The Micromanager

I seem to meet micromanagers all the time. I came to the conclusion that in Malta since the territory is small, everyone is dead set to defend his or her turf and hence feel the need to keep full control on everything.

The reality is that no one likes to be micromanaged. It’s frustrating, demoralising and demotivating. Yet, some managers can’t seem to help themselves. To make things worse most micromanagers do not even know that they are doing it. Yet the signs are always clear. If you want to tests whether you are a micromanager, please consider the following telltale signs:

  • You’re never quite satisfied with anything not done by yourself.
  • You often feel frustrated because you would’ve gone about the task differently.
  • You focus on the details and take great pride and /or pain in making corrections.
  • You constantly want to know where all your team members are and what they’re working on.
  • You ask for frequent updates on where things stand.
  • You prefer to be cc’d on all emails.

It is true that paying attention to details and making sure the work is getting done is very important. So it’s easy to conclude that all the above is a necessary part of managing. However believe me that they are not necessary all the time. The problem with micromanagers is that they apply the same level of intensity, scrutiny and in-your-face approach to every task, whether warranted or not. The end result is endless harm to their team’s morale and – ultimately – their productivity.

In essence, what micromanagers fail to see is that while micromanaging may get them short-term results, over time it negatively impacts their team, their organisation and their well being. They dilute their own productivity and end up running out of capacity to get important things done. Hence why micromanagers never have time to plan and to have a strategy. The end result is an organisational vulnerability when the people in the organisation are just unable to function without the presence and heavy involvement of the micromanager.

So what should a micromanager do if he or she wants to stop being so? Here are four strategies to help:

  1. Get over yourself. We can all rationalise why we do what we do and the same holds true for micromanagers. Here are some common excuses that chronic micromanagers give, and what they really mean:

These excuses lead to a disempowered, demoralised team. Micromanagers need to stop focusing on all the reasons why they should micromanage and instead focus on why they shouldn’t.

  1. Let it go. Micromanagers need to sing frequently the Frozen 1 epic tune ” Let it Go” :)……The difference between managing and micromanaging is the focus on the “micro.” This can be hard, but the key is to do it a little at a time. They would need to start by looking at their to-do list to determine what low hanging fruit they can pass on to a team member. Engage in explicit discussions with their team members about what level of detail they will engage. Most importantly, micromanagers should also highlight the priorities on their list — the big ticket items where they can truly add value — and make sure that is where they are spending most of their energy.
  2. Give the “what” but not the “how.” There is nothing wrong with having an expectation about a deliverable. But there’s a difference between sharing that expectation and dictating how to get to that result. The job of every manager is to clearly set the conditions of satisfaction for any task he/she assigns. It is important for a manager to articulate what they envision the final outcome to look like, but don’t need to give blow-by-blow instructions on how to get there. Normally, the end result is that micromanagers end up being surprised that the approach of others, while different, may yield excellent results.
  3. Fear of failure.At the core of why micromanagers exist is their fear of failure. By magnifying the risk of failure, employees end up engaging in “learned helplessness” where they start believing that the only way they can perform is by being micromanaged. It’s a vicious cycle. Micromanagers need to focus on setting up their people up for success, by being clear on what success looks like and providing the resources, information and support needed. It is important for micromanagers to learn to give credit where credit is due. Over time, micromanagers realise that a loss every now and then helps build a strong track record in the long run.

I normally realise that even micromanagers themselves know that they would like to stop being the micromanagers that they are. With a commitment to focus on the big picture and on motivating their employees, they can redirect their efforts to be the most effective manager they can be.

At EMCS we specialise in helping business clients have a professional review of their business to identify what structures, cultures and processes are helping them or hindering them. We also can augment this with any needed training to give new perspectives and insights on what working methods and internal cultures need to change to have the company achieve a better performance and operational resilience. Feel free to contact me on for a chat.

3 thoughts on “The Micromanager

  1. Pingback: How to stop Micromanaging – Silvan's Business Insights

  2. Pingback: Autonomy vs Micromanagement – Silvan's Business Insights – A Business Blog for SMEs & Family Businesses

  3. Pingback: The difficulty of Delegating (properly) – Silvan's Business Insights – A Business Blog for SMEs & Family Businesses

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