Rarely does anyone have anything good to say about a micromanager. And no wonder, because employees hate being micromanaged.
Come on, who wants a manager breathing down his neck while giving step-by-step instructions on how to do something he already knows how to do very well?
And believe it or not, managers hate having to micromanage, too. Most managers want to give directives and then have stuff happen more or less exactly as envisioned. They don’t want to have to connect every dot and give detailed instructions to their employees.
However, there are a few instances in which this management style can be useful and employees should welcome this management technique, at least for a time.
Whether the employee is new to the workforce, new to the company, or new to the function, brand-new beginnings often require more oversight than usual. There’s always a lot to learn with any new position, and a little micromanaging doesn’t hurt in these circumstances. These employees will need to become acclimated to their tasks, their coworkers, company processes, company culture, and company politics. In fact, even an employee who’s been promoted within his company may be surprised by the differences in culture from one department to the next. An experienced mentor who can give detailed guidance during this period of acclimation is a good thing.
Good managers expect that after a reasonable amount of training and/or direction, employees will be able to function as reliable independent contributors. When it becomes apparent that this transition isn’t occurring as planned, the manager needs to act. Coaching and counseling are two first usual (and important) steps, but if neither of these yields the desired results, the manager will have to take things up a notch, perhaps by placing the employee on a performance improvement plan (PIP).
Under a PIP, regular scrutiny is a given, and it’s necessary as well, because the manager needs to understand why the employee is failing. Sometimes, managers are tempted to pay less attention to under- or nonperforming employees, because the manager is frustrated with the situation and wants it (and the failing employee) to go away. However, times likes these require the manager to pay greater attention, even up to and including some micromanaging.
High-profile, pet projects require special attention so that the details are handled just so. If not, something is bound to slip through the cracks, and that’ll be a big no-no.
Maybe the employee wants to improve his performance by getting faster or more accurate (imagine, for example, a payroll processor who wants to finish processing sooner and with less mistakes) and has requested a bit of extra attention from his manager. The manager should accommodate that request. Not only will the employee improve his performance, but he’ll develop a greater appreciation for the manager as well, which can only enhance their relationship and future performance.
A new manager may decide to engage in a little micromanaging so that she can begin to quickly figure out what her employees do. This type of micromanagement is strictly for the manager’s benefit, and she should be very clear with her new subordinates that she’s taking such a detailed interest in their duties for her own education and not their downfall. Otherwise, this manager will likely have some very unhappy staff on her hands, and her subordinates may even go out of their way to hoard information.
Despite the bad rap that micromanagers get, there are times when it’s perfectly acceptable and even necessary for a good manager to micromanage just a little. However, micromanaging should always be a temporary measure put in place to meet a specific goal rather than indicative of the leader's overall management style.