Most people who have been in the workforce any length of time have occasionally been exposed to bosses who micromanage. The micromanager is the manager who must personally make every decision, take a lead role in the performance of every significant task and, in extreme cases, dictate every small step the workers take. To many employees the micromanager is, in modern parlance, a control freak. The micromanager hovers over people who are trying to get their work done and rarely, if ever, seriously considers their ideas and opinions. The only "original" thinking the micromanager recognizes is his or her own.
Acceptance is the first step
Micromanagement is readily recognized by employees, but most micromanagers don't think of themselves as micromanagers. Rather, they usually believe they're practicing good management. The micromanager is customarily authoritarian in outlook, taking the job quite seriously, accepting personal responsibility for everything that's done and generally following an approach that says, in effect, "The buck stops here." Most of the time the micromanager also firmly believes the adage that "If you want something done well, you've got to do it yourself."
The micromanager takes essential management practices to extremes and interferes with employees' ability to do their jobs properly, while creating undue stress for them. Outstanding examples are evident in the area of performance feedback. All employees need regular feedback on performance, though some need more detailed feedback more frequently than others. From the micromanager, however, feedback tends to be constant and detailed and often excessively focused on procedural minutia rather than on overall performance, quality and results.
In no other area are the shortcomings of the micromanager more evident––or more damaging––than in the practice of delegation. Delegation is a primary management skill, essential to effective management, but the micromanager seems unable to delegate properly.
When it comes to delegation, a micromanager:
- Cannot delegate effectively or delegate at all
- Often hands out only the easy, boring or dirty tasks while delegating nothing of interest or importance
- May delegate, but put the employee in a position of deciding nothing of significance without prior approval
- May hand out work, supposedly delegating, but hover instead, providing detailed direction, dictating methods rather than providing proper preparation, making the employee responsible for results and not allowing him or her to figure anything out and learn by doing
- May hand out a task, but pull it back at the first sign of trouble, failing to provide the employee with a condition essential to growth and development: the reasonable freedom to fail.
Micromanagement is damaging to employees and eventually to the manager. It created stress and discontent among employees.
Micromanager's critical effects:
- It inhibits employee development. No effort is made to challenge employees with learning situations. The micromanager delegates nothing of consequence, thus depriving employees of opportunity for growth. Because the micromanager often punishes mistakes, employees learn to hide their mistakes and avoid taking risks. The micromanagement style creates "yes men" or "yes women," as employees discover it's easiest and safest to go along with the manager.
- It limits the manager's promotional possibilities. The manager who is perceived as poor at delegation is often not considered for promotion to a level where delegation takes on even greater importance. Also, a manager who has done nothing to develop one or more potential successors is usually a poor candidate for promotion.
Consider, in addition to impaired promotional possibilities, other effects on the micromanager. The micromanager tries to do it all, only to eventually discover that this isn't possible. But on the way to that discovery the micromanager regularly works extra hours and can frequently be found at work on weekends or other scheduled days off. The micromanager also eventually discovers that work quality diminishes and that turnover increases as the better employees respond to the absence of challenge by looking for greener pastures. The micromanager is constantly flirting with the hazards of overwork and the problems of a demotivated work group.
It helps to remember at all times that a manager is there to ensure that the work gets done as effectively and efficiently as possible. If the manager is attempting to dictate all actions and otherwise trying to control the employees' every move, the group will be neither as efficient, nor effective as it could be under rational, enlightened management. Micromanagement is mismanagement, and under it, the manager, the employees and the business all suffer.
Micromanagement is just one of several surefire ways to demotivate employees. Make sure you avoid these deterrents and work to maintain employee enthusiasm.
Read next: 5 Ways to End Micromanager Behavior