Overcontrolling managers breed failure in their employees and in their own careers

All of us were thrilled when Ed was promoted as our manager. We all respect his technical skill and knowledge of the field. What we didn't expect was Ed's unwillingness to let go. It's really creating some serious morale problems around here."  

Maybe you've worked for someone like Ed. Worse still, maybe you are someone like Ed.  

The problem is a common one: a highly competent technical performer is recognized with a promotion to a managerial post. As a manager, the individual can't keep his fingers out of the day-to-day work of his employees.  

Overcontrol kills. It's as simple as that. It kills your career as a manger and the careers of your subordinates. As a manager who won't let go you find yourself working harder and longer than anyone else in the unit. You are constantly "rolling up your sleeves," "staying close to the work," "just checking" and "making sure it's done right."  

As the subordinate under such a manager, you can feel distrusted, underutilized, stressed and resentful. "Why bother" is often heard around the coffee machine. After awhile, the good performers leave and the mediocre ones will slip to new lows.  

Overcontrol can be caused by many things. Some of these managers believe no one can do the job as well as they can. Others may be fearful of their own boss. Some simply don't want to stop doing the technical work that has given them strokes and satisfaction.  

Whatever the motivation, overcontrol will hurt your career as a manager: It gets you from both ends and traps you in the middle. Without a groomed replacement, you can't move up. And if you don't delegate authority to season and develop your replacement, you'll never be free to tackle new responsibilities yourself.  

To determine if you're over-supervising, ask yourself:

  • Do I often tell my employees how to do the details of their work?
  • Do I take assignments back, after delegating them, because my employee runs into a problem?
  • Do I do work that could be done by my employees?
  • After delegating an assignment, do I frequently check with my employee to "see how it's going?"
  • When my employee runs into a problem, do I rarely ask, "What do you think you should do?
  • Do I put off or ignore managerial responsibilities like performance appraisals and career-development discussions.  

If you answered "yes" to some of these questions, you may be too close for comfort.

If you are overcontrolling, face it and fix it.  

Start by setting some goals for yourself. For example, "During the next month, I will not check on any project until the due date."  

When delegating an assignment, resist the temptation to elaborate on the "how to." Instead, only discuss the end result you desire. Provide resources if the person is inexperienced or the work is new to the employee.  

Dive into the task of learning your real job - managing others. If you give it half a chance, you may find it's twice as rewarding as you ever dreamed it could be.     


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) 354-9500, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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