And what to do about it
Let’s be realistic. Micromanagement isn’t fun, not for for the Manager and most certainly not for the employees.
For the Manager, its literally like walking on a hot tin roof. You want micro-details (and not just the fill ins on why targets aren’t reached) but the actual process. Unfortunately many managers assume that their way is the right and the only way. But, is it?
For the subordinate, not only is it immensely irritating, but also wreaks of distrust and almost a suffocating work environment.
Micromanagement is unhealthy on so many levels, but to name a few dangers:
- Impedes personal growth of the team;
- Creates an environment of mistrust and escapism;
- Loose loyalty and commitment;
- Fastest tool to de-motivate team and hoard credit;
- Discouragement to employees to make their own decisions/ low self esteem;
- Invasion of work-space privacy without consultation;
- Underestimating the experience and knowledge of colleagues;
- High turnover of staff.
So, if Micromanagement sucks so much, why are people still doing it?
Most of the time when you see a boss micromanaging, the root cause is fear. Either that, or they are grown up malformed douchebags. For real.
There are lots of reasons why bosses experience fear. Some bosses fear a loss of control. For instance, if you’re an individual contributor programmer, you can resolve a lot of issues by yourself. You type your lines of code and if something goes wrong, you fix it. But if you’re a manager and something goes wrong, you can’t just hop in front of your computer and fix it. You oversee a bunch of programmers and your job is to convince them to go fix the problem. It’s one of the great ironies of having managerial authority; your title gets bigger but your personal control gets smaller. And the bigger your title, the less personal control you have.
Other leaders experience the fear that comes from having a healthy ego. Bosses often start their careers as high-performing individual contributors. They’re expert in their individual role, they get noticed for doing superior work and then get promoted into a supervisory job. They were the best person in their individual role but now they’re managing a group of people who just weren’t as good. And they fear that if they put their name on work that’s not as good as they could have done themselves, they’ll look bad.
Unfortunately though, studies suggest that a staggering 41% of the leaders do so because they have an insatiable desire for power.
Being power driven is not inherently a bad thing; it just means that they want to be in charge and they want authority to make decisions that will impact others. And used properly, that can be terrific. Remember that even the noblest leaders still need power to achieve good in the world.
What can we do about it?
1. Assess your behaviour
Are you doing anything that could give your manager cause for concern? Are you giving the job your full attention?
2. Understand your manager
By understanding the signs of micromanagement — knowing what they are trying to achieve — you may find that you can help them realise their goals. Pursuing a common goal will help build trust and this will give you more freedom.
3. Challenge your manager
Insist on having regular 1:1 supervision sessions.
At these meetings agree to do something that helps them meet their goals. Always ask your manager for the opportunity to do something on your own.
4. Frequent communication
Good communication and results is the best way to deal with the micromanager. Therefore give them an update on progress at every opportunity.
Because micromanagers rarely recognise their behaviour and the impact it has on the team it is worthwhile pointing this out to them once you have gained some trust.
They may be open to working with you. But then again, don’t expect too much — sooner or later they will revert to type. Sometimes it’s you who has to move on!
Find out if you are power-driven or achievement driven here!