• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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The dangers and folly of micromanagement


With each passing day, many individuals saddled with the responsibility of leading or managing others in organization head to the precipice with the unprofessional practice of micromanagement. Interestingly, they mistake micromanagement for leadership –perhaps they were on vacation when the memo went out that leadership is completely different from micromanagement. Leadership inspires while micromanagement demotivates.

What really is micromanagement? Cambridge Dictionary defines the verb micromanage as “to control every part of a situation, project, etc., even including the small details, in a way that may not be necessary and may not give enough responsibility to other employees.” Business Dictionary defines micromanagement as “close, detailed, and often de-motivating scrutiny of employees’ work on a continuing basis”. Going by these definitions, it is clear that micromanagement is an overly controlling approach to management of employees in organizations. While there may be arguments in favour of micromanagement which seem logical given the peculiar circumstances in question, its long term effect is counterproductive.

The dangers of micromanaging employees far outweigh whatever conceivable benefits there are. Experts in job design would agree with me that a job transcends mere duties and responsibilities carried out on a routine or project basis, it is an opportunity for self-expression and fulfilment for employees. Jobs meet deep and ever-present needs within employees. This is the reason why experts talk about concepts like job enrichment; job enlargement et cetera aimed at offering employees opportunities to fully express themselves as well as attain fulfilment. Micromanagement prevents these owing to a lack of autonomy to innovate (every so often), exercise initiatives and fully apply oneself – practices that are central to the growth and development of employees. Jack Wallen in his article titled 6 big dangers of micromanagement mentioned the following as dangers of micromanagement: loss of control; loss of trust; dependent employees; your own burnout; high turnover of staff; lack of autonomy. When employees are micromanaged especially in a chronic manner, their growth is stifled because their actions are nothing but the ready-made thinking, planning and decisions of their superiors. It is a great disservice to the human mind – call it mental imprisonment, if you will.

Micromanagement, to many, is not seen as a problem insofar as it does not tamper with their monthly salary. This is understandable because the fear of hunger and uncertainties makes many accept practices that are antediluvian, unprofessional and illogical. As professionals, we ought to know our worth and make distinctions between what is acceptable and unacceptable. While you get constantly micromanaged, you will get paid however you will lose something more valuable – your confidence. Might I add that your knowledge and skills get rusty or worse still eroded because what is not put to use becomes dysfunctional overtime. This is so because whatever output you lay claim to is solely the thinking, planning and decision of another. Tell me why you should be on the payroll of your company or be employed by another company if you cannot think? That is too vital a skill to be overlooked. You might disagree by saying ‘I can think, I am simply not allowed to’…just keep in mind that overtime you would be incapable of independent thinking owing to long-term conditioning.

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Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines folly as ‘a lack of good judgement; the fact of doing something stupid; an activity or idea that shows a lack of judgement’. It is well appreciated that this might put some on the defensive. Nonetheless, it is crucial to dismiss sentiments and call a spade a spade. Save exceptional situations like micromanaging employees who know nothing about their jobs (which by the way calls to question the integrity and validity of the selection exercises) et cetera, there is nothing commendable about micromanagement hence it should not be defended or trumpeted. The folly of micromanagement is most visible when managers expend energy and time trying to be omnipresent and omniscient failing to realize such approach is counterproductive and that organizations are not built around one person but around individuals/groups who work together to achieve a common objective or objectives. To think that one can chronically micromanage yet have a strong organization is the height of folly.

Sometimes, micromanagement is more about the personality of the manager than the competence level of the employee. In other words, micromanagement most times defines the manager more than it defines the employee. It is expected that if micromanagement becomes a last resort, it should be a temporary measure, however if it continues after the employee has improved then it becomes crystal clear that the manager in question has an overpowering need for control – a case that might require psychological attention. The same holds true for cases involving employees who are very competent yet micromanaged. Remember that while micromanagement may give you a sense of total control and feeling of importance, it diminishes your stock as a leader. John C. Maxwell could not have said it any better when he said: ‘leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.’ If your words and actions do not empower your subordinates, why do you still occupy that leadership or managerial position? Improve or vacate.


Jude Adigwe