“She asked me to put her in copy to all 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 way. The pressure she exerted by checking every detail of my work was suffocating, more than exaggerated and above all counterproductive.”

This is just a testimony from an employee who used to work with a micro-manager. What exactly is micromanagement? It is a managerial practice through which the manager exercises exhaustive control of the actions, tasks, functions and responsibilities of the people subordinated to him / her at a hierarchical level.

This type of managers 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 look 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 in 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 prevent a supervisor from blaming them that something was wrongly done.

Photo by Michal Jakubowski on Unsplash

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 him or her or it is the market requiring 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, becomes 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 have to leave it, and, in this case, you leave your job.

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

But why do managers fall into this trap?

If micromanagement spoils the work environment, employees’ health, and it is harmful even to bosses who lose productivity and may lose also staff, why can’t this total and constant control be avoided? The bosses don’t have enough work to do?

Let’s see the 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 unsecure because their staff perform an excellent job compared to their own, or the employees are not suitable for that type of job.

The third cause is clear and straightforward: the boss’s obsessive personality making 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. First, you should go to the human resources of your company. I have worked in human resources for over 10 years and have seen a lot of micromanagement.

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 members, analysing their personal, professional and communication style and characteristics. Once this “x-ray” is completed, the boss shall answer the following questions:

1. What leadership style they use with each employee;

2. What leadership style each employee would need;

3. Which leadership model they would like to use with the each employee.

By doing so, the boss 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, due to his or her personality, 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, with time and a willingness to change, success is assured.

Have you ever worked under the supervision of a micro-manager?

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash