By Sheila Ferguson

Muriel recently resigned due to the stressors of working for an overly perfectionistic boss. Bob was just diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes and is working in a high-stress environment where his boss demands that work is rapidly completed. Gone are his peaceful lunch hours and breaks. He is afraid to quit with three children, a mortgage, and college expenses coming up. Workers such as these are feeling the effects of micromanagement.

A business leader (owner, corporate executive, or manager) is at risk of becoming a micro-manager. In the best-case scenario, leaders make the weekly schedules, provide supervision, and nurture new skills so that team members can do their jobs well. Yet, life in the organization can sour when bosses face the stressors of resignations, illnesses, and loss in funding and profits. If employers do not recognize their pressures, it can jeopardize the well-being of the company and its employees.

Webster defines micromanagement as “management based upon excessive control or attention to details.” Micromanagement is a form of executive and managerial dysfunction. It creates the experience of “management on steroids” for workers. The behavior is antisocial and includes the following:

  • Narcissism

  • Manipulation

  • Distrustfulness

  • Taking credit only for the positives and laying blame on others for the negatives

When informed of the pattern, micro-managers often say that their management style is highly “structured,” “well organized,” and “appropriate.” Few understand that the behavior makes others uncomfortable. The extreme denial surrounding micromanaging is what makes it hard to stop. Acting like a big scary Tiger, Mom, or Dad lying in wait to punish staff over minor details, is harmful and arises from:

  • Excessive obsession with the smallest of details

  • Perfectionism

  • Chastising employees for not reading the boss’ mind to recognize priorities that had not been explained to them

The causes of micromanagement are linked to the manager’s past experiences that occurred when rising up the ranks. These can include:

  • Fear-based training and handling

  • Executive management’s demands for intensive oversight

  • Organizational anxiety and worries about their survival in the workplace based on the subordinate’s performance

  • The desire to be regarded as one of the system’s most competitive “heavy hitters”

  • Personal insecurity about their financial solvency and the need to be considered viable

  • Raw fear and mistrust of others

Micromanaging leads to the unintended effects of a team moving away from targeted goals and outcomes instead of towards them. Micromanagers need better listening skills to include the thoughts of others. They also need to stop the excessive focus on trivia and start attending to obtaining quality results. The daily focus on “low-level” trivia is aggravating and creates an emotional and energetic drain. Further, it delays decision-making, makes goal attainment seem remote, and restricts the flow of information between employees. Without recognizing it, micromanagers stop the flow of staff creativity and empowerment.

When executives stop micro-managing, they create a more free-flowing work environment filled with communication, cooperative labor, team building, and real-time feedback. It is recommended that executives pay close attention to the following:

  • Discovering the talents of employees

  • Exploring the various strategies, timelines, pros, and cons of achieving a targeted goal

  • Examining your workplace’s health and learning how to stay well in a climate of unrelenting stress. Great workers might choose to take their talents elsewhere

  • Giving managers and staff the ability to introduce creativity and style into the work

Finally, the author encourages organizational leaders to breathe, relax and begin to share power, energy, and confidence with their teams.


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