No one proudly wears the label of micromanager. Yet the workplace overflows with them. Here’s how to identify them on your team before you err by giving them bigger opportunities. If you fear you may be falling into the micromanagement trap yourself, consider these tell-tale signs.
Micromanagers demand constant check-backs on projects. For whatever reason, they don’t trust their team. Either they lack confidence in their own skills to give clear instructions, or they don’t trust their employees to do things correctly. So before passing a key milestone or making an irreversible decision, the micromanager always gets involved “one more time” to “doublecheck” and “run through the details.”
This double-checking at so many different points during a project clogs up the system. The micromanager hovers in the background constantly to help with potential problems, answer questions, correct directions when a staffer is “about to make a mistake” or take a different approach to a situation.
Soon the quality of the staffer’s work decreases. After all, why should the staffer worry when the manager has become his back-stop for any problems? And the micromanager finds he’s doing more and more of the staff work—along with his own management responsibilities—until the workload is all but unsustainable.
Micromanagers have no time to see the big picture—to improve processes or systems. They can’t work ON the job of managing the department and the team to add value to the organization. They’re too busy working IN the job—as just another staffer. They’ve become the rotating pinch-hitter for whoever needs help at the moment—for whoever needs to analyze a problem, make a judgment call, decide, and move forward.
As a result, no one on the team ever has to stretch, grow, and work through a challenging assignment. So in the micromanager’s mind, he or she continues to manage “incapable” people who can’t be trusted to do anything completely right.
Micromanagers practice mushroom management. They keep their employees in the dark, for the most part, because they simply don’t have time to pass on news. They’re too busy putting out fires. When they do call a meeting or write an email, they’re usually communicating something negative: “Stop doing X.” Or “You need to change how you’re doing Y because it’s creating a big problem.” Or “The execs want me to tell you that Z is going to happen next quarter, so brace yourself for the fallout!”
Employees rarely hear positive feedback on their work or have opportunity to offer input on ways to improve things. These micromanagers are simply too busy to listen and change things.
These managers react to the urgent, not necessarily to the important. Micromanagers typically have an open-door policy and whatever hits gets their attention. So their people stay confused from week to week and often day to day about their goals for project completions.
The micromanager frequently reacts to bad behavior among employees much like athletic coaches occasionally do: As long as the star player is winning games, they don’t want to know how he’s behaving off the field. Not realizing that developing their team and enforcing organizational cultural and values are primary managerial responsibilities, these micromanagers refuse to add one more task to their workday. They turn a blind eye. No time.
If the label fits, . . . well, change happens with intention.
Learn more ways to prevent and overcome micromanaging tendencies in Communicate Like a Leader: Connecting Strategically To Coach, Inspire And Get Things Done. Download an excerpt by clicking here or on the image below.