Micromanagement is often defined as a mindset whereby the manager questions all actions of a subordinate, feels the need to give detailed instructions, then critiques everything the person does. Often the supervisor secretly feels the subordinate is sloppy or incapable as they are never able to meet the standards set by the supervisor. Usually this close scrutiny is accompanied by constant criticism and the subordinate feels that nothing they do will ever be good enough. Conversely, errors made by the supervisor are overlooked or minimized. What makes this practice so volatile is that virtually all micromanagers do not recognize these traits in themselves and would probably classify themselves as good supervisors who have firm control over their staff.
Professional managers explain what they want accomplished, give the subordinate the tools to get the task done, makes themselves available if there are questions, then get out of the subordinate's way. The professional manager evaluates results, while the micromanager dictates the process. When the process fails and objectives are not met, the micromanager blames the subordinate.
Why do some supervisors micromanage? Often this individual is insecure about their own performance, fears personal failure, wants to feel superior to their employee or simply doesn't trust the person. They look for any minor errors in the employee's work, using that evidence to confirm the person's incompetence and need for the supervisor to hold a short leash.
This constant belittling and second guessing has a devastating affect on staff. Micromanaged staff will become dependent and afraid to make decisions for fear of being reprimanded. Their frustration level will increase and their confidence disappear leading to higher employee turnover. The micromanager makes staff jobs difficult to enjoy and impossible to perfect.
How is this behavior learned? Just as the abused becomes the abuser, so also may the criticized become critical. Telling people what to do not only is a strong controlling action, it also strokes the supervisors ego. So how do you reverse this behavior?
If you think you may be a micromanager, the key word is trust. You must explain what results you want to achieve, and let the employee take ownership of accomplishing the task. Evaluate results, not process. Be available to answer questions about both. If you are giving responsibility to an employee, they must also have the corresponding authority to do what is needed to be successful. You will find that the employee's successes will build your confidence in them and the employee will blossom under this new trust.
If you are being micromanaged, the key word is recognition. You must understand what is happening and try to determine the motivation behind the micromanagement. If the issue is a lack of trust or your inexperience, give your supervisor detailed explanations of the steps used when accomplishing a task, noting areas where you took liberties to try your own solutions. If it's all about the supervisors ego, work to be perceived as a team player, utilize his/her suggestions, give him/her credit when they are right, provide constant updates on your progress, and let him/her make every decision. Not only do you build the ego of the supervisor and demonstrate that you are responsive and detail oriented, by reversing the process and micromanaging them, they have little recourse if what they dictated and implemented doesn't work out. Ultimately they will either build trust in you or back off as they tire of the constant attention.
When you see micromanagement in your organization, it is critical that it be confronted and reversed. Staff turnover, lower productivity, poor attitudes and loss of enthusiasm for their jobs all result from staff who are worn down by micromanagement.