Micromanagement is generally defined as exercising excessive control of a project or group of people. The fuzziness comes into play when we try to determine what is considered excessive. Clearly this is in the eyes of the beholder. The employee will generally have a much lower threshold than the manager.
Directing / telling direct reports what to do, when to do it, how to do it etc.
o Need for control
o Cannot delegate effectively or at all
o May delegate but puts the employee in a position of deciding nothing of significance without prior approval
o May hand out work – supposedly delegating;
provide detailed direction
dictate methods rather than providing proper preparation
holds the employee responsible for results – thereby, not allowing the employee to learn by doing
o May hand out a task
pulls it back at the first sign of trouble
fails to provide the employee with a condition essential to growth and development – reasonable freedom to fail
Feedback from the micromanager tends to be constant and detailed
o often excessively focused on procedural minutia rather than on overall performance, quality and results.
Damaging to employees
o inhibits employee development
o micromanagement tends to punish for mistakes = employees learn to hide their mistakes and avoid taking risks.
o The micromanagement style creates “yes men” and “yes women” as employees discover it’s easiest and safest to go along with the manager.
o Fear of the micromanager is pervasive.
Exerting too much influence over too many things, the micromanager may lose focus on the bigger picture.
The higher the level of management, the more dangerous this becomes. [EX: if a CEO or COO becomes obsessed with production issues, he may loosen his grasp on things like practice development or operations.
• Micromanagement limits the manager’s promotional possibilities
o If a manager is considered poor at delegation, they may be passed over for promotion
o The micromanager who may have done little or nothing to develop one or more potential successors is usually a poor candidate for promotion
The micromanager frequently tries to do it all:
o Regularly works extra hours
o May work on week-ends and on scheduled days off
o Employee turnover increases as the better employees respond to the absence of challenge and learning and seek greener pastures
o The organization may experience a demotivated work group
You might be a micromanager if:
o You spend a measureable amount of time handholding employees.
o Ask yourself:
Why do I do this?
Are they not capable?
Is there training to be given which would improve their skills thereby freeing up my handholding?
o You spend a measureable amount of time overseeing particular projects.
o Ask yourself:
Which projects do I spend the most time checking on?
Am I giving the employees on this project a chance to prove their capabilities?
o You spend time telling people exactly what to do and how.
o Ask yourself:
Is this kind of instruction really necessary?
Is there a way to give less instruction and allow employees to find solutions to issues themselves?
o You find yourself irritated when others make decisions without consulting you.
o Ask yourself:
What is the irritation about with me?
Am I fostering a dependency relationship? [need to be needed]
Am I on a power-trip?
How can I work on letting go of the reins to allow others some autonomy?
Mistakes may be made – also, wonderful discoveries for new and better ways might be made as well. Morale will improve when employees feel good about the fact that you actually believe in them.
We all know when we feel we are being micromanaged and we hate it. Yet the vast majority of managers do not recognize when they are micromanaging.
Micromanagement affects employees in these ways:
o Do not feel trusted
o Do not feel valued
o Do not feel respected
o Resent the hovering manager
When is micromanagement appropriate?
o When a project is not going as planned
o Time constraints are dictating the project plan needs adjustment and/or decisions to get back on track
o The manager may have technical expertise to provide insight into a project team or department’s processes
o Quality is slipping and needs to get back on track
o Methodology to get on track may be focused & limited micromanagement
o Company policies are not being followed or supported
a. Methodology may be micromanagement
How do you avoid micromanagement?
The conventional wisdom is you avoid it by having detailed project plans and milestones that you can check on. Use of software such as Microsoft Project can streamline this process. Ask for summary updates vs. details. Set expectations with employees. Provide training and development opportunities. Discuss consequences for poor or inadequate performance.
Steps to change micromanager behaviors:
o Solicit feedback from your staff
Try the feed forward technique: “I want to avoid micromanaging employees. What suggestions do you have for me?” Simply say, “thank you” when you receive the answers from employees. [No rebuttals or defensive comments.]
o Identify the root cause of micromanagement tendencies
EX: Do I feel I will be blamed if something goes wrong? Do I feel I have to be in control?
o Seek coaching and guidance to make necessary changes
How do you know when you are over managing?
There is no set rule of thumb. The surest indicator is if you are bouncing from project to project and person to person with most of your time. A good guide is to try and minimize your hands on attention to detail to no more than 20% to 25% of your time depending on the situation. At a director or senior management executive, the rest of your time should be spent on supporting, teaching, guiding and evaluating employees, budgeting, and increasing the skill level of your staff.
A detailed level of attention can and usually will lead to higher productivity and increased efficiency. But – there’s a limit. The higher your level of management, and the more responsibilities you have, the less leeway you have for over managing projects and people. The key is in understanding where the project really is, and what the level of expectation is. If things are on track, it’s best to manage from above. If several projects are foundering, you’ll need several project managers or experts to help.
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