At some point in our careers, we get to work with a micromanager—the person who tries to control everything that happens in a school or office. Micromanagers pay excessive attention to details and avoid delegation of tasks and decisions to staff members. The parody of the micromanager is the leader who spends the better part of the day counting the office supplies used. While micromanagers may feel they are doing a great job and being very structured, the often are oblivious to the effects that they are having on the rest of the organization.
In the best situations, micromanagement is an impediment to progress and in extreme cases it can cause the organization to stagnate. Let’s look at the some of the effects that come with micromanagement.
Effects of Micromangement
Micromanagement prevents innovation. Employees can’t come up with new ideas and procedures on their own; they have to constantly check with the micromanager who is often unavailable. Workers become “drones” that wait to be told what to do rather than take risks that come with innovation. Employees with skills and knowledge will leave such situations and the organization is left with workers who are content to wait to follow instructions.
Micromanagement slows workflow, as all approvals have to go through the manager who will not give up control. It is not efficient for normal work to have to wait for approval from an overzealous manager. Delegation is an essential element in any organization and it is an essential skill for any manager.
Micromanagement prevents an organization from using the talents and skills of the staff. Employees are hired because they have the knowledge and ability to do a job. If they are constantly being hovered over by an oppressive manager, then they cannot do the jobs that they were hired to do.
Micromanagement creates a “wait to be told” culture. Why do work ahead of time if the micromanager will come by and change everything? Better for employees to just wait until the deadline approaches and then do the job. There will be far less time to have to make changes and have to re-do the work. Everyone in the organization learns to just wait until it has to be done and then do what they are told to do.
Micromanagement slows progress because meetings must include the micromanager. Workers learn that if the micromanager has not “signed off” on the project there is no use in moving forward unless it is done exactly the way the micromanager wants it to be done.
Micromanagement retards communication within a school or office and with the community. When someone asks a question, workers will often reply, “I’ll have to check with my manager.” Employees should be able to respond to coworkers and with the community without being held hostage. If the answer is not correct, then it can be corrected. The damage that is caused by inaccurate communications is not nearly as great as the damage that is caused by communicating in a timely manner.
Micromanagement discourages teamwork. Workers don’t work together; they just have to work with the micromanager. I have heard work groups say, “What’s the use of getting together to plan, we will just have to change it all.” This is not how an efficient organization runs. Managers should encourage everyone in the organization to constantly be innovating, communicating and improving and this cannot be done if the manager cannot delegate and respect the work of his or her employees.
In some situations, the micromanager will assign work and then micromanage the work to enable the oppressive manager to take credit for any positive results, and also to blame the employee for negative results. In this scenario the micromanager actually delegates the accountability for failure to the worker without giving them the ability to take initiative that might have made the project a success.
Are you a micromanager?
Might you be a micromanager and not know it? According to Alyssa Gregory, here are some telltale signs:
You have more work than you can handle because you can’t delegate effectively.
You frequently assign work, then take it back because it’s not getting done the way you want it done.
You tell your team exactly how you want things done and leave them no room for them to take initiative.
You continuously take on project manager roles, even when there already is a project manager.
You rarely complete projects on time because you can’t get past the details.
You need to know what everyone is doing, all the time.
Your team avoids you and all one-on-one conversations with you.
You don’t let any of your team members contribute ideas, communicate with clients or even talk to each other.
You become the bottleneck because everyone is always waiting for your approval on everything.
Your team has unreasonably high turnover.
You question the processes followed, work completed and proposed next steps at every status meeting.
You feel that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
Micromanagement disables a school or office in countless ways. All managers should be careful not to fall into the traps of over-managing. The damage that comes with micromanagement is not easily or quickly corrected.