Micromanagers are bosses, executives and managers who aren’t satisfied with standard operating procedures development and letting staff do their jobs according to established processes and procedures.
Instead, they watch their employees like a hawk. They closely observe staff as they go about their day-to-day tasks, offering frequent feedback (often negative) and insisting that their subordinates do something according to precise instructions without the slightest deviation.
You’ve heard about them. You’ve probably met one or two micromanagers in the course of your career. We hope you’re not one yourself because while micromanaging people can get you results in the short term, it can harm your organization in the long run.
Micromanagement: Defining Behavioral Patterns
Micromanagers exhibit the following distinct behavioral patterns. Assess yourself or your supervisors to see if they have these traits.
1. Reluctance to delegate responsibilities
Micromanagers are reluctant to delegate responsibilities, tasks, and work to others.
Does a client presentation need to be completed? A micromanager will do it themselves rather than assign it to somebody else. Do they have regular client business review meetings? A micromanager will attend every one of them on their own, never trusting to send someone else in their stead.
2. Unwillingness to listen to other people’s opinions
Micromanagers often value only their own views. In meetings, they deride other people’s thoughts and will not consider their input. Attending meetings with a micromanager can be excruciating. You’re forced to listen but are not allowed to contribute anything.
3. Unwillingness to let other people decide
A micromanager wants to be asked about every decision. Need to decide on the color and fonts of a campaign graphic, the poster’s layout, or a landing page’s content buckets? A micromanager doesn’t let his people decide on any of that. He disregards the creative team’s input and decides things himself.
4. Tendency to provide very specific instructions
A supervisor micromanaging other people gives particular instructions. They are so detailed they remove every ounce of independent decision-making from the process.
For instance, instead of instructing someone to call a client for feedback on a recently concluded project, a micromanager tells the employee the day and time they must call, whom they should look for, and what they should say. The micromanager may even provide a list of the questions to be asked.
In contrast, someone who does not micromanage tells their employee they must get feedback from the client and why the company needs it. However, they leave the employee free to decide when to call and what to say.
5. Habit of shadowing subordinates
Micromanagers tend to shadow other people as they go about their work. They keep an eye on their subordinates, frequently rebuking and correcting them for doing something a particular way. They also constantly ask for updates on tasks.
6. Propensity to revise and redo other people’s output
The ultimate mark of a micromanager is the tendency to redo other people’s work. They have firm ideas about how something must be done, so micromanagers take another person’s output and revise it until it conforms to their ideals.
When Micromanagement Can Be Useful
Do you have a new employee? Of course, you must shadow that employee, frequently ask for updates, and provide constant correction. Micromanaging is an effective method for teaching new employees the ropes.
Do you have a trial project with a million-dollar client? There’s no room for error since you’re hoping to get a long-term contract out of it. You must be on your toes, so close supervision is required to ensure everyone in your team is on the same page and correctly doing their tasks.
Micromanagement can be helpful in the short-term and under extraordinary circumstances. It can help a company avoid costly mistakes and new employees get accustomed to their work.
However, micromanaging employees cannot be a leader’s default mode in an organization. Instead, one must develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) that enforce organizational standards.
If your company is failing to achieve its desired quality levels despite its clear SOPs, you can take a deeper look into your processes and structure. You may even consider business restructuring and process re-engineering. However, you must not rely on micro-management to achieve your business objectives.
Why Micromanagement Can Harm Your Organization
Micromanagers act on the premise that they must always be in control and make all the decisions. They believe nothing will get done (or done correctly) without their involvement.
Therefore, micromanagement projects mistrust or a manager’s lack of confidence in their subordinates’ abilities and competencies. In the long term, it fosters insecurity among employees and undermines their confidence in their abilities.
Micromanagement also leads to frustration. Employees who strive to give their best to their work, try to develop creative proposals and think of solutions to problems are stymied in every direction, their efforts derided and left unrecognized.
This leads to a feeling of disempowerment. Employees under micromanaging bosses may end up believing they cannot contribute anything of worth to the company. Unable to make decisions, they won’t innovate or think up solutions.
All this can lead to dissatisfaction. Employees who feel they don’t contribute can’t take pride in their work and be happy in the workplace. If they’re made to feel they’re powerless to do anything, they’ll eventually stop trying.
Unhappy, demotivated, dissatisfied, and disempowered, employees working under a micromanager are unlikely to be productive. In the long run, micromanagement will erode a company’s productivity.
Don’t Be That Micromanager
When you micromanage people, you destroy their power to help you achieve your business objectives.
Instead of shadowing your employee’s every move and undermining their confidence in their abilities, it’s much better to establish clear rules and procedures that will set boundaries and ensure organizational standards.
Affility Consulting is a business advisory firm that helps businesses with their business strategy and transaction decisions.
We can help you assess your business structure and operationalize your standards.
Contact us to learn how you can counter and eliminate micromanagement in your organization.