What Is a Micromanager? Impact, Signs, and Ways to Reform

What Is a Micromanager?

A micromanager is a boss or manager who gives excessive supervision to employees. A micromanager, rather than telling an employee what task needs to be accomplished and by when—will watch the employee's actions closely and provide frequent criticism of the employee’s work and processes.

Key Takeaways

  • A micromanager adopts a corporate management style that focuses on the day-to-day performance of individual teams and workers.
  • While micromanagement may produce some immediate response, it tends to lower company morale and creates a hostile workplace.
  • Once identified, a micromanager can take steps to improve their leadership style and adopt a more macro approach.

Understanding Micromanagers

Micromanagement is a form of leadership that may produce results in the short-term, but it hurts employee and company morale over time. Usually, micromanaging has a negative connotation because an employee may feel that a micromanager is being condescending towards them, due to a perceived lack of faith in the employee's competency.

Also, a manager who implements this management style creates an environment where their team develops insecurity and a lack of confidence in its work. In the absence of the manager, the team may find it difficult to function.

A micromanager will usually use up most of their time supervising the work of their direct reports and exaggerating the importance of minor details to subordinates; time that could have been used to get other important things done. Although micromanagement is easily recognized by others in the firm, the micromanager may not view themselves as such.

In contrast to a micromanager, a macro manager is more effective in their management approach. Macro-managing defines broad tasks for direct reports to accomplish and then leaves them alone to do their work. Macro managers have confidence that the team can complete the same task without being continually reminded of the process.

Signs of Micromanagement

Signs of micromanagers include but are not limited to:

  • Asking to be CC’d on every email
  • Occupying themselves with the work assigned to others, thereby, taking on more work than they can handle because they believe they can do it better
  • Looking over the team’s shoulders (both literally and figuratively) to monitor what each member is working on
  • Constantly asking for updates on where things stand
  • Wanting to know what each team member is working on all the time
  • Delegating not only what needs to be done, but how it should be done, leaving no room for the team to take their own initiative
  • Never being satisfied with the deliverables
  • Focusing on details that are not important

From the list provided above, it is easy to understand that a micromanager struggles with meeting deadlines since work has to be redone repeatedly, and valuable time is spent poring over inconsequential details. Team members eventually become frustrated and resentful as their work is undermined at every stage, and they have no autonomy over how to run an assigned project. Because team members' skills and development on the job are stunted, the micromanaging style of leadership is ineffective.

Ways to Reform a Micromanager

A micromanager who has identified themselves as such can take a number of steps to break this habit:

  • Set a couple of metrics that define success for any given project. Ignore every other detail that is not defined.
  • Delegate “what” needs to be done and leave out the “how.”
  • Have an open-door policy for members of the team to use for coaching or further guidance if and when they want it.
  • Set a deadline for each stage of an assigned project, after which a meeting with a reasonable time limit should be conducted to receive updates on the work.
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