Friday, August 29, 2008



With the rapid changing technology and the growing opportunities, the employees do not like to be closely monitored and meddled. They would like to have freedom and independence, which are essential for employee empowerment and career growth. The research paper/article handles the concept of micromanagement with merits and demerits and the various issues and intricacies involved in micromanagement. It has taken the case study of a principal who is an excellent example for micromanagers. At the end it has concluded that micromanagement is not a boon but a bane.


KEY WORDS: Introduction, What is Micromanagement? Advantages, Disadvantages, Reasons for Micromanagement, Behavior of Micromanagers, Lack of Growth for Micromanagers, Case Study of a Principal/Micromanagement is Mismanagement, Challenges, Tackling Micromanagement, & Conclusion.


“Fifty percent of the typical employee’s job satisfaction is determined by the quality of his/her relationship with the manager.” – Leigh Brahnah, VP and Director of Professional Services, Right Management Consultants

Now days, the majority of the employees don’t like to be supervised or managed or monitored closely. They would like to have greater degree of freedom and independence while working. Unfortunately a few managers closely and keenly monitor their employees thereby creating several problems for employees. According to the available statistical information 60 to 70 per cent of the employees leave their jobs due to the excessive bossism. At times the bossism may be because of the micromanagement. In this context, it is desirable to briefly explain about micromanagement.


According to Wikipedia , “In business management, micromanagement is a management style where a manager closely observes or controls the work of their subordinates or employees. Micromanagement is generally used as a derogatory or negative term.” Micromanagement is the situation where the managers excessively involve in controlling their employees thinking that their subordinates do not know anything. Employees would not like to be in such a situation especially when their competencies and capabilities are suspected. In this context, let us also look at the definition of micromanagement from another dimension.

Micromanagement is generally defined as exercising excessive control of a project or group of people. The fuzziness comes in to play when we try to determine what is considered excessive. Clearly this is in the eyes of the beholder. The employee will generally have a much lower threshold than the manager.

Micromanagement is the process whereby the subordinates are continuously, closely and keenly observed and monitored by the boss. It has both pros and cons and unfortunately the cons outnumber the pros.


The merits of micromanagement are that the employee is constantly corrected, guided, advised, counseled and mentored by the boss. Micromanagement is good if the employee is new to the organization. It is like an infant being cared and nurtured by his mother. But over a period of time, the employee feels confident and comfortable in handling and executing the tasks of his own and would be comfortable in being independent. And if the process of micromanagement persists the employee gets discomfort and feels irritated just as in the case of an adult who is mature but still treated by his mother as still infant.


1. Since micromanagers poke their nose frequently into the tasks of their subordinates, it does not encourage decision-making and leadership qualities among the employees.
2. There would be frequent and recurrent rift between the micromanagers and their subordinates. In a nutshell, it is micromanagers versus the rest. It would lead to leg pulling and organizational politics.
3. More focus on politics and less focus on progress in the organizations.
4. It is like centralization and is against the tenets of employee empowerment.
5. The workers cultivate the attitude of consulting their micromanagers and hence no room for self-confidence. The workers will not be able to see the big picture.
6. Subordinates would be frustrated and dejected.
7. Delay in completion of work as the performer waits for instructions and since the boss being busy in micromanaging, he may not have sufficient time to get the things going rapidly.


There are number of reasons for micromanaging employees such as lack of trust on their employees and lack of confidence on the competency on their employees. They have obsession for control and are insecure by nature. In modern parlance, they are known as control freaks. They want to eat the cake and have it too. In fact, they are not visionaries and are meant for short-term goals. Sometimes micromanagers trouble their subordinates as their superiors troubled them in the past. It is like ragging in any college, where juniors (freshers) are ragged by the seniors as seniors were ragged, once they were juniors. In some cases, bosses want to have total control over their subordinates because basically they have fear of losing their own jobs. All these things lead to high attrition levels in various organizations.


There was a senior faculty member who worked for three decades as a professor teaching a Management subject. He had passion to teach and even after becoming as the highest designation in the University he did not give up his routine activity of supervising his subordinates closely and taking the classes. He began providing suggestions to his subordinates without any request and any need from them. It caused discomfort for his subordinates. Once he reached the top designation he should have expanded his span of control by delegating his previous roles and responsibilities to his immediate subordinate. But he did not do so and that resulted into micromanaging and the subordinates began feeling the heat. The lesson that can be learnt from this is having passion in an area may lead to micromanaging unlike in few cases where bosses feel insecure.

If the managers do not know how to coach then they tend to work thus resulting into micromanaging. Lack of administrative skills but efficiency in his roles and responsibilities may compel managers to closely monitor their subordinates.

Lack of leadership qualities may compel managers to manage their routine tasks because they do not feel comfortable in assigning their tasks. Or perhaps the managers might have burnt their own fingers in the past by transferring their tasks to their subordinates. It is a kind of phobia to delegate their tasks.

Sometimes the micromanager might have been let down by his subordinates thus resulting into lack of trust in the competency of his subordinates and doing everything by himself or herself. Similarly there are number of causes and reasons that set the behavior for micromanaging.


The boss who believes in excessive micromanagement may not survive, sustain and succeed in the long run. It is basically because his or her mind is focused to a limited area. On the other hand if the boss stops micromanaging them s/he tends to develop the delegative skills thereby developing leadership skills amongst his/her subordinates. And also the boss can also grow with in the hierarchy rapidly. Besides it also creates mutual trust between bosses and subordinates. As it is well known the trust begets trust. Given a free hand, the subordinates would experiment various things by trail and error method and learn many lessons either from their successes or from failures thus becoming leaders and mentors for their subordinates.

