The Insiders Guide to Micromanagement

I’ve yet to meet a manager who admits to being a micro-manager, but according to micro-management expert Harry Chambers and other corroborating research, the majority of workers indicate that micro-management has interfered with job performance.

I imagine the disconnect is that it’s rarely an either/or situation. Micro-managing is a dysfunctional behavior that most leaders fall into from time to time. So how do you know if you’re slipping into the micro-management trap?

Symptoms of a Micro-manager

It’s easy to spot micro-management when we’re the ones being micro-managed, if we’re the culprit. The best list of symptoms of micro-management I’ve found is this article in the Public Personnel Management Journal.

Here Are A Few:
  • Overseeing workers too closely and telling people what to do and how to do it. Constantly monitoring even your best employees.
  • Going alone to the bosses office so sub-or­dinates don’t get credit. Becoming irritated when they aren’t consulted in decisions. Exploding when their boss by-passes them and goes directly to the team.
  • Obsessing about details. Confusing accuracy with precision (e.g. keeping track of the number of copies made on the Xerox machine).
  • Frequently calling the office while on vacation.
  • Creating deadlines for deadlines sake. Demanding overly frequent and unnecessary written status reports.
  • Creating bottlenecks because they are too busing trying to do all the jobs of the organization.

Why Do Managers Micro-manage?

The biggest cause of micro-management is insecurity, followed closely by a #2 of working for a micro-manager. Lacking the ability to set clear expectation or just feeling uncomfortable in a leadership role also enter into the mix.

What’s the Best Way to Kick the Micro-managing Habit?

  1. Consider Your Motives– What is causing you to micro-manage? Get a mentor or coach to help you get underneath the root cause. Ask for feedback from your team.
  2. Get the right team- If you just can’t trust this team, but you have trusted teams in the past, it may be time to take a look at your players.
  3. Set clear expectations – Establishing clear direction up front is the first step to empowerment. Tell your team where you need them to go, but not how to get there.
  4. Develop a robust communication system – Consider what information you really need at what frequency. Develop a cadence that make updates easy.
  5. Give Clear Feedback– The worst kind of micro-management is recycling feedback. If something isn’t right, be very clear about what you need to avoid endless rework and wasted time.

Note: Micro-management surfaced as an important theme in response to my post: The Biggest Mistakes Team Leaders Make. If you missed that post, take a quick look so you can join the fun. We’re working on a crowd-sourced e-book that will be free to all LGL subscribers. I’m taking your thoughts on the biggest mistakes and teeing them up in posts for additional discussion and story collection. Then I’ll gather your insights and weave them in to our book. Hope you will join the fun. P.S. We’ll sprinkle our e-book making posts in amongst our general LGL fare.

Help Write The Story

Ways to share you input for the e-book. Please add notes to the comment section.

  1. Stories of micro-managers– Come on this will be the most fun to read (change the names to protect these folks – bless their hearts).
  2. Strengthen my lists
    • What are the symptoms of micro-management?
    • Why do managers micro-manage?
    • What’s the best way to break your own micro-managing habit?
  3. Start your own list: What’s the best way to deal with a micro-managing manager?