Nobody I know proudly brags about being a micromanager. Frankly, most vehemently deny the label. Yet the workplace overflows with them. Here’s how to spot them on your team before you give them even bigger opportunities to frustrate the people who work with them. And if deep down you fear you may be falling into the micromanagement trap yourself, consider these signs before it’s too late to make a change.
Micromanagers Complain About Work Overload
Their double-checking at so many different points during a project clogs up the system. The micromanager hovers in the background to help with “potential” or “pending” problems, answer unasked questions, provide more directions when a staffer is “about to make a serious mistake” or take a different approach to a situation.
Very soon the quality of the staffer’s work decreases. After all, why should the team member worry when the manager has become his or her back-stop for 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 Spend Time Working “in” the Job—Not “on” the Job
Micromanagers have no time for strategy—to improve processes or systems. They can’t work ON the job of managing the department and the team to add value to the offering or organization. They’re too busy working IN the job as just another staffer. They’ve become the pinch-hitter for whoever needs help at the moment—whoever needs to analyze a situation, make a decision, and move forward.
Consequently, team members never have to stretch, grow, and work through a challenging assignment. So in the micromanager’s mind, he or she continues to manage “incapable” employees who can’t do anything completely right.
Micromanagers Refuse to Delegate Authority
Micromanagers demand constant check-backs. 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.”
Micromanagers Fail to Prioritize Projects or People
These micromanagers react to the urgent, not necessarily to the important. They typically have an open-door policy and whatever hits gets their attention. So their people stay confused from month to month and often day to day about the goals and deadlines for project completions.
Micromanagers Communicate Inconsistently
Micromanagers practice mushroom management. They keep employees in the dark, for the most part, because they just don’t have time to pass on news. They’re too busy putting out attending to crises. When they do write an email or call a meeting, they’re usually communicating negative news or directives: “Stop doing X.” Or “You need to change how you’re doing X because it creates a big problem.” Or “The execs want me to tell you that Z is going to happen next quarter, so prepare for the fallout!”
Employees rarely hear positive feedback or have opportunity to offer insight on ways to improve things. These micromanagers are simply too busy to listen and change things.
Micromanagers Have Little or No Time to Mediate Conflict or Enforce Policies
The micromanager frequently reacts to bad behavior among employees much like many athletic coaches do: As long as the star player is winning games, they don’t want to know how badly he behaves 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.
If the label fits, . . . well, change happens with focused intention, discipline, and training.