Micromanagement restricts the ability of micromanaged people to develop and grow, and it also limits what the micromanager's team can achieve, because everything has to go through him or her.

When a boss is reluctant to delegate, focuses on details ahead of the big picture and discourages his staff from taking the initiative, there's every chance that he's sliding towards micromanagement.


It is rightly said that people do not leave organizations but they leave bad bosses.

There was a principal in an engineering college who can be taken as the best example in the context of micromanagement.

He was not qualified to become the principal. However he became the principal of the private rural engineering college by telling to the management that he was going to complete his PhD very shortly. The management of the college believed that he would complete his PhD and appointed him as the principle considering his industrial experience.

Since he has come from industrial background he did not know anything about the intricacies involved in the administration of the college. It was like throwing him into the untested and untried waters. He joined in the college as he thought it was possible for him to manage the affairs of the administration.

He called his HODs (Head of the Departments) of each branch and began functioning the way he was functioning in the industry. Subsequently he realized that it was not possible to apply industrial experience in an academic environment. Therefore, he began pointing out the silly mistakes of the HODs and Faculty members with an intention to cover up his inferiority complex and his lack of experience. In fact, his intention was to show that he knew everything about the academic administration.

He was very selfish. He took credit for the hard work put in by the faculty. He hardly recognized the good work done by the faculty. He did not give permission to the students for presenting papers in out station by saying that it was risky. However the students went for paper presentation and won. When students came out with prizes to college, he got photographed with the students by taking credit solely that he alone encouraged the students. Finally, the faculties and HODs got suffocated with his style of micromanaging. He began meddling into everything and giving instructions in which he was not competent and as a result he was subjected to ridicule. The faculty complained to the directors of the management of the college against the principal but the management thought that because of the change in principal there were bottlenecks and initial hiccups. Having come to know that management did not take the complaints of the faculty seriously he became more adamant and began targeting the faculty.

Since the management of the college did not redress the grievances of the faculties, they began looking for employment in other institutions and attrition became higher. For every mistake he found out excuses to the management and survived. Besides, he was mad of publicity. For any minor achievement of the students he would call the local television channel and highlight by saying that it was his own achievement. He took credit for the achievements of the faculties and students. Once a few students have been short listed in campus placement by a reputed IT company and a tentative list was sent to the college. The Training and Placement Officer (TPO) of the college immediately rushed to the principal by saying that the students were selected without knowing the difference between the tentative list and final list. The principal immediately rushed to the press and local television channels and made huge publicity for himself. When the final list came from the company very few students were selected into the company. The students were shocked with this who until then was under the impression that they were selected. They were depressed and the parents came to the college and the principal and TPO tried to cover up the issue. Finally the management came to know about the issue and the principal was sacked and the TPO was warned sternly. This was a case of micromanaging and it was indeed mismanaging.


Micromanagement is a matter of concern as well as a challenge in the present competitive world. Due to the rising aspirations and expectations from the clients and customers the competition has become highly fierce and cutthroat and managers find less time in micromanaging their subordinates.

Micromanagement is essential if there is poor performance from the subordinates and if there is need for spoon-feeding. In such a scenario it is advisable to upgrade the skills and abilities of the employees and also it is necessary to equip them with requisite tools and techniques to stand on their feet and perform better.


The managers should know that the days of command and control are no more relevant in this contemporary working environment. The organizations should realize that micromanaging is not a healthy trend as it stifles the creativity and leadership skills. The managers should learn to guide their subordinates about the tasks to be executed rather than teaching them how to execute the same. In a nutshell, they should communicate what and why the task has to be executed but not as how it has to be executed. In this way, the subordinates would apply their mind to get the jobs done. And also they do not blame their boss as overbearing. It helps in unlocking their hidden potential and creativity. It gives a sense of satisfaction to the subordinates that they did well without any guidance and of their own.

The strong managers tend to recruit strong employees who in turn will create strong employees. Since the strong managers are highly competent and have self-confidence they do not feel insecure about their positions and they help in making their subordinates as leaders. In this way, it is generating new leaders, which is possible by only strong managers and leaders. Therefore, there is need for strong leadership, which eliminates the micromanagers to a greater extent.

Most of micromanagers belong to the loop of weak managers who are more worried about their survival rather than the performance of the team. These categories of people often belittle their subordinates and demotivate them. At times, they criticize their subordinates in public in order to show their superiority. Of course, it is not their superiority rather their inherent and hidden inferiority that forces them to act so.

Expecting perfection in the work may lead to micromanaging the given tasks. It is very difficult to expect perfection, as perfection is not feasible. Focusing on excellence rather than on the perfection in the work would be fruitful in the organizations. There is a greater degree of eye of detail if perfection is emphasized upon. It consumes time and energy as well apart from creating mistrust among the subordinates.

Give freedom and make the performers independent. In this context, let us recall the Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime."


“Four out of five workers say they’ve been a victim of micromanagement.” Harry E. Chambers, My Way or the Highway—the Micromanagement Survival Guide

Micromanagement is itself is a bad thing in the present contemporary business world. Nobody takes it positively. One of the major reasons for the low morale among the employees and low production and productivity, performance and attrition is micromanagement. Therefore, micromanagement is more of a bane than a boon. To sum up, what is required for the successful functioning of an organization is not micromanagement but macromanagement.



rohu said...

a good article....! gud depiction of pragmatic style!

Anonymous said...

This is a very well done article, well thought- out, excellent writing style. I wish the good Dr. lived in the U.S.; we could certainly need a good mind like his in these times.


Anonymous said...

Very good information.

This article would be even better if it were tweaked by a professional translator. Some of the phrasing is a little awkward and tends to distract.

Micromanagement does indeed create far more problems than it solves.
Thank you!

Brad F.