How To Manage The Micro Manager

October 2, 2014

businessman looking with magnifying glassEvery now and then, an otherwise great leader will fall into the trap of micromanaging.

While it is beneficial to be hands-on with employees to a certain degree, attempting to direct an employee or work team with unnecessarily detailed instructions or frequent interrupts to follow up on task progress can prove to be distracting and demoralising to employees.

One of the most common causes of micromanaging is poor employee performance, particularly if the behaviour only started recently. A quick performance appraisal will help to determine if employees have become complacent with their work tasks, causing the manager to need to take a hands-on approach to meet performance goals.

If this is the case, re-training employees on their job tasks and setting clear expectations for performance should soon allow the micromanager to once again trust their employees to complete their work.

Some micromanagers begin to engage in these intrusive behaviours out of inexperience or insecurities, and it may be completely unconscious. They may genuinely not understand the industry they have joined, and believe that micromanaging is a subtle way to learn without appearing ignorant to their employees.

Often times, if an experienced employee takes the time to discuss projects and decision making processes with these types of bosses in the beginning, the manager will be able to learn the ropes without intrusive managing techniques.

Unfortunately, many micromanagers have taken on this leadership style consciously. These micromanagers often feel a pathological need to assert their role as a leader, and will meticulously analyse any work completed for an opportunity to remind others that they have the final call.

They require even the most miniscule and unimportant decisions to be brought to them first, and often demand employees change font styles and sizes over and over again until they deem the document acceptable. These behaviours can damage the self-esteem of employees and quickly stall progress on a project.

These insecure and potentially OCD manages are often particularly difficult to handle, as any attempt to scale back their micromanaging behaviours is likely to be perceived as a threat to their authority. Instead, the best strategy is to simply eliminate the need for them to initiate micromanaging behaviours.

For instance, proactively sending detailed updates to a micromanager throughout the day can help assuage some of the anxieties that drive these behaviours and prevent the manager from feeling the need to seek out these status updates.

When sending periodic updates is not enough, or if the micromanager has a tendency to insist that projects be completed a certain way, it may help to pretend to defer to their expertise.

Allowing them to take over and complete a project takes the stress of handling a micromanager off of the employee and the stress of wondering if the project will be completed appropriately off of the manager.

The employee can then work to replicate the style of work produced by the manager for future projects, increasing the manager’s trust in the employees’ ability to work autonomously.

Of course, the simplest and most effective method for dealing with a micromanager is to simply discuss the effects of their managing style directly.

Telling a micromanager that you appreciate their efforts to help you complete your job satisfactorily, but that frequent check-ins are distracting and you would appreciate an opportunity to earn their trust in your work may be daunting, but may also be all the intervention needed to stop micromanaging behaviours.

When they do provide their employees with the space to complete work autonomously, reinforcing the behaviour with genuine appreciation for their trust can help to set the working relationship on the path toward healthy leadership.

Many thanks

Stewart Bull

Senior Trainer & Consultant

Mark Williams 3

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)