What Is Micromanagement?

Mary McMahon

Micromanagement is a management approach where a manager takes a very hands-on approach with employees and exerts a great deal of control over their work. It is often considered a form of mismanagement, as it can be very demoralizing for employees, and they may not perform at their best when under pressure as a result of micromanagement techniques. There are a number of tactics managers can use to avoid this technique, and employers may screen management personnel to find individuals who are most likely to provide a more appropriate management approach.

Those exercising micromanagement might be seen as overly controlling.
Those exercising micromanagement might be seen as overly controlling.

In micromanagement, the manager closely observes employees. She may physically observe them by circling the floor and watching what they do. In addition, she may monitor their activities in other ways, such as by requesting frequent reports, using logging software on computers, or observing employees through cameras in the workplace. She often makes sure employees know they are under observation and may use it as an intimidation tactic.

A controlling aspect is also present. Micromanagers may constantly request changes, indicate that an employee is not good enough, and place heavy demands on employee time and resources. Some micromanagement tactics can be more passive aggressive, such as repeatedly returning a project because it doesn't satisfy the manager's standards, without providing information about those standards so the employee can improve.

Employees have little chance to grow with their limited independence under micromanagement. This can result in making mistakes or being careless on the job, in addition to developing resentment for the manager and the workplace. If human resources personnel do not identify the problem, employees may complain, or could skip that step entirely and quit. Active intervention from human resources representatives is important, although it should not inadvertently fall into micromanagement of its own; constant check-ins from someone in human resources can be demoralizing for a manager.

There are a variety of management techniques appropriate for a range of workplaces. If an employee appears to be micromanaging, it may be helpful to provide education in the form of books, a management course or workshop, or counseling from a more experienced manager with a more appropriate management style. Some micromanagers may experience anxiety or other mental health issues that play out in the way they interact with employees. Access to treatment could help them address qualities like perfectionism and controlling tendencies so they can take on a more relaxed attitude with the employees they supervise.

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