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At the Cutting Edge of Micro-Management

By Joy Jameson
At the Cutting Edge of Micro-Management

With the frequent turnover in teaching and administrative staff at international schools, it is not uncommon to find situations lacking in organization and effectiveness. In an effort to bring things under control, administrators sometimes establish a micro-management system. While this sort of managerial style may produce rapid results, it implies pros and cons that should be considered. A strict micro-management style that dictates exactly how things will be done—at times even to the point of double checking the work of each team member for conformity—will no doubt provide uniformity and order. It will also serve as a guiding force for staff members lacking in organizational skills. However, this strong-arm approach can be a double-edged sword. Due to its overly strict nature, if used on more than a very short-term basis it can have very negative effects on productivity, staff morale, and on the workplace environment in general. Tight controls take away workers’ independence and creativity. Many may feel that they don’t need to put much thought or effort into their work since the “checker” will be reviewing every detail and can, therefore, just correct the work or give them instructions on what to do. Others may feel that such tight controls are suffocating and an insult to their intelligence, thus making the work seem boring and ridiculous. With such oversight and second guessing, a very positive and creative workplace where all members once shared ideas can quickly transform into a very negative sweatshop situation, in which all are required to do their work in the exact same manner and with the added pressure of numerous “checker” deadlines set up at baby-step distances throughout the process of completing a project. In situations such as this, tension will inevitably build within the work environment, producing personnel problems and, in extreme cases, inciting a staff rebellion and possibly total system failure. For these reasons, it is important for administrators to frequently review the management frameworks they establish, checking for problems and gathering feedback in order to ensure that operations are proceeding as intended, with no tension simmering in the background. The goal for any organization is to ensure that all mechanisms are functioning smoothly. In cases where the operating manual prescribes micro-management, however, without enlightened oversight what started out as a well-intentioned effort to provide order can easily devolve into a very negative and counterproductive situation.

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