Micromanagement… the Hobgoblin of Asshats Everywhere

platoandsocratesPsychologists, bartenders, and moms everywhere will tell you that the first thing to remember when working for a Micromanager is that “It’s not you, it’s them.” And while George Costanza once argued that, “It’s not you, it’s me,” generally the professionals are right.

A Micromanager is engaging in what we will refer to throughout this blog as “Asshat” behavior. It’s not necessarily a unique word. In fact, its roots can be traced back more than 2,500 years to a passage written by Plato where he describes why his teacher, Socrates, made him stack his teaching scrolls each day in a perfectly straight line from largest to smallest, sub-categorized by the type of cow stomach used to create the parchment and with the leather strap used to tie the scroll pointing to the east. Of course, back then, Plato used the phrase “Rectus Pileus” but everyone knew what he was trying to say.

We’ve met a few Micromanaging Asshats in our day.  And our fellow abused colleagues in this business have cried us a river (apologies to Justin Timberlake) about their stories of scroll stacking over the occasional bourbon.

  • There’s the Micromanaging Asshat that insisted that every sentence in a 12 page newsletter have only one space after the period instead of two or she wouldn’t allow it to go to the printer.
  • There’s the Micromanaging Asshat that made someone take the celebratory bagels being served to the staff the day after a highly successful Gala and cut them in “foursies” instead of “twosies.”
  • There’s the Micromanaging Asshat that refused to sign any grant proposal that went out without a paper clip, fat part outward, placed precisely in the center of the cover letter affixed to the necessary attachments.
  • Oh, and there’s that Micromanaging Asshat that demanded to carefully read and edit the emails her 20+ year Development Director sent to donors… daily.

Sadly, these are all true stories, and we could drone on, but we’re relatively sure that by now you, our most esteemed readers, have 42 examples of Micromanaging Asshat behavior running through your head like a Rachel Platten song. Sorry. We didn’t really mean to dredge up your long-suppressed work PTSD or “Fight Song” for that matter. But as they say, “If you can name a problem…”

You see, these Asshats are micromanaging for three reasons, and only three reasons. Well, there’s probably more than three, but our Psychologist is out of town, our regular bartender finally got a role as an understudy in “Hamilton,” and mom, well, let’s not go there… there’s still some drama leftover from the holidays.

  • They’re transferring what their parents did to them as a child, as in… “Billy, first you eat your peas, then you eat your mashed potatoes, and then you eat your chicken. And remember, your food should never touch. Oh, and I want a report on the kitchen counter about dinner’s transit time through your colon.”
  • They are nothing more than a vessel for a backwards, frightened-of-change, corporate culture that thinks everyone is an idiot and needs to be flogged daily until morale improves. Of course, leadership usually ends up bemoaning that which Homer Simpson said in The Simpson Movie, “Why does everything I whip leave me?”
  • Or, they are a straight-up, cards-on-the-table, balls-in-the-air, fraud to the Nth degree. And, because they can’t do their job with even a modicum of professionalism, as a defense mechanism, they fixate on what you’re doing so that they feel a sense of power. As an added bonus, they usually pick up a thing or two from you about what they’re supposed to be doing every day. Yay! You should feel proud. Cutting those bagels in foursies actually teaches them how to do their job… well, the job they’re actually qualified for. Bagel cutter. Whoo hoo!

So, our esteemed nonprofit brethren who’ve been forced to endure the real life version of a Lindsay Lohan/Rachel McAdams/Lacey Chabert movie… take a deep breath, count to ten, and feel free to utter the word “Asshat” the next time a Micromanager asks you to change the color of the columns in your LYBUNT Report created in Excel to a pale shade of mauve five minutes before your Development Committee meeting.

It’s them, not you.

– Jon

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