Read the label: The Hazards of Micromanaging


In our current economic environment, micromanaging incidents are on the rise. There are countless stories of employees being allegedly smothered by overbearing managers, who are relentless in requests for information. They want to document everything. Communication has escalated as data inquiries sky-rocket. Sales calls are choreographed and formatted to extract deviation, risk and ingenuity. Employees in some instances are not allowed to think, only to follow orders. Managers who were not micromanagers have hopped on the bandwagon as a self-defense mechanism to keep their jobs and opportunities for advancement.

If you were not familiar with the concept of micromanaging, “What would the word suggest to you? You might think it means managing the small details or managing something that is beneath your level, title or responsibility. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “managing with great or excessive control, or attention to details.” Once you label something as micromanaging or a person as a micromanager, you are tipping your hand about your feelings about the manager’s involvement in your activities. If you were pleased with their input, you would call their assistance mentoring, coaching, being dedicated to personal development or as in an episode of the television program The Office, and “managing with a personal touch.”

Why are some managers, micromanagers? Why are they obsessed with every little detail to the extent of almost taking your job over from you? I have a few thoughts from years of observation, participating conversations on the topic, and working for a notorious micromanager.

  1. Feed their ego – It is a power play. They exercise position power to flex their managerial muscle.
  2. Control freak – They don’t trust their people. Employees will adapt and give them exactly what is asked and nothing more. They will not take risks, nor will they innovate and do anything differently.
  3. Won’t let go – If the manager previously performed the job, they may feel their way was the best way; after all it got them promoted.
  4. Accountability – They will participate in what I call rationalized engagement. Since they are accountable for the result, they want to be informed of every detail, for their career is on the line.
  5. Insecurity – They don’t trust themselves. They will not admit to being uncomfortable with certain aspects of the job. They view their lack of knowledge of all aspects of the job as a deficiency and weakness. They feel their inadequacy will be exposed; in a hostile environment this would threaten their career or standing within the organization.  Micromanaging may ultimately contribute to long-term ineffectiveness.
  6. Expectations – It is in their job description, written or implied. Their superior expects them to have an intimate, up to date, running total knowledge of everything.
  7. Self defense – They may be seen as a weak manager if they are not seemingly on top of their team to perform. This is linked to expectations. They may be looked upon as too soft by their superiors if they don’t practice micromanaging. It is called being on top of things and having deep knowledge and control of your responsibilities. The manager is protecting their personal performance rating, merit increase and career advancement.

Warren Buffett stated he hired the person he felt was best for the job and gave them the space to it. If they are unsuccessful, he would replace them. But many managers don’t feel this way. You might be working for one or be married to one of them. They will hire the best person for the job and relentlessly intrude in their performance of their duties.

These are some of the thoughts employees have boldly stated in anonymous employee surveys or to a stranger, when they were sure their comments could not be traced back to them. They would also aggressively shout their opinions in imaginary conversations and wishful confrontations. “Don’t sweat me. Get off my back. I’ve got this. Why won’t you leave me alone? Stop bothering me. Don’t you have something else to do; like your own job?”

Managers may inadvertently torment when threatened. Micromanaging is a perfect example of this reflex mechanism. This happens a lot when they are afraid of losing their jobs and making mistakes. The unemployment ranks are filled with those who challenged authority and did not know everything about their operation. Leadership tolerance and temperament changes in desperate times, so desperate measures are placed into action. Micromanaging is a tool of fear and desperation. It may lead to short-term benefits, but long-term problems through reduced engagement, lower productivity and compromised results.

Copyright © 2010 Orlando Ceaser

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