Recognize the Seven Traits to Decrease Your Frustration

Micromanagers are out there. You may work for one. You may be one. The term micromanagement generally refers to someone who manages a project, team or staff member using techniques that involve overly close supervision, and a lack of desire or ability to delegate tasks– especially decision-making authority.

There are varying degrees of micromanaging ranging from a boss who needs frequent, detailed updates to one who exhibits bullying or threatening behavior. As they have typically experienced some level of success in their work, when made aware of their behavior, may defensively react in a way that says “the ends justify the means.”

From an “outside” perspective a micromanager may appear successful. Projects may get completed, schedules may be met, and results achieved. These managers are often hard workers and sometimes hold the “hard-working” standard for their group. However, from a closer perspective, it’s easy to see the “fall out” that results from what some would call an “abuse of authority”, is real, and can cost a company in ways they may not (or choose not to) recognize.

Typical “fall out” looks like: stress. The manager using these techniques is typically stressed. More importantly, their staff members are stressed. Turnover is higher. Staff creativity and productivity are lower. Work communication inside a micromanager’s group, as well as between their group and others, is more closed and stifled. At the extreme end, there can be secrecy, hidden agendas, and threats.

Seven Traits of a Micromanager

  1. A need for frequent progress updates. This is the hallmark and often most visible trait of a micromanager. Whether through their reporting system, or drop-in conversations, they want frequent updates regarding: work conversations you’ve had or know about, tasks involved to complete a project stage, and/or specific procedures/tools you are using to complete tasks.
  2. A need to know the details. A micromanager often wants to know specific details regarding your schedule, plan, meetings, and other work conversations.
  3. A need to be involved in the details. Whether the specifics have to do with tasks, tools, or timelines, etc., they typically want to have control in these details.
  4. Difficulty delegating. Their idea of delegation may be to have you do the work in theory. But they then may check in beforehand, in the middle, and at completion of the work to be sure the details are being done “their” way.
  5. They assign blame. They look to assign blame to someone when things don’t go as planned. Finger pointing is a reflection of their need to be “right” at all costs and reflects a mindset that typically creates and sustains stress as it evokes feelings of scarcity and competition.
  6. They withhold authority. Authority and responsibility are two aspects of work that are delegated by managers. A micromanager may delegate responsibility and yet withhold authority. If you have this type of manager, work can feel like a “lose-lose” proposition. You feel responsible for the results and yet have no “say” in strategies used to accomplish the results. Doesn’t feel good whether the results are achieved or not.
  7. Micromanagers demand secrecy. They sometimes forbid staff members from discussing schedule changes, reporting details, etc. outside the group. Restricting staff conversations can be way of controlling information and keeping the secret of their “over-the-top” ways from anyone with greater authority.

Micromanagement can slow a project and demotivate a staff. Recognizing when micromanaging is being touted as anything other than what it is, can help bring light to the narrowness of these ways and help a manager shift into more productive strategies that deepen trust, develop confidence, reduce turnover, and increase productivity and teamwork.

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