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Gartner defines this management style as “a pattern of manager behavior marked by excessive supervision and control of employees’ work and processes, as well as a limited delegation of tasks or decisions to staff.”

Are Details Important?

Micromanagers prefer to focus on details instead of the big picture, asking for excessive documentation on processes and completed work. They insert themselves into conversations between team members by asking to be included in every team communication. Decisions aren’t made without their input because they want to be seen as indispensable to their teams.

Is Micromanaging Harmful?

Leaders who micromanage can be harmful to team productivity. A manager who asks for frequent status updates and completes work assignments instead of delegating will demotivate even the most capable team members. Micromanaging sends a message that a team isn’t trusted to get things done. People become micromanagers for various personal and professional reasons, ranging from having a controlling personality to being inexperienced or insecure.

Why Micromanaging Exists

Despite the negative consequences of micromanaging, sometimes managers have no other choice. When the team’s skills don’t match their assignments, a manager may have to decide things for them and take on some of their work. Micromanaging can be a manager’s last resort for getting things done. It should also signal that staff changes or more training are in order. Team members who resist sharing information and call it micromanaging are often the ones who need more guidance and attention from management.

What is Micro Information?

There’s another side to the micromanagement dilemma. Good leaders don’t make important decisions without knowing all the facts, so sometimes a manager needs to ask for detailed information.

Without detailed knowledge, it’s hard to feel confident about making strategic decisions. Managers should be able to request “micro-information” from team members without being accused of micromanaging. A request for information isn’t the same as doing someone’s job.

Robert Gates, former secretary of defense and CIA director who served eight U.S. presidents, writes about the issue in his 2016 book “A Passion for Leadership.” He found in his long career that leading change requires a thorough knowledge of the organization being led and the work they’re doing. Yet, he was often called a micromanager because he sought detailed information for greater understanding.

Gates says this about gathering what he calls micro-knowledge: “For a leader to get the big things right depends greatly on knowing the little things, especially when implementing difficult and controversial change. Without micro-knowledge, you are the prisoner of your bureaucracy and staff, and they will play you like a cheap fiddle.”

How to Use Micro-Information Properly

An informed manager isn’t forced to make time-sensitive decisions with limited information. Continually gathering micro-information improves the decision-making process. Knowledge brings the ability to predict problems before they occur, so it may also reduce the number of decisions that need to be made under time pressure.

Within efficient organizations, information flows freely between managers and subordinates. When team members feel trusted, they are less likely to feel micromanaged when asked questions. Managers can predict problems and alert their teams. Everything stops being an emergency.

Today’s digital platforms make it much easier for managers to gather micro-information without fear of being seen as micromanagers. Integrating workforce and project management software into daily operations means that attendance, task assignments, and project status data are instantly available. A manager can run a report instead of asking a team member for data. Knowledge is power, and these systems are empowering.

Creating Transparency Without Causing Micromanagement

Today’s managers need every tool to create a transparent work environment where everyone feels free to share knowledge. That was our goal in developing coAmplifi, a workforce and project management solution that supports transparency, collaboration, and accountability. Join our community and take a proactive approach to information management in your organization.

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