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Surviving Micromanagers


On our business news today, the micromanager.

Jurors are deliberating over whether Richard Scrushy is guilty of leading a multibillion-dollar accounting fraud at HealthSouth, the health-care provider where he was chief executive. Their verdict could depend in part on whether they believe prosecutors' portrayal of Scrushy as a, quote, "quintessential micromanager who closely monitored and controlled his underlings' every activity."

Harry Chambers says micromanagement is a painfully common trait among bosses, one that can ruin productivity and even cause people to quit their jobs. Harry Chambers is a management consultant, and he's the author of the book, "My Way or the Highway: The Micromanagement Survival Guide." He joins us.

Good morning.

Mr. HARRY CHAMBERS (Author, "My Way or the Highway: The Micromanagement Survival Guide"): Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: In your book, you include the results of a survey in which more than three-quarters of the respondents said they'd been micromanaged. That really is a common problem. Why do you think that is?

Mr. CHAMBERS: Well, frankly, the number one reason is that we don't do a good job of training managers, and unfortunately, in the absence of training, many people will kind of default to exercising significant control. `I don't know how to manage it, so I'm going to try to control it.' Everything has to be approved by them. As an example, reportedly Martha Stewart is a micromanager who, everything that happens within the company needs her approval, needs her signature on it, needs her stamp to go ahead. And one of the biggest things that happens is that micromanagers tend to become bottlenecks, and they actually become a hindrance to the performance of their people.

MONTAGNE: Say one has that kind of a manager. What are the best ways to cope?

Mr. CHAMBERS: Well, dealing with a micromanager is not easy, and in fact, 69 percent of people have considered changing jobs because they're being micromanaged, and unfortunately, about 36 percent of people actually have. However, before you get there, there are a couple of things that you can consider doing. One of the things that you can do is use a very simple technique, which is to tell your manager, `I understand that this is important. Here's my situation,' then describe your current workload. `I have--these five things have to be done by 5:00 today,' and then recommend an action. In other words, try to take control over the flow of your work and the deadlines that you are reacting to.

MONTAGNE: Harry Chambers is the author of the book, "My Way or the Highway: The Micromanagement Survival Guide."

Thanks for talking with us.

Mr. CHAMBERS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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