|Micro-managing: A different view|
|By Joe Bouchard|
Editor's Note: This article is reprinted with the permission of the Editor of The Correctional Trainer – the journal of the International Association of Correctional Training Personnel. For more information on IACTP, please go to www.IACTP.org.
There are very few who would argue in favor of the merits of the practice of micro-managing. Unnecessary and relentless attention to detail frustrates competent staff, provides fodder for division, and allows a foothold for manipulative prisoners. It is a nearly universal sentiment that micro-managing is absolutely wrong in all instances. In fact, there is a time and place for this style of management in corrections. And understanding the different kinds of micromanagers helps us to cope with their methods.
We can define micro-management as the act of unnecessarily controlling minute details and procedures. It is when staff gain a feeling of power by assigning too much significance to what is rather insignificant. 
There are certain words in the English language that can suggest a similar feeling in almost everyone. In fact, some terms can evoke frantic physical reactions. Consider the short but powerful word ‘lice’. Invariably, when this word enters a conversation, we cannot help to feel phantom sensations all over our skulls.
Micro-managing is not all that different from this concept. When we think of the act of focusing unnecessary and relentless attention to details, the thought parasites sucking the life out of you is not far from the surface. We can easily envision a being that we simply cannot get out of our hair. Everyone considers micro-managers as very difficult to dispose of. Their persistence makes a mockery of any form of prevention.
Ironically, though, micro-managers, those who excel focusing on the minutiae, are ideal agents in activities such as lice control. The terminology had migrated from the insect entities to micro-management. Consider the phrases nit-picking and going through with a fine tooth comb. Their thorough tenacity makes micro-managers the ideal candidates for tedious tasks. Therefore, unlike a lice infestation, micromanaging is not entirely a bad thing.
There are times in correction that we need to employ a methodical microscopic analysis. Here are some examples of where a micro-manager is useful.
It is important to note that not all micro-managers operate with the same motivations. In fact, there are at least four different types. They are Hierarchical Micro-manager, Trained Micro-manager, Natural Micro-manager, and Reactive Micro-manager. (see figure 1)
There is an added layer to this. Each variety can be driven by one of three basic personality types. They are Benevolent, Malevolent, and Utilitarian. (see figure 2).
Benevolent – This is someone whose actions are driven by compassion and kindness. They may, for example nit pick because it comes naturally to them. But they do so with your best interests in mind.
Malevolent - This is someone whose actions are driven by malice and meanness. They may, for example focus on the insignificant in reaction to their hierarchy’s culture. But they do so with the intent of frustrating others and causing harm.
Utilitarian – Function is the prime directive with the Utilitarian. Their decisions are based on the usefulness to the operation of the institution. For them, it is never anything personal: It is just business.
As an example, a Natural Micro-manager with benevolent inclinations will seem to be more understanding that a Natural Micro-manager with malevolent intentions. The former uses compassion to further motivate staff to focus on details. The latter typically employs demoralizing tactics for the same goal.
By understanding the motivations and basic personality types of each micro-manager, staff are better able to work well with them. Here are some general tips to mitigate the ill effects of micromanagement. It is the responsibility of the reader to assess each situation carefully before applying a possible remedy.
--Definition of micro-management--
Selected motivations of Micro-managers
Hierarchical Micro-manager - This variety has to answer to chain of command which is inclined to focus on small details. The supervisor is a micro-manager, therefore, the subordinate is also expected to act that way.
Trained Micro-manager - The facility or agency has a cultural imperative for all to operate in this matter. An emphasis on the minutia is ingrained in each new manager.
Natural Micro-manager - The staff member brought micro-managing skills with them to job. The Natural Micro-manager is most comfortable when adhering to strict attention to minute details.
Reactive Micro-manager - This person is not always in micro-management mode. In fact, this style is employed only when necessary. The Reactive Micro-manager tightens uses this style, for example, when an important investigation is happening in the facility
Benevolent - actions are driven by compassion and kindness
Malevolent - actions are driven by malice and meanness
Utilitarian - Function is the prime directive with the Utilitarian
 Bouchard, Joseph. "How Micromanaging affects operations in a facility." The Corrections Professional 11.7 (2005): 3.
About the Author – Joe Bouchard is a Librarian at Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility within the Michigan Department of Corrections. He is also a member of the Board of Experts for The Corrections Professional and an instructor of Corrections and Psychology for Gogebic Community College. You can reach him at (906) 353-7070 ext 1321
These are the opinions of Joseph Bouchard, a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections. These are not necessarily the opinions of the Department. The MDOC is not responsible for the content or accuracy.
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