What Is the Meaning of Micromanagement?

Micromanaging supervisors frequently meddle in workers' ability to perform their duties.
Micromanaging supervisors frequently meddle in workers' ability to perform their duties. (Image: Patrick Ryan/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Every organization and managerial personality requires a different set of tactics to motivate and supervise employees. Many management theories prefer managers to allow their workers the support and structure necessary to produce their work autonomously. Proponents of these schools of management caution against micromanagement, the habit of some managers to interfere unnecessarily in their workers’ activities. Where managerial functions cross the line and become micromanagement usually depends upon the needs and staff with which a manager works.

Micromanagement in Practice

In the broadest sense, micromanagement is the practice of managerial staff paying strict attention to small level details of a job, rather than allowing staff to complete their tasks as they see fit and managing the results of their work. Often, micromanagement sets standards and practices for staff based upon a manager’s personal preferences, rather than for the good of the employee or the corporation itself. Micromanagement is often associated with a dictatorial management style, in which employees’ ideas aren’t taken into consideration and nearly all aspects of the position are controlled by a manager’s decisions.

Impact on Morale and Causes of Micromanagement

Micromanagement often leads to morale problems among staff. Many employees feel as if a micromanaging boss doesn’t respect their abilities or judgment, while other staff members resent the lack of autonomy that comes with an overbearing manager. Management experts cite several reasons that bosses resort to micromanagement tactics, including lack of trust in staff’s abilities, a manager’s feeling that he could perform his staff’s jobs better than they do or a lack of understanding that a manager’s ideal role in an organization is to motivate workers, not produce traditional work.

Examples of Micromanagement

Micromanagement takes many forms and depends upon the specifics of the workplace. It can be as simple as requiring workers to keep their workspace and tools organized by a system dictated by a manager or as fundamental as a manager who constantly checks in on employees and instructs them how to do each step in a larger task. Many employees refer to micromanagement as “meddling” or “lording over” workers by a supervisor.

The Case for Micromanagement

Some management experts cite the rise of hands-off supervisors as problematic for organizational structures and urge supervisors to put more time in micromanaging their employees. Rather than dictating the processes in a task, however, managers should focus on giving workers weekly feedback on the five pillars of management: dictating expectations, measuring goals, evaluations of employees’ performance, feedback about employee performance and an equitable system of rewards to performers. Instead of concentrating on micro-level performance details, managers should focus on small, continual evaluations of workers’ performance.

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