Micromanaging a Creative

Micromanaging is defined as “to manage with great or excessive control, or attention to details.”

Have you ever been micromanaged in a creative position?

It happens more often than we think or actually talk about. One day I did a poll on twitter asking a simple yes or no & out of 20 people that answered, 19 said yes. I realized it wasn’t really a topic that is discussed often so I wanted to get some opinions on this. I asked two designers these questions to get their opinions on this and appreciate them taking the time to sit down and dive into this touchy subject.

Some questions to think about…

How do you deal with it if your daily job is being affected? Would you leave if you were so unhappy because your boss was managing every little detail that you couldn’t even think for yourself? Do you feel like your not trusted? Have you brought it up with your boss? Maybe they don’t realize they are doing it?

Take a read through their Q&A and let me know your thoughts on being micromanaged.

Selene M. Bowlby
Owner / Web Designer – iDesign Studios

Selene M. Bowlby is a web designer and front-end web developer with over ten years of professional experience in the design industry. She is the owner of iDesign Studios, a web design and development company specializing in creating custom web sites that are uniquely styled and well coded. Selene blogs on topics relating to web design, freelancing, productivity, work-life balance and more.

What does the term “Micromanage” mean to you?

Basically when someone (typically a boss – sometimes a client) tries to tell you how to do your job. Of course you expect your boss to tell you what to do, but the term “micromanage” comes in whey they want to direct many of the specific details of your job.

Have you ever held a job as a creative where your boss what a “MicroManager”?

I wouldn’t say I had it too bad – I’ve heard horror stories of micromanagers! But yes, I have felt micromanaged at times at previous jobs.

What part of your daily job did they micromanage you?

For the most part it would be in relation to scheduling.

I’ve got a certain work-flow that I like to follow through with. I like to start my day by checking a list of current projects, combined with going through new emails sent by clients overnight. Depending on what needs to be done in a given day, I’ll either dedicate the first few hours of the morning to completing all of the “quick” client jobs that I can scratch off of my to do list, then move onto bigger projects. Or if there is a deadline looming, I’ll start the day with a good chunk of time devoted to that specific project in order to finish it

Where the micromanagement comes in is where I’d setup my schedule for the day, but often get thrown this “little” project here or there that would derail my plans for the entire day. One or two “quick” things thrown into the mix often took much more than a few minutes, and would end up pushing the rest of the day’s schedule off track. Sometimes these “little” tasks would end up pushing back an entire week’s schedule, leaving some client deadlines completely ignored.

Not to sound bitter, but I particularly didn’t like when the new tasks thrown my way were “grunt work” so to speak – the type of thing that could easily be done by an intern, leaving me with the more complicated tasks required to finish a particular project

How did you deal with it?

Being an employee, you really have no choice. You just have to do the work and deal with it. If one client’s work gets pushed aside because of something else your boss thinks is more important… well it isn’t my fault, because I’m just doing as told. But it really makes you feel bad when having to tell the client we had to change their deadline.

Ultimately, though, I left that job. It was a combination of things – the micromanagement only being a small aspect of it. I’ve always dreamt of going full time freelance, so that was the biggest drive.

Now that I’m running my own web design business full time, I can’t say enough how much I love having complete control over my schedule. While clients can of course tell you exactly what they need you to do for them, they can’t dictate the finer details of exactly when I work on their web site. They know my typical turn around times for projects and are happy to work with that. Now I just micromanage myself, which is OK with me!

Calvin Lee
Principal / Mayhem Studios

Calvin Lee is principal & creative director of Mayhem Studios, a small award-winning design firm located in Los Angeles, California, developing identity and brand recognition for the business sector across the nation.

The Studio integrates strategic thinking with creative design to create effective messages targeted to his clients’ specific audiences. Solutions may come in the form of identities, branded collateral pieces, annual reports, brochures, logo design, advertising and interactive web sites.

What does the term “Micromanage” mean to you?

Micromanage means the person that is managing you doesn’t have enough trust or confidence in your work without hand holding and needing an approval on every decision and step in the design process you make.

Have you ever held a job as a creative where your boss what a “MicroManager”?

Yes, it was on my first job, right out of school, as a Senior Designer. The Art Director was young, 24, impatient and didn’t know how to manage people. He was a cool and fun person outside of work. During work hours, he was horrible. The AD was a great designer but didn’t know how to art direct. He expected everyone to be good and fast as him. He would return every hour to check on our progress. If the designs weren’t looking the way he wanted. He would take the project back from us and design it himself or make so many changes, that it wasn’t our design anymore.

What part of your daily job did they micromanage you?

He would micromanage any creative part of the day when I was actually working on the design samples, which was pretty much the whole day. Having an art director hover and checking up on you really brings your creativity, confidence and productivity way down.

How did you deal with it?

I dreaded working there. I wasn’t dealing with it very well at the time.  I would be mentally drained by the end of the day. Eventually, I talked to the owner. After the owner had a chat with the art director. He was like a new person. He actually started to teach and guide us and trusts our design decisions.


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