When you SHOULD be a Micromanager

The label “micromanager” is dangerous… but not for the reason you might think!

Over time, I have developed a negative opinion of the word “micromanager” or “micromanage”.  But the potential danger and toxicity of this word actually lead me to a different conclusion than you might think…

micromanaging boss1

typical micromanager…

I’m guessing that in almost all workplaces, Managers at all levels are deathly afraid of the label “micromanager”.  That word has become so negative – a flaming arrow to shoot at your boss, calling them “a micromanager”.  Nothing stings more.

Therein lies the problem: sometimes the actions which we label as “micromanaging” can help an employee improve their skills and performance.  In other words, micromanaging is exactly what a manager should do.

What a minute.

Am I saying that a Manager should, at times, be a ‘micromanager’?

Yes. Absolutely.

That’s exactly what I’m saying.

My strong opinion of the word “micromanager” isn’t that I detest what it means.  Rather, I have seen what it now represents in the workplace: the “ultimate insult” that Managers now want to avoid at all costs.  I have observed many Managers swing too far in the other direction.  They become completely “hands off” and even let employees struggle without appropriate direction and guidance, all to avoid the label “micromanager”.

There are times when it is required to get very involved, direct tasks, teach and demonstrate activities, and follow up frequently to check on progress, right?  Well, isn’t that just… micromanaging?  Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Theory describes this as “directing” or “telling” behavior.


With trust, direction and guidance is received well.

Those leadership behaviors can be the perfect step for an employee who is new to the position or company.  These behaviors also apply if there have been missteps on the job; maybe performance hasn’t quite been up to par.  Maybe this person has deteriorated slowly over time to the point where they are no longer meeting your expectations.  That person can benefit from those same directing behaviors to get back on the right course.


They key difference between a “micromanager” and an effective leader is usually just one thing:  trust.

It is pretty simple: the employee who doesn’t like, or trust, his/her manager throws out that jab – “I feel like you’re micromanaging me.” It certainly cuts to the core, right?  Nothing stings like the implied distrust and poor leadership of being a micromanager, right?  In my opinion, that’s simply a cry of “leave me alone, I don’t trust you”.

So we see that, as in most aspects of leadership, it all boils down to trust.  Build trust, and you’ll have the opportunity to employ Situational Leadership properly for amazing results.  Failure to build trust might just bring the dreaded label of “micromanager” that we all wish to avoid…


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