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Micromanagers: Flushing Companies Down the Toilet, One Detail at a Time


Micromanagers: Flushing Companies Down the Toilet, One Detail at a Time

by Jessica Marie


People don’t leave bad companies. They leave bad bosses. They don’t leave flawed organizational structures and abandon lousy products and technology. They leave flawed leadership.

No matter how brilliant a company’s products and/or services may be, if management is dysfunctional, that company will have serious problems. It may not be immediate, but it’s nearly a guarantee that it will happen. This concept may sound like a no-brainer, but it continues to happen across all companies and industries, both big and small.

There is so much emphasis on IQ in organizations, and not enough on leadership. Now we have a bunch of technological geniuses who are socially and emotionally inept.

The problem? A complete lack of emotional intelligence, insecurity, and sheer incompetence on the most basic level.

Leaders set the tone of an organization. The outer environment is a reflection of the inner environment of those who establish the quality of the company. When the leader(s) are chaotic and manage without a solid foundation or strategy, the whole operation turns into fire drills, with everyone running around like beheaded chickens.

The only thing this creates is a sustained profile of hysterics and frustration.

The Dangers of Micromanagement

Micromanaging is a method of management in which an individual closely observes or controls the work of an employee. In comparison to simply giving general direction, the micromanager monitors and evaluates every stage in a process, from beginning to end. This behavior negatively affects efficiency, creativity, trust, communication, problem-solving, and the company’s ability to reach its goals.

The typical micromanager spends their time directing employees rather than empowering them. They are often very insecure. They spend more time with the details of business operations instead of planning the company’s short-term and long-term growth strategies. The fact of the matter is, time DOES equal money. When the designated leader of an organization is wasting time (and therefore money) on overseeing projects instead of focusing on specific growth opportunities, it’s time to reevaluate a few things.

“There is a huge difference between leadership and simply using one’s title,
position and given authority, to exercise political and/or bureaucratic power.” 

The effects of micromanagement can be disastrous for a company’s culture. Employees will soon realize that you are not listening to them. They will undoubtedly shut down, stop making suggestions or going to you with questions. Ultimately, employees will become disenchanted and will eventually quit to work for another company.

Much of the time, these quasi-leaders believe that they are the only ones who understand the business model and are the sole reason for the company’s revenue. They will often surround themselves with passive people who don’t question their authority, and fail to challenge or criticize their actions. These managers also tend to be extremely closed-minded to new approaches or ideas to solve problems.

It is for all these reasons that these types of managers will never hold a high level position at a large company. Of course, exceptions are noted, we often hear of executives who behave this way, but for the most part, they just do not possess the characteristics required to deal with projects and people in a productive and meaningful way.

“People don’t leave bad companies. They leave bad bosses.”

 Micromanagers want things done in a particular way. We all do – the “right way” – translation – “my way.” However, when these managers communicate requirements, they’re simply telling them to execute. In this case, they’re not asking anyone to think for themselves. And employees who actually engage in their work, won’t be satisfied for very long.

Managers certainly do not always have the best and brightest answers. Letting employees become part of the decision process is so important for increased productivity and helping everyone feel valued.

Underlying Problems

The underlying psychological issue of micromanagers is that most action (perhaps reaction is a more appropriate description) is based on fear, not reason or evidence. This causes major problems. First and foremost, their fear drives their need to control the details in processes, and their need for constant recognition. It’s not uncommon that most people who work with micromanagers have adapted their own behavior to try and prevent confrontation. However, enabling these issues only makes the problem worse.

There is also a failure to prioritize, making managerial and operational rhythms suffer. “Post-mortem” meetings become the norm, rather than after-action reviews. Blame is thrown in every direction except the manager’s and turnover gets worse.

What Makes a Great Boss?

1. Communication: A great boss is a communicator who has the ability to relate deeply to others, someone who is able to empathize and recognize the talents in their employees and peers. They have strong emotional intelligence and self-awareness, and speak and act with integrity.

2. Delegation: Great leaders know when and how to delegate and, for the most part, remain removed from the project, trusting their employees to be professional and produce results. They know that being involved in the granular details of these projects is a waste of their time, and inhibits their employees from feeling free to do great work. They know that they should trust their employees and don’t micromanage to the point of distraction.

3. Fairness: There is a difference between treating employees equally and treating them fairly. Let’s face it: Not all employees are equal. Everyone is different. Some employees create different value within the organization. A great boss treats everyone fairly, but not equally.

4. Humility: Great bosses understand that the business is not about them. Leaders have to be able to talk and listen to their employees on all levels of the company. At the same time, they must have the respect of their employees, the kind of respect that’s earned by being honest, having integrity, and being humble.

5. Responsibility: Leaders take responsibility for their actions. If you make a mistake, own it. Don’t blame others for your lack of self-awareness, or make excuses for failed projects and blown deadlines.

What Do Employees Want?

Employees don’t come to work for a just paycheck. Yes, some do. However, research suggests that most people are not simply extrinsically motivated. They are intrinsically motivated and would rather be respected and praised for their work instead of just paid more.

What do we as employees (and managers) want? To be left alone to do our work in peace. Every independent and intelligent person who has the training, knowledge and desire to work at an organization has something important to contribute. Allowing them to become a part of the process can have a hugely positive impact. Not only will they have a sense of purpose, but also a sense of belonging and community within the organization, working toward a shared goal. To put it simply – they will be engaged.

Nobody wants to have their autonomy and creativity robbed from them. Managers at all levels within an organization must stay aware of the dangers of micromanagers and have ways of dealing with those issues. Otherwise, there’s a rough road ahead, for everyone



Jessica Marie, CMO and Co-Founder of Eris Design Group. Equal parts marketer, technologist and business designer, Jessica is a former finance professional with over a decade of experience in operations, marketing communications, and strategy.

After receiving her MBA, she consulted dozens of companies in Big Data, Enterprise Technology, Non-Profit Organizations, and Financial Services firms.

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