Leading others is as much an art form as it is a skill set. Helping others develop as they perform their jobs is the calling of every leader. On the flip-side, the bane of every hard working employee is a leader who micromanages rather than develops others. If asked, none of us wants to admit that we are a micromanager. But obviously, some of us are, because according to Inc. the #1 complaint among employees is that they are micromanaged. How then are we to determine if we are one of the ones guilty of micromanaging? Here is a list of 7 signs that you may be a micromanager.
- Lack of Delegation. Micromanagers have trouble delegating. When they do delegate to others, the assignment is more a list of step-by-step instructions on how to do something. Micromanagers care more about how something is done than they do about it getting done. They will often delegate responsibility, but not the necessary authority to successfully complete a task or assignment. Employees are expected to report constantly on progress. Cue the Jeff Foxworthy voice here: “If you can’t delegate a task without explaining how it needs to be done, you might be a micromanager.”
- Focus on Detail. Micromanagers are so focused on the details that they often lose sight of the big picture. When they delegate, the focus is on the details rather than the outcome. For example, I once had a manager who was delegating a project to me. As we were going over the assignment he got hung up on how I was going to keep track of and report the numbers involved in the project. It wasn’t enough to assign the task of keeping and reporting numbers. He got stuck in how I was going to track and report them. His focus was not on the outcome, but on the process. Leaders are big-picture oriented. Leave the details to the person who is doing the work.
- Lack of Teamwork. Micromanagers tend to have all the answers. They will rarely ask for the opinions of others because they already know what needs to be done and how to do it. Rather than rely on the skills, strengths and abilities of others, the micromanager needs to be in control. That control is often shown through dictating direction instead of collaboration. Often, they will meet behind closed doors with others in management, then materialize to give direction to those who are doing the work. No thought is given to including those who perform the job daily in the decision-making process. Since they already know what is best, they make the decisions, then pass down those decisions to their employees. A good leader will get input from those doing the work before making decisions that affect that work.
- Decision Restriction. Micromanagers need to feel like they are in control. That need is displayed most often by limiting the decision-making of others. In the extreme, no decision is made without their approval. This decision-making restriction becomes a bottleneck in the organization. Nothing can move forward without their approval, so progress is halted until they can make the decisions that need to be made. Employees become frustrated because deadlines can’t be met or progress on improvements is slowed while waiting for approval from the manager. The underlying thought by the employees is a lack of trust on the part of the manager. They begin to feel unappreciated and underutilized – especially those who are qualified to make the decisions.
- Information Flow Control. Micromanagers need to control the flow of information to others. This will often show itself when they insist on being copied on emails to other employees. Other times they will insist on being the point person for contact with other employees or management. In effect, they become a bottleneck in the information pipeline. Instead of allowing collaboration with others directly, they are included in the collaboration by default since all communication goes through them. They become a middleman between you and the person you need to communicate with. Their only function in this role is to be a go-between in your communication with others. They pass your information to others and relay the others information back to you. But it helps them maintain the control they need to feel powerful. By shutting down effective collaboration, the micromanager slows the progress of their employees.
- Red Pen Crazy. Leaders are interested in the development of others. Micromanagers are more interested in the correction of others. They love to point out mistakes that others have made. More often than not, the “mistakes” are made in the area of the process, not progress. That is, the mistakes are in the details of how something was done, not in what was accomplished. By correcting others, they feel more powerful and feed their need for recognition. Employees will begin to avoid the micromanager because they know he or she is going to find fault in something they have done. If you find more to criticize your employees for than you do to praise them for, you could be a micromanager.
- Bogged Down. Micromanagers will become bogged down with work that is not in their job description. Since they feel that they are the only ones qualified to do the work correctly, they will often assume the responsibility for the work. They will delegate easy or boring work to others while keeping the “important” work for themselves. Leaders instill a sense of trust in their employees. Micromanagers display the opposite. By not allowing others to do certain tasks or assignments, they are sending the signal that others can’t be trusted to do the job. The motto of the micromanager is “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”
After going through this list, can you see any traits of a micromanager in yourself? Micromanaging costs organizations of all sorts countless time, energy and money. Good employees become frustrated. Eventually, they quit and leave. The high turnover and low productivity caused by micromanagement are very costly. Have you been the victim of micromanagement? What would you add to this list?