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The Micromanagement Disease

Keith Hillier

I recently read a thought provoking article concerning micromanagement in the Harvard Business Review.

The article, written by Muriel Wilkins, outlines a list on signs that signal a tendency towards micromanagement. I suggest that if this is a concern to you, you might test your management style against the six signs noted in the article:

  • You’re never quite satisfied with deliverables.
  • You often feel frustrated because you would’ve gone about the task differently.
  • You laser in on the details and take great pride and/or pain in making corrections.
  • You constantly want to know where all your team members are and what they’re working on.
  • You ask for frequent updates on where things stand.
  • You prefer to be cc’d on emails.

The article goes on to outline four strategies to help those who wish to move toward a less controlling style of management.

On the other hand, if you are comfortable with your micromanagement style, there is little point in you continuing to read this blog post.

Study the Disease

If you are interested in exploring this disease further, I refer you to a blog posting by Jessica Marie entitled, Micromanagers: Flushing Companies Down the Toilet, One detail at a Time.

This article outlines the dangers of micromanagement and the negative effects it has on the culture of an organization and the organization’s ability to achieve exceptional results.

As stated in the article:

“People do not leave bad companies. They leave bad bosses. They do not leave flawed organizational structures, abandon losing products and technology. They leave flawed leadership.”

I know I did! More than once!

I also refer you to an interesting discussion on this subject between Karl Moore, Professor, Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University and Keith Murnighan, Professor, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. This video, entitled “Micro managing bosses have it all wrong,” is available on The Globe and Mail website.

Don’t Be The Source of Your Own Problems

During my career, I encountered many good bosses and some not so good (micromanagers), and they exist at all levels of organizations. Interestingly, I observed that micromanagers are often so afraid of failure that they micromanage to the point of actually contributing to the failure they want to avoid. In my opinion, these micromanagers probably exhibit the same behavior in their personal lives as well.

I close this post with the words of American General George S. Patton, Jr.:

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity”.


flickr photo by ZEISS Microscopy shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license
George S Patton is a Public Domain photo

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Posted by Keith Hillier
Posted on September 17, 2015
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Categories: engagement, hr & talent management, leadership, lessons learned, management