Did anyone ask: “Why are micromanagers…micromanaging?”

I’ll be honest. I’m writing this in a reactive state.

75% of a bottle of red wine down and a tissue at hand.

I’m a manager at a relatively well-known, relatively small, organization that is fairly well respected in the technology and media industries. I’d never admit to writing this if you meet me. I share this in a genuinely inquisitive and frankly demoralized state.

I got some feedback today that threw me for a loop. A genuine loop. Probably not as big of a loop as Jeff Bezos these past couple of days, to be fair.

As a manager, I struggle every day with internal questions around management like “am I inspiring my team, do I share enough about my personal life to make them feel like they know me, what do they most enjoy and excel in?” As a female, and as an Asian female manager, I often wonder about whether my voice, demeanor, stature and culture stand in my way of being effective. And for the sake of providing one positive contextual point to preserve any of my pride, I will say that I’ve gotten consistent positive feedback about people’s experience working with me.

Until today. I received a staff survey today that has me running circles in my head. I found out that the “Thing that [anonymous/Employee 1] would like to change about the organization is [my name (as the manager)]. For bad reason 1, bad reason 2, and micro-managing.” Oof. A blow to the gut, a blow to the heart, and a corkscrew to a bottle of wine. Possibly one of the more challenging comments I’ve heard in my 10-year career.

In the same survey, I got feedback that “[my manager] has been kind, open and honest with me” as one of the most positive attributes that Employee 2 has experienced.

So as the self-indulgent, self-absorbed, highly critical manager as I am, I think to myself “where did I go so wrong with Employee 1?” Or, overall?

I came from the world of supporting professional development and education — I’m a believer that people can get better if they are given specific areas of growth and goals for which to strive. I’d like to think that I’m open to genuine feedback, though it sounds like all the feedback I’ve gotten is bullsh*t. And as I walk through the various things I could, would and will do better, I’m still left with the question: “If an employee is not doing a good job, then…exactly how best do you provide feedback? It seems there are a couple options. Option 1 is to provide (ideally constructive, though in my case, apparently ineffective) feedback in a rationale, specific and thoughtful way. Option 2 is to fire you. There are grey options 3 and 4 in there, but I’m too tired to include them.

So here’s my genuine question. I’m a manager. I care about the people I work with, I believe in working collaboratively to produce the best results possible. But it’s true — I provide straight feedback across my team. So how can I best provide feedback so I don’t have you calling me a micromanager? And is it bad that as a woman, specifically an Asian woman, I take your feedback in the most disheartened, most demoralized way possible? Why aren’t men called micromanagers?

Related but separate: I suggest the one or two readers who read this article to do a search on “why micromanagers, micromanage.” Your search finds will be “Dealing with a bad boss” and “Micromanagers: Flushing your company down the drain.” Yikes — that is certainly something I’d like to avoid. As a manager, I’m appreciative of any tips readers have on how to avoid micromanaging. But perhaps the question that stands out to me even in my depths of reflection, is…if your manager trusts others and should trust you, and if that trust warrants a hands-off management approach as it does with others, then how concerned should you be that you’re being micro-managed?

I don’t mean to be sassy here. I’m genuinely curious.