Micromanagement definition

Micromanagement is a negative term that refers to a management style characterised by extremely close supervision and control of the minor details of an individual’s workload and output. Micromanagers generally avoid delegating decision-making power to employees and may be overly obsessed with information-gathering by forcing employees to produce regular, detailed reports that are often superfluous.

Extreme cases of micromanagement may be pathological i.e. involve serious workplace bullying and certain personality traits, such as narcissism.

Academic research around micromanagement might focus on the relationship between manager and subordinate; some theorists suggest the relationship is a dysfunctional parent-adult relationship. For more information on parent-child constructs, read The Games People Play by psychiatrist Eric Berne.

Causes of micromanagement are either personal or institutional. Certain personality traits in managers, such as perfectionism and insecurity, may predispose them to micromanagement. The relationship between the manager and the subordinate, particularly a lack of trust or respect or if the manager feels the subordinate lacks competence, can also encourage micromanagement. Institutional causes could include intense downward pressures on managers to achieve results.

The negative effects of micromanagement are broad, including worker disengagement, breakdown of the manager-subordinate relationship, worker apathy, reduced productivity, and reduced self-belief in the individuals being micromanaged. Organisations may experience attrition of talent if micromanagement is part of the culture.


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