumble around like Ronnie Hillman with an electric eel. Two hands, Ronnie, two hands.

Sometimes they mess it all up; a fate which may not happen if you micromanage. So it’ll cost you some money to let ‘em figure it out on their own.  But if you can put up with that at the beginning, and correct mistakes as they happen, you’ll end up with guys who want to work for you; and guys who know as much as you do.

When you’ve reached that point, you’re set. Now you can go out and drum up business instead of babysitting. Everyone wins.

A note of caution for employers: Not everyone can handle being unsupervised. Find out who they are and get rid of them.

A note of caution for employees: Don’t be the person who can’t handle independence.

Micromanaging wastes your time, their time, and they end up resenting you. Is it worth it?

David Sneed is the owner of Alpine Fence Company,and the author of" Everyone Has A Boss– The Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company." As a Marine, father, employee and boss, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the benefits of a strong work ethic to entry and mid-level employees. Contact him at

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