What is Micro Management?

Date: 28/02/2023| Category: Best Practices Glossary|

One of Gallup’s latest studies reveals that the main reason for employees to leave their jobs is the relationship with their immediate superior. This is reason enough for managers to pay attention to their management style and above all not to fall into the trap of micromanagement. But what is micro management?

What is Micromanagement? The definition

Micromanagement is a management style that is characterized by excessive control of the work of others in the smallest detail. Micromanagement can happen easily, even if it starts with good intentions. It can be either to improve the skills of each person or to increase the productivity of the team. Unfortunately, the consequences of micromanagement can be quite harmful.

How and why does one become a micromanager?

According to an analysis published on LinkedIn, 79% of employees have been micromanaged at least once in their working lives. An alarming fact, especially considering that employees who feel controlled in their daily work tend to perform less well at least in the long term, as shown by a 2011 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. But how do you go over to the dark side?

This behaviour is mainly found among middle managers who, caught between the strong demands of their superior and the pressure of their teams, gradually lose control of situations and take refuge in behaviour that is oppressive for others. They focus too much on the details without being able to step back and maintain a global and strategic vision.

There is a difference between being attentive to one’s team, ensuring regular follow-up, providing support and being excessively controlling. The line is certainly blurred, and micromanagers can hide behind the desire to do well, but several habits or reflexes are not deceiving.

One becomes a micromanager when one starts to overcontrol. This means that we are afraid to take risks, that we lack leadership, when we lack self-confidence. Some people are predisposed to be micromanagers according to their personality. Certain situations will activate a stress mechanism in them, so fear will prevail and micromanagement will take place.

Managers who fall into micromanagement are often people who are experts in their field but who have little or no mastery of the more global aspects of company life. They are afraid of being outmanoeuvred, of losing control, and even imagine that their employees will cheat them, lie to them, or abuse them if they do not control every aspect of their work.

How to identify the pitfalls of the micromanager?

Do you have difficulty delegating? Do you like to have everything under control? Do you sometimes filter information? Do you like minutes and meetings? Does your communication flow poorly and create misunderstandings? Do you have a high turnover in your team? Are you too focused on details? Do you often justify yourself? Then you are on the wrong track…

Here are 5 questions to ask yourself to find out if you are a micromanager

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are probably already in the micromanagement business or very close to it:

  • Do I sometimes do operational tasks that are not my responsibility when I should be doing other more strategic things?
  • Do I have a tendency to abuse reporting even if it has no added value for my team?
  • Do I sometimes give extremely detailed instructions?
  • Do I constantly check/read my team’s work before publication?
  • Do I find it difficult to delegate tasks due to lack of trust?

The risks and consequences of micro-management

This type of management is bad for the company, for the manager and for all employees. It generally kills creativity and productivity.

The main risks of micro-management :

  • harms teamwork and interpersonal relations
  • affects the motivation and performance of employees
  • harms employee productivity and well-being, increasing burn-out, boredom or resignation
  • leads to a heavy, stressful or boring working environment
  • disengages teams who come just for the pay
  • reduces overall visibility and increases errors
  • hinders employees’ creativity and innovation

A study has shown that people have strong negative emotional and physiological reactions to unnecessary or unwanted help and that this can erode interpersonal relationships. Former US Army General George S. Patton said Patton said: “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

Johann Molinari also describes in one of his articles 3 main harmful effects of micromanagement

  • Work becomes time consuming

Constant reporting between two files and very detailed instructions or instructions broken down into mini-tasks make the work time-consuming. Added to this is the lack of responsibility, which leads to questions such as “What is the meaning of my work? Why do I get up every morning?”, which can lead to burn-out or, conversely, bore-out.

  • Lack of trust undermines employee motivation

How can you build trust in someone if you systematically go back to them? If you give them the impression that you do not respect or trust their work? How can you engage them if they know in advance that you will check their work for syntax, grammar, amounts and spelling?

  • Micromanagement harms the team but also the manager himself

By dint of this, the micromanager ends up blocking his or her career development, not being able to unite the team or help it progress. The micromanager then becomes the main limiting factor for his team, acting as the team’s bottleneck: by wanting to get involved and make progress on all the subjects, he locks them all up and blocks any progress.

There are, however, some advantages to this management style. It allows :
to be aware of malicious employees,

  • to become aware of ill-intentioned employees,
  • to adjust the level of employees,
  • make difficult and complicated tasks easier to perform,
  • better instruct/train new and inexperienced staff members.

Micro management and macro management

The macro-manager is the opposite of the micro-manager. Macro management is a leadership style that takes a more passive approach and lets employees do their work with minimal direct supervision. Some employees may see macro managers as supervisors who do not give them enough support or feedback to do their job effectively, but very often this style is highly valued by employees, who feel trustworthy and enjoy working with some autonomy.

Micro management vs leadership

Micro-managers are often people who have been promoted through seniority or simply because they were good at their operational work and often find themselves without experience or skills in managing and managing people. It may also be that a lack of interpersonal skills complicates the challenge. It is easy to cannibalise leadership with micro-management when a person feels deprived in their role due to lack of training or support. Here are some examples of the differences between a micro-manager and a leader:

an infographic of the differences between micromanagement and leadershipt

Is female leadership less prone to micromanagement?

Female leadership has positively changed the business world as a whole and having women as leaders brings more empathy and sociability to teams, being able to create bonds that strengthen commitment to goals and take into account the human and emotional side.

Female leadership is a solution for companies that have many managers with a micro-managerial profile. In addition to having healthier leadership, it is a sign of a more egalitarian environment, which reinforces social equity.

How to get out of micro management?

To get out of micromanagement, you must first acknowledge your wrongs and look for the source, the reason for your behaviour. Once you have understood this, here are some tips that you should try to follow.

  1. Ask questions or give more advice rather than telling you how to do the job.
  2. Ask yourself: ‘Am I really adding value to the business with the time I spend supervising today? Could I spend this time on more strategic activities? Think about what you could achieve if you redirected your attention.
  3. Let go and stop striving for perfection
  4. Reduce the number of meetings.
  5. Trust by default. Let your team members take on challenges independently. You will be pleasantly surprised to see new ways of approaching the challenge and will learn a lot from your team’s proposals.
  6. Develop your leadership through the 5 Toltec Agreements.
  7. Register for a training course on leadership, management of new generations and learn about the different models or methods that exist.

Sources :
Harvard business review
My Way or the High­way : The Micro­mana­gement Survival Guide – Harry Chambers

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