The term micromanager is one that is perceived negatively by managers – as it should be! The behaviors associated with being a micromanager include detailed inquiries into the activities of both the employee and projects they are engaged in. Micromanagers not only want to control the outcome of their employees projects, they also want to direct the process of how those outcomes are achieved. These managers feel it is their job to give detailed directions to their employee in order to maintain control of the project. If you were to ask the manager how they felt about the way they interacted with their employees, they might admit to wanting to maintain control, but it is doubtful they would classify themselves as micromanagers.
Their employees however would offer a different perspective. They would likely describe themselves as frustrated and their work environment as constrained. Micromanagement can reduce an employee’s productivity because it inhibits their creativity and erodes their confidence in solving problems. Over time, this can cause the relationship between the employee and their manager to become strained and can result in low morale and high turnover. Micromanagement typically drives away the good people, leaving in place the less capable.
Why does a manager micromanage? Typically, these managers fear losing control, and the only way they know how to maintain it is to involve themselves in every aspect of their employees activity. They might fear losing control because they are a new manager, and don’t know how else to practice their managerial duties. An all too often scenario is that an individual who is highly skilled and has a great deal of expertise is promoted into management. Now they find themselves in a situation where they have responsibility over individuals they see as being much less skilled, so they feel the need to exert control in order to achieve outcomes that look like the ones they have produced in the past. Perhaps you are an entrepreneur who went into business for yourself in order to be your own boss. Now your business has grown, and you have people working for you who have high levels of competence. This might make you feel diminished or out of control, so you react by involving yourself deeper into the daily activities of your employees. This likely will result in outcomes you don’t expect and don’t want.
Employees who are being micromanaged will likely react one of two ways. On the one hand, they may develop a total dependence on the manager because they don’t feel like they can make a decision on their own. That reduces productivity because employees feel that the best way to accomplish what the boss is asking for is to run everything by them before taking action on anything. If the boss is busy, which is typically the case, waiting on decisions extends the timeline of the project. It may also lead the employee to stop caring, which causes their talent to be underutilized because it is no longer offered. On the other hand, employees who pride themselves on their own capabilities and expertise will feel building frustration and resentment toward the manager. This resentment can lead toward conflict with the manager, and the resulting frustration can cause the employee to leave the organization. If the employee was truly talented, their loss should be chalked up to poor management. The best thing an employee can do with a micromanaging supervisor is to give them all the information they need. Knowing their boss thrives on details, they should provide them with detailed reports. They should also ask clarifying questions in order to make sure they know what their bosses are looking for, and repeat the answers they are given to make sure they have heard correctly. For managers, the most important realization they can come to is that micromanagement does not offer any benefit as far as workplace productivity and employee development are concerned. Managers need to be clear about what needs to be accomplished and by when, then give general directions as far as how the end result should be accomplished. They should make it clear to their employees that if they want direction they should not be afraid to ask for it. If the employee then does ask for guidance, they should not be berated for doing so. By letting your employees make decisions about how they accomplish outcomes related to their responsibilities, you will be helping them learn how to become managers in their own right while freeing yourself for higher-level activities.