Do you have one in your organization? What’s it costing you?
Most of us want to do a good job. Most managers understand their role in the success of their team and their organization. They have skin in the game, they have a stake in how well their department or function runs. Unfortunately, for some that means a level of control that often will destroy the very thing we all want – success.
Providing guidance, coaching and a "game plan" are all part of being a good manager. At times, employees may need a bit of hand-holding, but if we’ve hired the best person (or at least the best person at the time given our resources), then that hand-holding and control should end fairly quickly after hire, or after a new project or task is assigned. What if it doesn’t end? What happens then?
Are any of your managers "micromanagers"? There are some signs you should look out for and be ready to take action if you see them.
The manager is always "swamped", always busy – too busy to get to the manager part of their job. On closer inspection you might find that the tasks they’re swamped with are things their team should be doing. In this case, the manager won’t delegate, won’t give up the control of these tasks because she doesn’t trust that her staff can perform them well. That "no one can do it better than I can" attitude is present. If this is actually the case, then intervention in the hiring process seems necessary. However, for the micromanager, this is her perception at all times.
When the manager does delegate a task or allow employees to do the job they were hired to do, does he also give them step by step instructions on how to do it? And is he constantly checking to see they are doing it that exact way? This level of control is not only stifling; it’s very counterproductive. Again, no one has the corner on the right way to do things. The ultimate outcome is the goal, how to get there can vary and those varied ways are not incorrect just because they’re different than the way the manager would do them.
Does the department have higher than normal turnover? Are employees seeking to transfer out or leave the company altogether? While some turnover is of course normal, higher numbers can indicate a problem. If you perform exit interviews, review them for clues as to why the employees moved on. When people are stifled in their efforts to grow, learn and move up in the organization due to a manager who won’t allow them to grow, learn and move up – moving on seems to be their only choice. Talk to people and find out the reasons. If you discover that the manager is the problem, take action to correct the problem.
Is the manager often frustrated or resentful that employees don’t seem to appreciate all the "help" he gives them? Taking a closer look at the manager’s view of his employees may be useful to determine if all this "help" is really helpful.
Is the manager the only one who’s visible? In other words, does it seem that you rarely hear about the successes and good work of the other people in the department, but only those of the manager? You should probably be asking why that is. No one can "do it all". This can go beyond simply not recognizing employees for their accomplishments, but could also indicate that the manager is actually stealing credit for work his employees are performing. The manager wants all eyes (and attention) on him, not on his team. Micromanagers will often take a project or task away after an employee has done much of the work, then pass it off as her own.
Do the employees in the department not seem to know what is going on in the wider organization? Is their only line of communication/information through the manager? While we all appreciate the benefits of chain of command, if the manager is controlling the flow of information both into and from the department on a consistent basis, regardless of the content of those communications, there is most likely a problem. Micromanagers often insist on being copied on all email leaving the department, and demand that people outside the department go through them to contact employees within their department. Do the employees have the ability to speak to and interact with management staff above their manager, or does the manager control this as well? This may be standard procedure in some companies, but certainly not all. Again, if there is no trust that staff will handle issues appropriately, that needs to be addressed. If the manager is simply inserting herself into every interaction – necessary or not – there is a control issue and productivity will be seriously affected. Information control is a way to manipulate others.
Micromanagers feel that others are thwarting their success. Do you have a manager who is frequently blaming others (often their own staff) for any and all failures? The attitude being expressed is that "I’m the best, most knowledgeable person here; if I fail, it’s not because of me, it has to be something else." If the fault always lies elsewhere, it’s time to closely examine the manager.
Finally, micromanagers often feel the need to know everything. They may try to dig into their employees personal lives beyond what is appropriate and way beyond the value of showing friendly interest in their employees. This may be a way for them to exert control - maybe in the guise of giving their expert "advice", and is almost certainly a way for them to gain information that will further the reach of their control and manipulation.
We’ve all heard the line that people don’t leave jobs, they leave bad bosses. Micromanagers can be insidious in that they may not be the screaming, rude or neglectful boss we’re more familiar with, but they are bad and will cost your organization in lower productivity and eventually the loss of good employees.