There is a pariah in American business that inhibits companies from progressing as far ahead as they might wish to. This person probably has no idea he or she is this way, or has even thought about why they exhibit this behavior, because they're too busy trying to do all the jobs of the company, including those jobs they have hired other people to do.
I'm talking about the micro manager, of course. Most companies have at least one of these if they're large enough, and that person is sapping the strength from the company.
The reason for this is simple, and I'm going to use a baseball analogy.
The center fielder is one of 9 positions on a baseball team. It's an important position because it not only covers its own areas, but is responsible for backing up the other two outfield positions. One day the center fielder decides that he can do a better job of getting the ball back into the infield if he intercedes on every play. He starts going for the ball every time instead of allowing the person in that position to cover.
He might be good at it, or he may be bad at it, but he does it anyway. After a while he decides that on singles he's going to run in and try to cover second base also, because he doesn't always trust the judgment of the second baseman on what to do next. Then he decides that he wants to be the cutoff man on all balls that are hit to either outfield position on a long fly ball, because he doesn't think anyone else on the team has any real understanding of what to do with the ball once the outfielder has done his part.
What eventually happens is that the other outfielders first start questioning their own abilities, then they get angry and aggravated at having their positions usurped like that. Then they trying to figure out what their jobs and responsibilities are supposed to be. Next comes confusion, followed by apathy, and suddenly the team is in total disarray.
Not only that, but whose to say that the center fielder was right in the first place? He may not have ever played any of these other positions before, but his fear of things going wrong prompts him to try to do everything himself.
Eventually the center fielder is either running himself down to a point where he won't be able to effectively do the job he was hired to do, or worries that others will make him look bad if he's not in total control of all situations. Sometimes it works out early, but you can bet the seeds of destruction have been planted, and the only question is who caves in first.
The psychology of a micro manager isn't all that hard to figure out; the reasons, however, may be something else. The micro manager wants control, period. Type A personalities are most vulnerable to be micro managers because they are driven to success more than other personality types.
The reasons are varied. The micro manager might be scared to trust the performance of others because of how it might reflect on them. It takes a certain amount of trust in the abilities of others when you're in charge of others.
Another reason may be fear in their being outed as not knowing as much as others think they do. If a micro manager tells someone to do something without really knowing what they're asking for, they can always cover it up by blaming the ignorance of someone else.
Most of the time micro managers are bullies. There's something in them that makes them think they have to lead by the principle of fear, rather than cooperation. I knew of a micro manager that, when things weren't going her way, would fire the entire department and start from scratch. At some point the CEO realized where the problems actually lay, but the damage to the credibility of the organization had been done.
If a micro manager isn't the mean spirited type or is open to change, there's still a chance of bringing them into the realm of "everyday people". A conversation needs to take place between the person who's being micro managed and the micro manager to see if the micro manager is someone who may not know they are pushing too hard or trying to take over everything. They may not fully understand the depth of what their actions are in impeding the job others are trying to do.
If you're the employee in this position and you realize that there's no possibility of a positive outcome, at least you'll know, and then you can decide whether to find a way to survive this manager, take it up the ladder, or move on.
If the micro manager reports to you, do something about it or risk your organization's failure soon.
For more information, please contact:
T. T. Mitchell Consulting, Inc.
P. O. Box 2512
Liverpool, NY 13090