Understanding Micromanagement

Posted by Matt Berringer on January 29, 2015

By Ramiro Zuniga, Ed.D.

MicromanagementOver the years, I have heard many employees claim that they are being micromanaged. Common complaints sound something like this:

  • “I can’t believe how much the boss checks up on me…”
  • “I wish the boss would just let me do my job…”
  • “We have so many meetings…”

Undoubtedly, there are supervisors who do, in fact, micromanage their staff. However, I believe the perception of being micromanaged often is more of a misunderstanding. The truth of the matter lies in the combination of two contributing factors. First, every supervisor wants to succeed. Second, supervisors always have some degree of a lack of confidence in their subordinates.

Those in leadership positions are placed there to ensure the success of the organization. The pathway to their current position probably includes instances in which their performance was highly praised. Often, this relates to personal traits, such as having a great attitude or completing tasks on time. It is this praise that sets up the expectations of what is valued in the organization. It is these expectations that supervisors want to meet each and every time.

Perhaps the hardest lesson for a supervisor to master is that of delegation. The old adage, “If you want something done right, you might as well do it yourself...” can affect how supervisors work with their staff.

The key difference between appropriate guidance and micromanaging is timing. It is common that leaders communicate their method of operation at the start of their tenure. It is also common that leaders are involved in acclimating new members joining the team. Furthermore, it is expected that leaders monitor the progress of their team. The variable is the length of time they are involved.

Typically, this involvement continues until there is evidence that a thorough understanding exists for all staff about how work and communication is to be carried out. The length of time before this is evident will vary for every employee. Some employees immediately move forward as expected. Others, on the other hand, may take a bit longer.

Leaders will feel a need to provide additional guidance and monitoring for those who need it, after all there is pressure for leaders to succeed. Every leader understands that there is no room for a single failure and that they are responsible if this occurs.

It is here where employees might feel they are being micromanaged. Employees sometimes do not understand the pressures of being responsible for an area or department. It is therefore critical for every leader to understand this dynamic. Care should be taken to ensure that a balance is established between necessary guidance and monitoring and eventual autonomy for every member of the team.

A good practice for any leader is to recognize and internalize individual successes and contributions so that the path to the eventual autonomy starts to take form. Part of this practice includes directly acknowledging these successes with the individual responsible. This will give the employee a feeling of personal accomplishment while also eliminating the perception of micromanagement.

Topics: staff development, Leadership, K-12