Micromanagement has had a bad name for a long time now. Surprisingly though, there are still a lot of managers who feel compelled to micromanage every last detail, despite the overwhelmingly negative effects that this management style has on the morale, retention, and performance of their teams.
What is micromanagement?
A micromanager feels compelled to oversee and interfere with every detail of their team’s work, either because they suffer a strong fear of failure and letting go of control, or because they don’t trust their team to do it as well as they can personally. At best, micromanaging represents the manager’s own insecurity; at worst, this management style indicates that the manager has an arrogant belief in their own superiority and does not trust their team.
A micromanager utilises control as being the only way of managing a team, rather than a positive leadership of collaboration, trust, vulnerability, and engagement. A micromanager tends to operate on the assumption that it’s ‘my way or the highway’, as the Americans like to say.
Common signs of micromanaging include:
- Resisting delegating, particularly the good projects.
- Ignoring their team’s skills and opinions, even when (particularly when) they outshine the manager’s own skills in the area.
- Intervening on every step of the project and often jumping in on the task themselves without consultation with those already working on it.
- Requesting constant reporting to them, even when it is irrelevant or slowing down the process.
- A need to insert themselves into every victory and claim glory for others’ work.
- A ‘quick-to-blame’ management style when things go wrong.
- An obsession with small details rather than focussing on the bigger picture.
- A reluctance to give people autonomy or praise as it detracts from their own feeling of success and self-worth.
- Issuing ultimatums to control their team.
What drives micromanagement?
Feelings of insecurity, management inexperience, arrogance, perfectionism and ego all drive micromanagers. Some brand-new managers start out by micromanaging, just because they feel intensely responsible for everything that happens and fear any mistakes will cast them in a bad light. This is a particularly common approach for those who haven’t received sufficient management training, or whose own past bosses were micromanagers, and they learnt bad habits from them. Normally these new managers will ease off the micromanaging as they become more relaxed in their jobs, while others cling onto it because they don’t know any other way. On the other hand, some people are micromanagers because they truly believe they are the only person keeping the team afloat, and that their way is the only way. To them, their team are simply tools to do the ‘grunt work’ because they can’t clone themselves, but they still want all the control and all the glory.
Why micromanaging is bad for business
Employees who are micromanaged find themselves getting frustrated at not having autonomy. They will eventually scale back effort and will probably start to look for new jobs where their skills and ideas are properly valued. High turnover and lower than expected performance are the classic hallmarks of micromanaged teams.
Micromanagers are advertising that they don’t trust their staff to be able to do the job without them. A lack of two-way trust is toxic to good teams.
Micromanagement breeds weak teams. Managers might like being indispensable and their end results might be good, but what happens when the manager goes on holiday, falls ill, or is transferred? By allowing micromanagement to persist in organisations, teams cannot become truly competent at their jobs.
The team doesn’t bond properly. While there will generally be a strong ‘them and us’ culture against the boss in a team that is being micromanaged, the team doesn’t bond in positive ways of success and collaboration. Also, because turnover tends to be extremely high in micromanaged teams, employees make less effort to bond with each other as it is emotionally draining when people leave.
Training of new employees becomes an endless process, badly done. Because of high turnover, less effort is made with new hires, and the new hire becomes rapidly disenchanted with the negative atmosphere.
The micromanager often burns out and also leaves. The pressure of overseeing every little thing often gets too much for the manager, after all, they’re trying to actively participate in the workload of every single member of their team!
Micromanaging starts out by destroying morale. Before long, it destroys performance. Eventually it will destroy the team, and ultimately, if left unchecked, it will destroy the organisation.
Do you recognise any of these behaviours in your organisation? Do you recognise a micromanaging streak in yourself? Very often, micromanagers simply haven’t been taught an alternative and productive way, so it’s important for managers to learn the skills of good leadership in order to be able to let go of control and run motivated, engaged, and highly productive teams.
At Excel Communications we have delivered management skills training over 30 years on most continents and in multiple languages. You can view the results we get for clients here. Alternatively call us on ++44 (0) 1628 488 854