Is micromanagement actually effective

Are you concerned that you will be micromanaged at work? You are not alone in this. In his bookMy Way or the Highway Leadership guru and owner of consulting firm Trinity Solutions Harry Chambers shares details from his company's survey, which shows that 79% of respondents have experienced micromanagement in their careers to date.

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Micromanagement is common, but that doesn't mean it should be accepted. Micromanagement aims to convey a strong leadership style, but it is actually a symptom of weak leadership. Don't be surprised if the manager in question is relatively new to the ranks of management. If superiors are not sure of themselves and their team, they often try to control every single work step and the work results as closely as possible - there is no trace of trustworthy delegation of the work. They believe that they need to know every detail in order to perfect their end product. Unfortunately, the Trinity Solutions study also shows that 70% of people who report micromanaging think about quitting their jobs because of it. Almost a third of those surveyed in the study actually did it.

Although some level of stress can be expected at work, micromanagement multiplies a normal level of stress with every action an employee takes. Instead of worrying about a deadline or a good work result, an employee now has to put every decision he makes in the course of a day to a special test, as it is questioned with regular thoroughness by the supervisor. It creates discomfort and fear. This type of anxiety builds up quickly and can have serious physical consequences such as heart problems or worse. The level of focus required to ensure that your work meets not only your own expectations but also an unfamiliar ideal of your manager is incredibly exhausting. Risk-taking and innovation are impossible under the supervision of a judgmental boss.

Chances are you've experienced micromanagement in your career. We often mythologize micromanagers as visionary perfectionists whose instructions must be followed down to the smallest detail in order to bring a unique idea to life. Steve Jobs obsessive-compulsive perfectionism was famous (or notorious). In his biography, Walter Isaacson wrote of how Jobs in the hospital, near the end of his life, tore off his oxygen mask because it was unsightly. “[He] mumbled that he hated the design and refused to wear it. Although he could barely speak, he ordered them to bring five different masks to choose from and chose a design that pleased him. ”Often in the business world, the idea is conveyed that there is something noble in demanding perfection. It is therefore quite difficult to judge whether the boss's attention is inspirational or toxic.

The fulfillment of every supervisor's wish can come into focus so much that you won't realize micromanagement when it's actually happening. It might look like it's just part of the job, or like your boss is testing your skills. If you're in a junior position, you might even confuse micromanagement with mentoring. In part 1 of our two-part series on micromanagement, we help you identify the signs when your boss is pushing boundaries in his leadership style.

Not everything that looks like micromanagement is

However, it is always important to approach the matter with caution and not jump to conclusions: Maybe it is not micromanagement at all, even if it feels like it.

There can be times when you feel overwhelmed by an arrogant manager. That doesn't necessarily mean that micromanagement is involved here. For example, you may receive emails or messages from your boss after work or on the weekend. Nobody likes receiving a work-related message on their cell phone while enjoying their free time. It can feel like you are expected to respond right away. But that may not be the case. If your boss is a workhorse, he may not be keeping the same hours as you. Perhaps other commitments prevent him from working on the subject during normal working hours. He may not expect a prompt reply, but wanted to send something while it was fresh in his mind. Discuss the topic with your boss to clarify what his expectations are for you in such a case: should you react immediately or can you wait until normal working hours? In return, you can set your own rule as to when your boss can and can't expect a response from you.

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. " George S. Patton

Common signs that your boss is micromanaging:

  1. He avoids delegating.

    Since micromanagers do not believe that someone else is doing a good job, there is only one solution for them: to do everything themselves. Although a micromanager may achieve the desired results at first glance, it is impossible for him to persist in doing so. At some point he too will find that there are only 24 hours in a day. Without transferring tasks to others with specialist skills, these superiors will inevitably take on work for which they are not sufficiently qualified. Another indication of a micromanager is the misconception that it is faster to revise your work on your own than to give you feedback on what could be improved.
  2. You are constantly reporting.

    Even the CEO of a company needs to report to a board of directors, but working for a micromanager can make it seem like reporting is first priority. Since micromanagers cannot trust the work and commitment of their employees enough to let them work on their own, a boss of this kind asks you for updates all the time. The problem with persistent reports is that if the only progress you've made is on your most recent iterated spreadsheet, they won't show any progress.
  3. You are not allowed to make your own decisions.

    If you feel like you need to ask permission to get up from your office chair, you probably work for a micromanager. Granted, this was exaggerated, but it gets to the heart of the matter: While the product of your work certainly has to go through an approval process, you should be able to make decisions about how you will get the end result. You were hired because you were the most qualified person for your role; H. You should be able to contribute your specialist knowledge unhindered to your work. If even the smallest of tasks requires approval from your manager, this is sure to be a red flag.
  4. He keeps complaining.

    If only errors are searched for, then only errors are found. A boss who doesn't trust his co-workers will always look for evidence to confirm his or her paranoia. And micromanagers will find these shortcomings even if it's just a typo in a calendar reminder that you just sent to yourself. These types of managers can find flaws in anything, no matter how unimportant. Any push for excellence that only has an alibi function is of no use: Micromanagement weakens the motivation of employees.
  5. He does not pass on his skills and knowledge.

    It's inspiring to work for a boss you can learn from. Ideally, superiors can be role models for young professionals. For you as a new employee, for example, it can be quite a disappointment to find out that your boss has little interest in looking after you. For micromanagers, knowledge is a currency that, once shared, severely diminishes one's own value. They will probably never explicitly mention their reluctance to share knowledge with you, but always say that they are e.g. B. are way too busy. If your supervisor never complies with your requests for leadership or mentoring, they may be avoiding the critical skills sharing that you need to build in your role.
  6. He doesn't see the forest for the trees.

    A good manager knows that effort is a valuable, finite resource that needs attention. A micromanager often loses sight of the big picture - the relationship between effort and result - in order to concentrate on small details. For example, instead of updating an existing brochure with a few changes, a micromanager may request that a completely new brochure be created. That decision could then potentially jeopardize an important deadline - all to satisfy the whims of someone in an influential position.
  7. Your feedback falls on deaf ears.

    While a normal relationship between supervisor and employee should have a two-way flow of feedback, a micromanager is more interested in a one-way conversation. Because he has put himself under enormous pressure, he reacts more irritably and explosively to criticism. He could respond to your criticism with, for example, “Well, that's how it works here!”. Micromanagers aren't interested in what they can do to improve - they just look for mistakes and the weakness of others.
  8. Projects drag on forever.

    Since your boss appears to be the only one who is able to make any decisions, do any work, or even determine what tasks get done, the entire schedule and pace will be based on him. In this way, micromanagers block the progress of the project because everyone involved is waiting for their approval. The review process can also go well beyond the planned timeframe once the micromanager begins to give feedback, changes his mind and finally reverts to his first opinion.

Does this sound like someone you work with? If the indicators we've outlined here are true, then you probably work for a micromanager. However, there are proactive approaches that will help you set up a corridor for your work that you can use to successfully protect yourself against micromanagement. Next week, in Part 2 of Micromanagement, we'll be looking at how you should behave when dealing with a micromanager.