Are Your Micromanaging Tendencies Helpful or Out of Control?
Every leader wants to help the people on their team, but some get tripped up by assuming that more management is always better. Micromanaging a competent employee makes them feel dissatisfied and disheartened. Because harmful micromanagers tend to undervalue employees’ abilities and insights, the workplace feels less inclusive.
Characteristics of Harmful Micromanagers
A harmful micromanager may require unnecessary or overly detailed procedures for routine and straightforward tasks. They don’t just tell you which tasks to perform; they tell you in excruciating detail exactly how you must do it, show you how you must do it, and then redo it themselves even after you have completed it following their extensive and rigid guidelines.
According to a Psychology Today article by Dr. Gail Golden, a harmful micromanager is “the boss who delegates work to you and then redoes everything you do, or have you revise it repeatedly.”
“The micromanager is down in the weeds, swamped in minutiae,” said Teresa A. Daniel, dean of the Human Resource Leadership Program at Sullivan University, in a Society for Human Resource Management article.
A micromanager may insert themselves into every project and require numerous check-ins. Very quickly, they cannot keep up with all the check-ins and revisions they insist they must personally undertake. As a result, multiple projects become bottlenecked, and progress grinds to a halt.
According to Teambuilding.com, “Micromanagers demand to oversee every piece of work their employees complete. These bosses often make employees wait for approval before starting the next stage of the work, which can cause significant delays and frustrations. This conveys that the leader does not trust the employee to do tasks correctly. Having to run every idea or finished product by a manager indefinitely is neither an enjoyable nor sustainable work model.”
Adjust To Each Subordinate’s Needs
It would be marvelous if there were a formula for how much direction and oversight to give each person on your team, but it is not that easy. It’s essential to consider numerous factors, including the following, for each person and adjust accordingly:
- Is the employee new to the industry, or do they bring years of industry experience backed by a proven track record?
- Is the employee new to your organization, or did they transfer positions, bringing organizational knowledge to their new role?
- Is the employee meeting or exceeding expectations?
- Does the employee seem confident in their role?
- Has the employee asked for additional responsibilities and a more excellent range of tasks?
- Has the employee indicated a need for more autonomy?
- Are you focusing on minute details or trusting the employee to handle those?
How to Know if You are a Harmful Micromanager
Conduct honest introspection:
- Do you create an ever-increasing number of processes and procedures, generate reams of documentation, and require your employees to do the same?
- Do you often ignore the guidance of committees and your team because your insight is always better?
- Do you talk over or cut off others’ comments because you don’t want their insights?
- Do you impose strict, authoritarian oversight of tasks, including those that are minor and mundane?
- Do you insist on reviewing finished projects multiple times before signing off, resulting in constantly missed deadlines?
- Do you hijack the supervision of people your subordinates are supposed to manage, undermining your subordinates’ authority and causing project delays and roadblocks due to the unnecessary extra layer of bureaucracy?
If you regularly engage in these actions, you create and compound problems rather than solve them. This harmful micromanagement style reduces trust, motivation, engagement, creativity, and employee retention.
Break the Habit
To overcome harmful micromanagement, Jackie Wiles of Gartner.com recommends the following:
- Ask yourself, “Did I add value to the business with the time I spent supervising today, or could I dedicate some of that time to more strategic activities?”
- Set a perfection scale of 1 to 10. Ask yourself whether you are pushing for a 10 when an 8 or 9 is a good and better use of time for a minor task.
- Make this your daily mantra: “My way is not the only way.”
- Apply the 80/20 rule. In 80% of tasks, allow your employees to approach activities their way. For the remaining 20% of jobs (the most critical), guide employees to do things your way.
Highly Successful Micromanagers
In a Worklife article, Sydney Finkelstein poses, “The good news is that the best micromanagers are often the best talent developers. Their attention to detail, their intimate knowledge of the business, and their deep involvement in what’s going on enable more, not less, delegation. Their position in the center of the work creates an opportunity for micromanagers to challenge subordinates with big assignments precisely because they are informed.”
The key, according to Finkelstein? To be successful, micromanagers must be selective about where they devote their laser-focused attention. They cannot apply it to everything everywhere as this isn’t helpful, sustainable, or effective.
Finkelstein references Steve Jobs, Mickey Drexler, and Jeff Bezos as notably successful micromanagers. Their leadership style of maintaining a high degree of ownership in some areas while delegating to others is a critical distinction.
The takeaway? If you are a micromanager, you can use it to your advantage—and your team’s advantage—by learning to delegate in some areas.
Leadership Training and Communication Tools
For insight into honing and expanding your leadership skills, Syntrio recommends its Authentic, Influential Leadership courses. In addition, use our Speak Up! Listen Up! communication tools to encourage open and constructive dialogue within your organization. Our 24/7 hotline provides another opportunity for employee feedback. Responding quickly to issues leads to a more harmonious and productive working environment.
A partnership with Syntrio gives your organization’s current and future leaders the tools to grow and increase employee engagement and satisfaction.