What Is the Difference Between Micromanagement and Macromangement?

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Micromanagers closely monitor everything employees do. Macromanagers are hands-off, big-picture types and care more about the end result. Micro and macro management can both be useful, and both can fail. A skilled manager knows which one to use in a given circumstance to get results.

As a manager, do you supervise and direct everything your team does, or do you leave them to figure it out for themselves? Micro and macro management styles take opposite answers to this question. Micromanagers are detail oriented, directing their team closely. Macromanagers sketch out the big picture, trusting employees to fill in the details.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Micromanagers monitor everything employees do very closely. Macromanagers are hands-off, big-picture types who care about the end result.

How Supervisors Micromanage

As the "micro" prefix suggests, micromanagers worry about the small stuff. A micromanager doesn't simply set a deadline and expect the employee to meet it. They detail every step that has to be taken to meet the deadline and check back regularly to see how the employee is progressing.

Up to a point, that's just regular management, but micromanagement crosses that point. A micromanager may constantly monitor the time that employees spend on breaks or on particular tasks or may sit and watch them carry out their work. The stereotypical employee perception of micromanagers is that they are constantly watching and checking and criticizing every second of the workday.

Leadership vs. Micromanagement

With a new employee or one who is struggling, micromanagement may be necessary. In many other cases, it stresses out employees and makes them hate their jobs. It can also leave employees so dependent on the boss's direction that they can't function on their own.

Managers who go the micro route often have other problems:

  • They hate to delegate because they don't trust anyone else to do the job.
  • If they do delegate, they give insanely detailed directions for the work.
  • They waste employee time on constant reports and meetings.
  • They hate employees making independent decisions because they want to have the final say.

What Are Macromanagement Skills?

Micro and macro management take very different approaches to managing people. The macromanagement approach worries less about the details and more about the end game. It isn't necessarily hands off, but it starts from assuming that you can trust the team to deliver.

The key to developing macromanagement skills lies in how you approach a project.

  • Focus on the end goal.
  • Give your team room to find a solution and reach the finish line.
  • Empower employees to achieve the goal.
  • When the team runs into problems, step in and look for solutions.
  • Spell out your expectations at the start so the team understands what you want.
  • Let the team know what resources they have available and what the constraints are.

What Are Macromanaging Weaknesses?

The difference between micro and macro leadership is that macromanagers assume that their people are bringing their A game to the office. If you've hired a star team of top people, it isn't necessary to manage them very closely because they can fly high without you.

In reality, even if you have awesome employees, they still need direction, and some macromanagers don't provide enough. Put a half-dozen talented employees on a project with no strong leadership from you, and they may not bond into a talented team. Instead, you get disorganization and chaos.

Macromanage vs. Micromanage

Whether your nature is to micromanage or macromanage, you'll be a better manager if you can adapt and use both styles when appropriate. Micro and macro management can both be effective.

  • If deadlines are tight or the regulations and legal issues of your work are complex, your team may need micromanaging to get through.
  • New workers or employees who don't know your company's environment may need close supervision until they find their footing.
  • You can't articulate the big-picture approach unless you clearly see what the big picture is. If you're in the dark about where you're going, your team will be too.
  • If unexpected obstacles pop up, you'll have to decide how closely to manage your team past the problem.

References

About the Author

Fraser Sherman has written about every aspect of business: how to start one, how to keep one in the black, the best business structure, the details of financial statements. He's also run a couple of small businesses of his own. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs. His website is frasersherman.com

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