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Micromanager or Detail Oriented

Many CEOs favor strong managers who foster a high-accountability environment, ensuring employees are diligent. However, a CEO’s detachment from the managed department often leads to reliance on the perceived reassurance provided by a “tough manager.” For instance, a CEO with a background in product development may find solace in observing a stringent revenue leader pressuring their subordinates, especially if sales are outside their expertise. Yet, it’s crucial to consider whether the outcomes justify such management tactics.

The label “micromanager” typically carries a negative connotation, whereas “detail-oriented” is often seen as a positive euphemism. Everyone appreciates a detail-oriented leader, but no one desires a micromanager. The distinction lies in soft skills. Public reprimands from a manager are detrimental, while asking perceptive questions during structured one-on-ones is beneficial. Overseeing an employee’s workspace is intrusive, but fostering a collaborative environment is advantageous. Criticizing effort levels is counterproductive, whereas sharing data to compare metrics is constructive.

Tammy Perkins wrote about micromanagers in a recent Fast Company piece.  She described the behavior as a tendency to “demand too much time and energy from their employees, leaving them feeling exhausted and drained.”  She added, “employees may feel that their abilities and contributions are neither trusted or valued”.  This behavior can “cause team members to hesitate to present new ideas”.

Exhausted, drained, and distrusted sounds like the building blocks for a dysfunctional organization.  How would you know if your  leadership is managing this way?  You love the way they hold the team accountable.   You are just amazed how they seem to have all the answers about every key account.  Their confidence is reassuring.

However, confidence in upward management can become oppressive in downward interactions. Providing all the answers to superiors may indicate a deficiency in active, collaborative listening with employees. Individuals who always have answers tend to ask fewer questions.

Speaking from personal experience as someone who has overcome a “know-it-all” attitude, I acknowledge that no one has all the answers. True solutions emerge from the collective intelligence of your team. Without nurturing a culture of trust, you risk only hearing from those who aim to appease, leading to dysfunction, hindered success, and poor retention.

Seek, an Australian recruitment platform, recently conducted an extensive survey  and found the top three reasons employees leave.  Safe to assume that horrible bosses are connected to #1 and #3 which means that the “detail oriented” manager you love so much could be contributing to over 70% of the reasons people bail out.

  1. Work conditions / working environment – 41%
  2. Organizational changes / restructure – 35%
  3. Management / leadership in the business – 32%

How can you tell if your leadership is throttling employees via their hovering micro-management style?  Consider these tactics:

  1. Anonymous employee surveys designed to assess satisfaction
  2. Monitor all communication from the manager
  3. Take a look at absenteeism and retention data
  4. Assess productivity

Most importantly, pay close attention to your employees. Assess their engagement levels, participation in town halls, and attendance at volunteer events. Low morale is palpable, and engaging with employees individually can reveal any underlying dissatisfaction with leadership.

Addressing micromanagement isn’t about dismissing your tough manager; perhaps they require coaching. Micromanagement often stems from insecurity, and it’s possible that your own management style is inadvertently being replicated. Prioritize improving your team, recognizing that everyone has room for growth.