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7 Corrosive Factors of Micromanagement

Why micromanagement is counter-productive and dangerous.

By Vitaly Dubravin

Micromanagement is defined by Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary as “manage[ment] especially with excessive control or attention to details“. This definition sounds soft and neutral, but is often become the most noticeable symptom of a serious psychological problem. Micromanagement is very distractive and time consuming, not just for the manager himself, but for his/her subordinates.

Micromanagement may be almost unnoticeable or tolerable at the early stages of the project. But it becomes especially destructive for a team working under the pressure of approaching project deadline, facing budget constraint or tense work situations.

There is very limited number of mitigation strategies to tame a micromanager. But there are known distractive factors that should be taken into account by the higher manager when doomed team embraces for the impact.

1. Initiative suppression.

Team managed by a micromanager naturally loses any motivation to be creative. Creativity is driven by inspiration and it is hard to get inspired when the boss trying to control every move the person makes. Micromanager does not accept the simple fact that any task may have an infinite number of ways to be accomplished and his way of doing is not always the best. I am not even talking about goals – this term is not known to a micromanager, only tasks and micro steps. Many team members lose the ability to think two-three steps ahead and every tiny mistake leads to a gigantic disaster.

2. Slow decision making process.

Every simple decision takes forever since a micromanager has to understand and bless absolutely every minor and often inessential step. These decisions have nothing to do with the team’s opinion and always represent an authoritarian vision of the micromanager. Team members are getting tired of fruitless discussions with the boss.

3. Team inefficiency.

It is hard to expect significant output from a team constantly demotivated by the boss. Many members have to spend some time to recover after every conversation with the micromanager. One of the visible indicators of this problem is that team performance skyrockets when the boss leaves on the business trip or on vacation with no access to a cell phone or his e-mail. This symptom also suggests an obvious solution.

4. Information flow bottleneck.

Micromanager does not have a habit to share information with the team and there is absolutely no need for it from his perspective. He becomes the weakest link and none of his team members are ready to step in when the help is really necessary. The team is not aware of the details carefully guarded by the micromanager and any “uncoordinated” help attempt often worsens the situation.

5. Lack of authority.

Team members may have formal roles but they have absolutely no authority to make a decision. No matter how good the decision was, micromanager will challenge it simply because this was not blessed by him/her in advance.

6. Low morale.

A team managed by a micromanager rarely thinks about business issues during spare time. People share their experience handing boss’s emotional ups and downs and eventually start looking for a better place to apply their skills. Such teams always have a very high turnover rate and former members quickly rehabilitate in the new place.

7. Ignorance to the real issues.

Micromanager loves to manage whatever was working without his/her engagement. This makes working process harder to execute and it eventually breaks. Once broken, process possesses absolutely no interest to a micromanager and there is absolutely no will in the team to fix it, since all initiative was wasted a long time ago. Micromanagers frequently demolish processes that fall outside of their narrow competency. Don’t expect any long-term achievement from a micromanaged team.

Potential micromanagers can be easily treated before assuming any management role by developing responsibility and authority sharing skills. Corporate training programs for managers help to avoid a development of this distractive disease. Chronic cases are rarely treatable and the micromanager’s replacement is the only working option to preserve the team, although the team itself may be damaged to the point where preservation has no business value.

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