Micro-manager produces negative macro affect

 Listen in on what it's like when a micro-manager is the boss: 

Manager: I like to make sure things are done right in my department. I'm accountable for the results and I want to make sure my employees are working up to par. After all, I have to answer to my boss about mistakes. My employees just don't have the experience I have...and if I don't check it I can't be confident it's the caliber of work I want representing me and my department.  

Employee: My boss is always looking over my shoulder. He's always telling me how to do every little detail even though I've been doing my job for several years. It's as if he doesn't trust me or he thinks I'm incompetent. If I'm doing something wrong or if I need to improve something why doesn't he tell me...I want to grow and develop on my job. Sometimes I just want to say, "Here! Why don't you do it? You're going to pick it apart and re-do it yourself anyway!" I'm not making a contribution...maybe I should just leave.  

Manager: My employees just don't have a good idea of the big picture...the politics of the situation. And they don't need to know what's going on, especially about political and strategic issues. They don't need to know that to do their jobs. I keep them out of trouble by guiding them through their projects.  

Employee: My manager doesn't tell me anything. He doesn't share information about the company's direction or about political sensitivities I should be aware of. He's forever checking on my work and then changing my priorities--but he doesn't tell me why. It's very frustrating because I'm operating in the dark half the time. If he trusted me with more information, I'd be able to use my own judgement and I'd be able to anticipate problems before they happen.  

Manager: The downsizing going on is targeting people like me. I've watched my peers get laid off and I'm worried about becoming one of them. The way I'm protecting myself is by making myself indispensable and visible. I need to look good so I don't find myself on the hit list. I don't want my peers or employees to look better than I do. I also have to fight for resources to make my department look better than other managers' departments. These are dog-eat-dog times.  

Employee: My boss used to let me attend meetings outside of the department occasionally but not anymore; now he attends them all. He went to a convention about the latest technical developments instead of letting me go. He uses my ideas and reports as his own and never seems to mention that they came from me. I'm glad he thinks they're good ideas but I'm not getting any of the credit. I think he's threatened by me...why else would he be trying so hard to keep me locked up and invisible to people above me?  

Manager: I get input and involvement from my employees. I meet with them to give them a chance to discuss new policies or procedures. I always have an "open door" policy.  

Employee: My manager only meets with us one-on-one. Only rarely do we have a department or unit meeting. When we do get together, he does most of the talking about some new rule or there is a company-wide announcement. When he does ask for input, he argues with us about our point of view or acts like we don't have all the information and only his ideas could work. Why does he go through the motions of asking us for our ideas if he's only going to implement his own ideas?  

Micro-managers suffocate their employees' initiative. They are so narrowly focused on themselves and the work that they don't take a broader look at the people who do the work. Micro-managers are classic examples of the Peter Principle -- good performers who were promoted once too often. They should have been left where they were to do the work they do best.  

Micro-managers are often a product of their organization's culture. If the top manager shows the behavior, it often cascades down throughout the organization. Because when the top boss expects managers to be personally involved in all the details, other levels of managers are likely to be expected to do the same. They don't want to look out of touch.  

Organizations that don't identify the leadership characteristics they want for managerial jobs often promote the best technical performer and hope for the best. Unfortunately, those technical performers are often ill equipped to perform successfully in their new role.  

Why not take the time to train and coach the leaders in your organization? And before you hire or promote the next manager, define the leadership behaviors you're looking for. Everyone will be glad you did.  

And if one of your direct reports is a micro-manager, the best thing you can do for him or her is to give honest feedback through a direct conversation--siting clear examples. Or, by bringing in an outside coach who can gather the employee feedback this manager needs to hear and guiding them to make a course correction. Most micro-managers don’t realize that their justifications are misguided. Rather than helping their credibility and their career, micro-managing is a career derailer. 


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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