It is a common problem in the workplace: leaders who micromanage and control, leaving good people feeling disempowered, hemmed in and not trusted. Consider these true scenarios:

  • A supervisor tells their staff that every email they send must be copied to them so they know "everything" that goes on
  • Staff members know that most of their planning will be revised by their leader
  • Nothing can happen without the approval of the supervisor
  • Last minute changes to ministry plans by a leader continually complicate the life of a staff member
  • Leaders change their minds from week to week on strategy leaving staff members unsure of where they need to go
  • Staff members are publicly criticized for decisions they have made
  • There is an unspoken rule that staff cannot speak their minds on issues they feel strongly about if their opinion is not in sync with their leader
  • Staff are given responsibility but not the authority to do what they need to do
Actions like the above violate good people who are not released to use their full potential. They also convey an attitude of mistrust (why else would one need to control or micromanage). Lack of trust translates into major dysfunction on teams and within ministries.

There are many leaders who believe that to lead means to tell people what to do and how to do it. What they don't understand is that people may do what they ask but out of fear rather than out of trust. Those who respond out of fear rarely have great respect for their supervisor.

If you are in the spot of being hemmed in what do you do? The first suggestion is the hardest but it is to be candid with your supervisor by telling them that when they exhibit certain behaviors it makes you feel like.... and describe the feeling. In the best case scenario, you are talking to someone who is reasonable and does not understand how their actions affect you. Help them understand how you feel when they hem you in and what you would prefer their response to be

It often takes one courageous individual to carefully but honestly put an issue on the table so that the "elephant in the room" is named and therefore cannot live in the dark anymore.

It is often helpful to read as a team, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. It can stimulate honest dialogue around issues that confront the team and hopefully bring some necessary change.

There are some leaders who will not listen, do not understand and whose narcissistic tendencies (yes even in ministry) simply continue to cause pain. Those who disagree are marginalized and find themselves without any influence whatsoever. It is a painful place to be.

My advice in that case? Leave when you can for the sake of your own emotional and ministry health. Find a leader who is empowering and healthy and you will feel like the walls that hemmed you in are gone. I spent time with one who did just that this week and it has made all the difference in the world for them. Life is too short to work for unempowering leaders who control, micromanage or marginalize good people.
  • Jun 17, 2013
  • Category: News
  • Comments: 0
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