Micromanagement is a style of organizational leadership that involves direct and sustained supervision of employees by management teams. Micromanagement is considered to be one of the “most widely condemned managerial sins,” and one of the most common employee complaints, according to Harry E. Chambers, president of Trinity Solutions inc. Chambers suggests that micromanagement can lead to high employee turnover and overall low morale. Micromanagers can be viewed as disruptive in the workplace and may even jeopardize their careers.
Supervisors who micromanage their subordinates engage in a continuous surveillance of employee productivity and control their work. Rather than offering general instructions and tending to broader business operational duties, a micromanager engages in the detailed or day-to-day activities of an employee. Micromanagers may not approve of employees who make decisions on their own without their approval, or they may feel that it is more important to give directions rather than empowering their employees.
As a workplace “taboo,” managers who engage in micromanagement can influence other workers or subgroups to engage in similar workplace attitudes, eventually permeating the entire culture of an organization. While micromanagement may be effective in the short-term, prolonged use of this leadership approach can have damaging consequences on workplace culture, according to Lieutenant Tracey G. Gove. If left unchecked, relationships between management and subordinate groups in the workplace can become strained. A diminished workplace culture can significantly impact an organization’s bottom line.
In addition to negatively impacting workplace relationships between supervisor and subordinate, micromanagers who continuously monitor their workers affect other areas of productivity including the creativity, problem-solving, trust and flexibility of workers, according to freelance writer Kenneth E. Fracaro. Micromanagers who spend too much time focusing on the detailed activities of their employees fail to focus on more important organizational goals including departmental expansion. In the long term, reliance on micromanagement leads to significant time mismanagement and restricts a company’s growth.
During the initial stages of an employee’s tenure, rather than micromanaging, coaching can be an effective tool for helping newly hired workers adjust to their new environment. Although supervisors may find the direct supervision of employees necessary, micromanaging reflects a supervisor’s personal qualities and reflects factors such as insecurity or attention to detail. While these attributes may be necessary to perform certain workplace duties, they do not offer any benefits to workplace productivity and employee engagement. Once employees learn their duties and responsibilities, supervisors should allow workers to perform their job independently unless an employee asks for help.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine; National Institutes of Health; Micromanagement -- A Costly Management Style; S.K. Collins; November 2002
- National Contract Management Association; The Consequences of Micromanaging; Kenneth E. Fracaro
- Berrett-Koehler Publishers; My Way or the Highway, the Micromanagement Survival Guide; Harry E. Chambers
- “The Police Chief”; Micromanagement, Dealing With Red Pen Supervisors; Lieutenant Tracey G. Gove