Why a Micromanager Can Create Troubles

She asked me to cc her my emails, even the most trivial ones. Sometimes she would knock on my office door to ask me if I was okay because I had spent a lot of time in the bathroom, when actually only five minutes have passed. She checked when I walked in and when I left my office to see how long I had been away. The pressure she exerted by checking every detail of my work was suffocating, more than exaggerated and above all counterproductive. She would also yell at me from time to time and throw my reports on my desk while I was working. This is what happened to me when I worked with a micromanager.

What exactly is micromanagement?

It is a managerial practice through which a micromanager exercises exhaustive control of the actions, tasks, functions and responsibilities of the people subordinated to them at a hierarchical level.

This type of manager may also ask to see an email before it is sent, and they may want to be informed of all the decisions that employees need to take, because they think that their staff cannot take decisions. A micromanager combines impatience and distrust with absolute control of the tasks assigned to their subordinates.

The situation looks like the schemes used by the “Thought Police” to scrupulously monitor every moment of the characters in George Orwell’s 1984 novel. As in that book, the consequences of this practice of strict control on employees are devastating. The boss gains peace of mind but staff suffer from it and are also less productive.

Actually, this system creates bottlenecks that cause a slowdown in all activities. This type of manager wants to earn a good reputation and avoid blaming that something was wrongly done.

But the worst part falls on the employees. Many times they do not know how to give priority, because the boss constantly changes their priorities based on the urgency that arrives, or because a superior asks them or it is the market that requires that. Employees lose creativity and self-esteem. A culture of fear is established, where everything is subject to the orders of the superior. This can lead to sickness absenteeism.

Apart from real psychosomatic diseases that can arise, psychological situations can also develop for which the person feels worthless, becoming smaller and smaller until they doubt their abilities. You begin to ask yourself: – Am I capable of doing it? – Am I in the wrong job?Why do they control me like this, what have I done wrong? – And it can also happen that you quit your job, even if you have a good salary.

When a situation cannot be changed or accepted, you should leave it. This is one of the principle that I learned during my coaching training, and this is what I did. I quit the job.

It is important to know that people do not quit jobs, they leave bosses.

A piece of advice here. When you go for a job interview, ask them a question like “How are you going to help me be successful?”.

Why do managers fall into this trap?

If a micromanager spoils the work environment, employees’ health, and it is harmful even to them who lose productivity and may also lose staff, why can’t this total and constant control be avoided? A boss doesn’t have enough work to do?

Let’s see some possible causes.

First, managers themselves suffer pressure from the environment, be it from their own bosses, shareholders, markets or competition.

Second, incompetence. Either managers feel insecure because their staff perform an excellent job compared to their own.

The third cause is clear and straightforward: the boss’s obsessive personality makes them unable to organize and manage the work.

Whatever the cause is, it is necessary to analyse what is happening in order to put an end to the situation as soon as possible. How would you do that?

First, you should go to the human resources (HR) of your company. Actually this happened to me while working in HR, so I asked for legal advice. It would be the second step if HR can’t help you out.

As an alternative, you could turn to your superior and ask them to implement one or more techniques, perhaps with the help of a coach.

One technique could be that of the traffic light. Together with the boss, you define the admissible and acceptable control limits that are not to be exceeded. If these limits should be overcome, some signals will be sent to the manager. When the manager receives them, they identify their behaviour and try to control it.

Another strategy is to define the profile of the boss and of each team member, analysing their personal, professional and communication style and characteristics. Once this x-ray is completed, the boss shall answer the following questions:

1. Which leadership model they would like to use with each employee;

2. What leadership style each employee would need;

3. What leadership style they would use with each employee.

By doing so, a manager can realize that the type of leadership they are using is in line with that person’s role, but it is not what that employee needs. By adopting this paradigm shift, the boss begins to think not from their own point of view, but from that of the subordinate. While this strategy may sound like science fiction (and maybe it really is for certain people, not everyone is open to change), with time and a willingness, success is assured.

Have you ever worked under the supervision of a micromanager?

To find more about work and the workplace, please visit my blog crisbiecoach.

37 thoughts on “Why a Micromanager Can Create Troubles

  1. Interesting post. It is not the micromanaged who has the problem, it is the micromanager themself. Micromanaging is a grotesque form of paranoia. All the micromanagers I’ve encountered in my long working life have now floated by on leaves through my garden stream.

  2. Sadly, I can relate to almost everything you’re saying. I got to the point I thought maybe I was being gaslighted. And even once I recognized what was going on, it still took a toll. Very toxic. I’m glad to see you’re addressing this.

  3. Wow- you really nailed what it’s like to work for micro managers! We even used to call our managers the thought police, as you mentioned 😁It’s like you were right there beside me in my last job! Thanks for writing this post and validating the feelings of those who’ve had to deal with micromanaging bosses.

  4. Thanks for highlighting this issue. Some people like to categorize this as a ‘bullying’ or ‘abuse’ issue but your post reflects real knowledge derived from deep research and a lot of experience. The insecurities of a micromanager are very unique to the workplace and you really exposed the specific corporate managerial weaknesses.

      1. Wow. I have had quite a few micromanagers themselves. They just want to look good at the expense of those they manage. It is a toxic attempt at putting themselves over the well-being of the team.

  5. Hated micromanagement. They’ve used it at a couple of places I’ve worked at. A great way to get people to slip up and count themselves. Horrible on mental health.

  6. I love the line, “It is important to know that people do not quit jobs, they leave bosses.” It seems we’ve seen a lot of that in the great recession! Thanks for some great strategies, Cristiana!

  7. Serious question that I’d really like to get an answer to: Why are there so many bad managers in the world of work? If I think back over my entire career–and that’s thinking over quite a span of time–I’ve had more horrible managers than good ones. It seems that the old paradigm–distrust those under you and give them busy work to keep them occupied (among many other ridiculous and demeaning practices)–is alive and well. Enlightened leaders (who know that treating people well is the best way to assure success) are too few and too far between.

    1. There’s some old saying about people getting promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. Seems like that’s often true?!

  8. Many managers don’t receive proper training; that’s part of the problem too. And I guess they need to be willing to listen too.

    I had a manager previously who sometimes could be quite laid back but when there was an important deadline to meet etc he would start micromanaging. That was tough as you never knew which type of manager you were going to get on any particular day.

    1. I guess it was really tough to work with such a manager! As regards a proper training, I think that if they would be aware of their toxic behavior, they will ask for a training. What do you think Brenda?

  9. Some people don’t realise they have poor management skills and arent open to suggestions or feedback. Particularly with older, more established managers, the one I’m thinking about was older – old school – and believed he was a good manager

  10. It’s fine if it’s a newer/younger. Anager; they can be more open to changing their style.

    The good thing is a lot of our old school managers are reaching retirement age

  11. Excellent post! I have worked under a micromanager and it is absolutely not an enjoyable experience. Sadly, some don’t realize they are creating a toxic environment until they have lost many of their dedicated and loyal employees.

  12. Micromanagement when working remote is it’s own unique art… paranoia about taking too long to respond to a message, instant “can we chat for a min?” Video calls

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