The Problem With Micromanaging

Have you ever heard the term microleading? I doubt it but if you have you should recognize it as an oxymoron. Like “I worked all-day one night.” 

 

Micromanaging is exactly what it says it is, microMANAGING. It’s when someone in a leadership position not only tries to manage a person but they manage even the smallest details of that person’s job. 

 

But micromanaging isn’t really the problem, it’s merely a symptom of a much bigger issue. The bigger issue is that there is someone in a leadership position trying to manage another human being. 

 

You see, managing is about stuff. You can manage budgets, you can manage inventory, you can manage buildings and plans but you cannot manage people. Basic human instinct drives us to resist being managed and and also makes us virtually crave being led.

 

Leadership is about people, people and only people. 

 

If you’ve found your way into a leadership position, no matter how you got there, your number one responsibility is to and for the people you lead. 

 

The real problem with micromanaging is not the “micro” part, it’s the managing part. In a weird twist, the “micro” part actually magnifies the fact that the person is being managed and not led. 

 

Managing a person is like asking them to swim laps while wearing handcuffs. They may some how pull it off but you’ll be greatly limiting their effectiveness. Notice I said “you’ll” as in you, the leader, will be limiting their effectiveness. 

 

Most every issue a person in a leadership position has with their people likely stems from the fact that they are trying to manage them. A managed person’s morale, creativeness, willingness to take risks, and motivation to push themselves are all pressured by being managed; when they are micromanaged those same things are crushed. 

 

I might be naive but I don’t think most micromanagers mean to do that type of harm. But there isn’t much difference between intentional harm and unintentional harm. If you’re micromanaging your people your harming them by limiting their growth. 

 

Authentic Servant Leaders know that they don’t really grow their business, they grow their people and their people then grow the business. When you limit the growth of your people you’re also limiting the growth of your entire organization. 

 

Trust your people! Unleash their potential by leading them, not managing them. Motivate them, coach them, teach them, and care for them. 


Authentic Servant Leaders understand that their people aren’t assets, they are not capital, and that they are not machines. They know that their people are human beings, real live human beings who have goals and dreams, they know that they are people who need to be led, not managed. 

When Your Boss is a Micro-Manager

There are many challenges associated with working for a micro-manager. When you work for a micro-manager it makes it much more difficult for you to learn the skills needed to succeed. It makes it far more of a struggle to develop your instincts and judgment, two traits that will be required for you to make sound decisions as a future leader. Working for a micro-manager can make you hesitant and kill your self-confidence.

There are two main reasons people micro-manage. One is that they don’t trust their people. Their lack of trust stems from a lack of self-confidence, they don’t trust that they have put the right people in the right places. If they can’t trust themselves they most certainly can’t trust anyone else.

The other reason people micro-manage is a true, pure love for the business or organization. They want and need to be involved, they enjoy being involved. They are passionate about all aspects of the operation and they just want… no they need, everything to be right. If anything, perhaps they “over-care.” They mean no harm and they just don’t understand that they are in a way stealing your “ego food.”

Either way there are truly a ton of issues when it comes to working for a micro-manager. It just isn’t the best situation to be in.

But so what?

None of those issues, not a one of them, should be used as an excuse to not try. Doing nothing and then blaming a micro-manager for YOUR lack of productivity is on you, not the micro-manager. There is not a micro-manager in the world who can prevent you from taking action. They cannot prevent you from making decisions. They can’t stop you from thinking and being creative. They can’t steal your self-confidence …. unless you allow it. 

They can overrule anything and everything you do but you can keep trying. You can stay positive, you can press on. The best, most productive method for working with a micro-manager is to lead up. Lead up by making good decisions, being proactive, leading yourself well and making a choice to maintain control over your attitude and confidence level. 

Making good decisions, being proactive, and displaying a bit of confidence will all contribute to earning the trust of even the most micro of micro-managers. Unless your boss is a complete wacko you’ll earn not only the trust of your boss but a little more room to grow as well.

If your boss is the second type of micro-manager then share in their passion, engage and connect. Show your own passion for the organization, help them build the business and fill the leadership gaps created by the growth. Don’t expect a micro-manager to give you room to grow but don’t be surprised when they let you make your own room.

There are plenty of opportunities to thrive under a micro-manager so long as you don’t use being micro-managed as an excuse to sit on your hands and pout. Micro-managers don’t manage your attitude, you are always responsible for that.

If you’re blaming a micro-manager for your lack of growth then you had best take a look in the mirror because it’s likely your bigger problem is the one staring back at you. You may not like hearing that but you need to come to grips with it if you hope to succeed in the future.

By the way, if you do have the misfortune of working for a person who simply will never give you the opportunity to grow then you must stop complaining and lead yourself to better employment. That too is a choice only you can make!