Psst … Sometimes Micromanaging Is a Good Thing

January 17, 2013

U.S. News & World Report

You’re the type of boss who has a niggling suspicion that your colleagues and employees can’t do their jobs as well as you could. You spend your time obsessing over and implementing a project’s minutiae, leaving little time and energy for higher-level problem-solving and decision-making. No meeting can take place unless you can attend; no assignment is complete until you’ve given it your seal of approval. Don’t sugar-coat your ways using descriptors like “I just have an attention for detail,” “I’m a doer, not a thinker,” or “I like to oversee every aspect of a project to ensure quality.” Admit it—you’re a micromanager. And that ain’t good.

Still, there are times when this much-maligned managerial style has its uses—as long as it’s used sparingly. “Any leadership style, when overdone, can be negative,” says Christine M. Riordan, dean and professor of management at Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver. “Leaders today need to demonstrate many leadership styles, depending on the situation, and have the agility and ability to move into a style that is not naturally their own.”

“Having attention to detail and being thorough and conscientious can be considered positive traits,” Riordan continues. “However, when taken to the extreme and used in all situations, they can definitely be negative. In similar fashion, always focusing on strategic issues and never thinking about implementation issues can be negative as well.”

“Some leaders, often labeled as micromanagers, may have a high need for information and/or their position requires them to have details,” Riordan says. “So, one additional step is that the supervisor can simply ask that his or her subordinate provide regular communications on the progress. Often what is perceived as micromanagement is simply a need for additional information on the progress of an issue.”