Manage or Micro-manage?

Recently I sat down with a friend of mine who practices a dental specialty. The specialty was not the subject of this conversation. The subject of the conversation was “I feel like a JERK!”…This is an all too common scenario in business. Business owners, especially health care providers, have to face the dual role of being both gentle, compassionate, understanding and also being firm, prompt, demonstrative and confrontational. As a rule, we are either too confrontational and lack any real accurate sense of just how poorly we are percieved by others, or we want too much to be liked. Being liked completely conflicts with what is needed, yet it’s nearly impossible to triumph logic over emotion.

In the case at hand, my colleague had hired an office manager whom he felt was making all too frequent errors. The very first issue we had to discuss was his micro-managing. It turns out that he does indeed trust the person he has managing his office. The problem he had was that he’d never really been clear about what he expected from an office manager. He had no written or co-authored job description. When he percieved errors of omission or commission, he began to take over the role of office manager. In essence he usurped her role, and demoted her. He undercut her authority, and inadvertently damaged her validity in the process.

We together agreed that the following steps were necessary to remedy the situation:
1. Make a decision whether to try and repair the situation with the current employee, or terminate her and start fresh.
2. Make an accurate job description for Office Manager
3. Have ongoing meeting meeting and training (keep in mind this training is somewhat reciprocal in nature) in order to define the role, and in order to build trust and confidence. These meetings needed to be private, away from other staff, and confidential.
4. Really truly let this Office Manager manage.
5. Return to the role he is professionally trained to do – direct patient care, utilizing his skills in this specialized area of dentistry.
6. Not become involved in office politics or be a part of any passive aggressive and dysfunctional processes.

It seems so obvious. It isn’t. It’s completely counterintuitive. To become an effective leader, one has to be trained to train and then step aside. The right personnel will flourish under healthy conditions. If it’s one’s goal to have the most stress free working environment possible, then it’s criticial to focus on that which one does best, and find or train great people to compensate for our own shortcomings.

And that’s how we define ‘team’…


2 thoughts on “Manage or Micro-manage?

  1. I’ve worked with/for micromanagers and with non-managers alike and it’s a difficult line between the two to straddle. Nothing drives good people away faster than a micromanager, and nothing costs your business more than a non-manager. I agree the key is to train, then step away. You have to trust that your people are doing the job. If you don’t they will go somewhere they are trusted. Of course, you only trust your people until they prove you can’t. But until then, you have to let them do their job without filing TPS reports every 10 minutes.


  2. I agree that the position being offered should have well defined responsibilities. That helps both the empolyer and employee with realistic expections. Being a manager in a small CPA firm, I found that without any real specific guidelines, there cannot be realistic expectations. If the manager has been handed many new responsibilities in a short time, i.e., new equipment, upgrades, software, employees, …. without guidelines and adequite training these things take up a lot of time and can frustrate both the employee and employer. Also, as far as compensation, when there are no defined responsibilities, how does one know how to compensate or ask for compensation? With responsibilities defined, open communication, adequate training, at least an annual review and perhaps an occasional team meeting, I think both parties can help each other succeed and enjoy their job. That’s what I think. :o)


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