I have not had too many opportunities to experience micromanagement. I don't feel I've been micromanaged too much in my career and I don't think I've had too many cases where I've been a micromanager. However, this could be a false assumption as most times when a person is micromanaging, they are unaware that they are doing so. Micromanagement occurs when the person in a supervisory role either distrusts the subordinate or bullies the subordinate.
What is micromanagement and why do people micromanage?
In some cases, the supervisor is narcissistic: when the subordinate does well, the supervisor can take credit; if the subordinate fails, the supervisor has a place to point the blame. Or, the supervisor may rightly or wrongly believe that the performance of the subordinate will reflect directly on the supervisor.
In some rare cases of a brand built around a particular individual, there's a greater chance this could occur, but not to the degree that the brand icon believes. In some cases, the individual may place too high an importance on themselves or not give their customers enough credit to be able to differentiate.
This is the worst when someone has had the spotlight thrust on them and it's not their leadership but their charisma that keeps them there. This is where you will see cases in which the supervisor will reach down the org chart and micromanage beyond their direct reports to their reports' reports and even lower beyond that. This perpetuates the brand icon but creates an incredibly hostile place to work. In a few rare cases, it's the opposite - the desire to see the subordinate do well, but often that's still narcissistic or to make up for some deficiency in themselves, such as the parent/child relationship where the child is pushed hard or the parent does the homework for the child.
In other cases, the supervisor has trouble letting go: it may have been a role they previously did, promoted for doing it so well. With inadequate training to lead, or with an incorrect understanding of why they were promoted (or if they were promoted by ineffectual leadership), they may see the key to their success in keeping things exactly as they were, instead of looking to the subordinate to grow, blossom and shine on their own.
In some cases, the supervisor may end up doing the work themselves, often from impatience (and sometimes because it's easier than the work they should be doing.) In a few rare cases, it may be an attempt to get the subordinate to quit. Talk about a spineless cowardly bully.
Sadly, when this occurs, not only is it a highly stressful and discouraging environment for the subordinate, but in these cases, the supervisor is often focused on unnecessary details while missing the bigger picture. I think you even find the idea in the Bible: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3, NIV)
So... why do we experience micromanagement, can it be overcome and how?
- Day 1: What is micromanagement and why do people micromanage?
- Day 2: Why do we experience micromanagement?
- Day 3: Can you overcome micromanagement?
- Day 4: How do you overcome micromanagement?
- Day 5: What if you're a micromanager?