Micromanagement - When bogging down becomes a core competence

Micromanagement is not only annoying, but a very demotivating leadership style in the long run. Discover the causes and consequences and learn how you can avoid micromanagement as a leader.

The new supervisor has arrived: committed and eager, motivating and extremely courteous. A boss you could only wish for, right? Wrong! Behind the initial helpfulness lies a detail-obsessed mania for control. Diagnosis: micromanagement. We take a closer look at the term micromanagement and reveal the dangers behind this management style - and how you can tell that you are a micro-manager yourself!

What characterizes micromanagement?

Micromanagement describes a management style that is characterized by an excessive focus on detail and a lack of trust on the part of the superior toward subordinate employees. In this case, the manager, the so-called micro-manager, skips hierarchical levels, takes on projects that do not belong to his area of responsibility, and strictly observes and controls his employees. Micro-managers pay a lot of attention to details, every task is explained in great detail, every working method and solution is precisely prescribed. They tend to get bogged down, interfering with employees' professional tasks to ensure that all tasks are completed correctly and on time. Micro-managers are unable to separate the relevant and urgent from the less important. Every step is scrutinized, employees are immediately reminded of trivial little things. Freedom to develop, employee development or team decision-making? Not a chance. The big career? Often denied. Micromanagement is the ultimate controlling management style.

Particularly characteristic is the lack of perspective and strategic vision - full attention is given to unimportant details, and things that are really relevant for the company are simply ignored. The desire for control prevails. Micromanagement wants to convey a strong leadership style, but is actually a symptom of weak leadership and in no way a characteristic of a successful leader.

What causes micromanagement?

Often the cause of micromanagement lies in the person of the manager himself. In particular, managers who lack self-confidence tend to micromanage. They particularly lack the ability to delegate and assert themselves. This is because if the micro-manager is forced to delegate tasks, he tries to compensate for the resulting uncertainty with control. He specifies the tasks in such a way that they can be carried out as far as possible in his interest. Micro-managers have an extremely pronounced need for security, consistency and predictability, which in turn triggers an exaggerated and detail-obsessed mania for control.

What are the consequences of micromanagement for employees?

Micromanagement permanently poisons the working atmosphere in the company and triggers dangerous signals among employees. This is because constant control and improvement on the part of the supervisor reduces the employee's self-confidence and initiative enormously. Employees develop a fear of doing something wrong and therefore protect themselves twice over. Work instructions that are so petty and detailed that they leave employees no room for maneuver whatsoever take away any room for development and prevent independent thinking and action. Employees are virtually educated to be unstable. 
This is particularly frustrating for experienced team members: they have no opportunity to act responsibly or to develop creative solutions. The project, previously managed with full commitment and passion, mutates into a tedious, predefined task. Employees now only function according to instructions; the otherwise lively everyday working life is overshadowed by "duty by the book". The management culture frustrates and demotivates employees. 
This is because micromanagement acts as a risk to employees' own career development.

What are the consequences of micromanagement for the manager?

Managers affected by the micromanagement syndrome are usually not even aware that their mania for control and leadership style can lead to serious problems. The desire for control and the focus on details paralyze the entire project - from big decisions to the smallest task. Instead of focusing on governance, some micro-managers get bogged down in operations. Due to endless "bogging down" in other tasks, their own workload increases enormously, and important management tasks remain undone. Destroyed hierarchies in the company also play a major role: micromanagement crosses boundaries. Previously clearly regulated structures within the company falter. Added to this is the frustration triggered by the company itself, combined with pressure because corporate goals cannot be achieved.

Potentials of a successful leadership style

According to the study "New Leadership - Leadership of the Future - Between Inspiration and Empowerment" by the University of St. Gallen and zeag GmbH, an inspiring, motivating and at the same time trusting leader, who above all allows for freedom in the completion of tasks, not only leads to higher employee satisfaction and better performance, but also to almost 33% higher inner entrepreneurship. Employee commitment increases by just under 20%. On the other hand, a manager who tends to be very controlling has a negative effect on employees: Minus 24% inner entrepreneurship and minus 16% commitment.

jacando Tip! How you as a manager can get a grip on micromanagement

- Set goals and establish milestones together with your team. In doing so, explain which business goals the following project, for example, promotes. Tasks can be prioritized more easily this way. 

- Learn to trust: Give your employees the chance to prove that they can complete tasks flawlessly without your constant supervision. 

- Give away responsibility. Allow more freedom to make decisions and let your team act in a motivated way.

- Set the goal - but not the way to get there. Give your employees enough freedom and thus the opportunity to find their own (solution) paths. Because: The goal is decisive, not the way! 

- Invest in the development and training of your employees and try to minimize the effort you put into the detailed work. Because challenging and encouraging team members, gives employees the chance to improve and become an expert in the field in the long run. 

- Focus on what's important: Don't lose sight of your strength and competence as a leader!

- Let your employees make mistakes from time to time. Because that's the only way to learn. 

- Find the right balance: Make sure that you don't overchallenge your employees, but also that you don't underchallenge them.


More information

Not only micromanagement has an immense impact on performance and the overall well-being of the company! General employee motivation also plays a decisive role. Find out how to master this in our guide.

EN Mitarbeitermotivation


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