Micromanagement – A Curse of the Business World


micromanagementMicromanagement is a curse in the world of business. Why?

Because it destroys the trust and morale that every business needs to thrive.

If you look up Micromanagement in Wikipedia, you will find the word “symptoms” in the table of contents.

Symptoms are concepts used with diseases and illnesses. Cancer and diarrhea have symptoms.  Like cancer, micromanagement kills!   It kills enthusiasm and team spirit and cohesiveness.  It kills confidence.   And most of all; it kills trust.

The Lifeblood Of A Successful Business …

All of these things that are killed by micromanagement are the lifeblood of a successful business. Without them, you have disengaged employees, high turnover, and an inability to recruit and hire the best people.

micromanager-300x277So what exactly is micromanagement?   When a manager closely observes and controls his or her employee’s actions, rather than simply supervising large issues and giving employees freedom of appropriate decision making, micromanagement is occurring.

A micro-manager oversees each step and assesses each action; having the need to approve every decision personally.

Most employees working for a micro-manager assume that person is just an arrogant a**hole.  That may be truer in large companies where the vertical depth of management allows such managers to function. 

Our Experience Shows Something Different …

But our experience with smaller, privately held companies has shown us just the opposite.

As a restructuring firm, Revitalization Partners most often is called when a company is in trouble.  But since most owners and senior managers of companies are convinced that most problems can be addressed by them, generally some crisis or trigger has occurred, causing the call for assistance.

In the case of small to mid-market companies it is a bank seeking to exit a loan, an investor unhappy with performance or losses that are beginning to overwhelm the company.

It’s A Symptom Of …

2015-02-17-Slide1-thumbWe often find a component of micromanagement within the company.  But rather than simply being a symptom of arrogance, we find that it is more often a symptom of deep fear.

Consider that if the company doesn’t find a new bank or other funding, the work of years may be lost. 

In most cases the owner(s) of a mid-sized company have personal guarantees with lenders. They stand to lose everything, including the company.

How do most entrepreneurs and senior managers react to that kind of fear?  Some with paralysis and a refusal to change anything.  After all, what they are doing worked before and the belief is that it will work again.  And who knows what the results of change will be?  It might make things worse.

The Major Reaction Is ….

attachmentOthers, the majority, react with control. “I built this company; I know everything about how it should work.  It’s my a** on the line. 

My employees don’t care the way that I do.”  And the entrepreneurial tendency to want to be in control becomes overwhelming.

What we know is that in a company of any reasonable size, no one person can know everything, every day.  The hardest part of a restructuring assignment in such a company is convincing the senior manager or owner that their behavior is becoming a major cause of the very thing they fear the most.

Employees Know When …

Employees know when a company has problems.  In most cases they are committed to their jobs and the company and want to do everything possible to help.  But micromanaging behavior causes employee disengagement.

Employee_Apathy_PictureThey come to believe they are not trusted and their ideas are not valued. They become apathetic and are no longer emotionally invested in the company or the management.

Apathy can spread like a virus among employees. They begin to shut down and not offer suggestions and more importantly; solutions.  Because they are disengaged, they no longer want to make investments like working longer for an important project.

A Climate Of Fear …

Since micro-managers tend to want to punish every mistake, the climate of fear spreads to employees and they begin hiding errors and blaming others. This leads to avoidance of risk and declining productivity. The downward spiral tightens.

3 Things That You Can Do …

So, what can you do? 

1. The first is to be willing and able to admit the problem.

2. The second is to get help to change your own behavior.

3. And the third is to admit the problem to key employees and ask for their help in getting reengaged and taking responsibility.

Remember, they really do have an emotional attachment to the success of the company. And in general, we all understand that fear cannot be the driver of a successful company.