Early Career
  • Are You a Micromanager?

    Author(s): By Thomas Davis, CRNA, MAE, DNAP candidate

    Micromanaging is the enemy of both collaborative empowerment and creative thinking.


    Control is a funny thing. It’s necessary and can improve results when the boss wields it, but it is oppressive and demoralizing when you’re on the receiving end of the heavy-handed version. Keeping the boss informed as a project is tackled is one thing but having all the small parts directed is quite another. Unfortunately, many well-intended supervisors become over-zealous while attempting to produce exact results, crossing the line from coach and encourager to micromanager.

    Micromanaging is the enemy of both collaborative empowerment and creative thinking and can have devastating effects on a team. Writing in Careeraddict.com, author Chris Leitch lists the following as consequences of micromanagement.

    • Employees develop more health problems
    • Staff turnover is increased
    • Productivity is reduced
    • Personal relationships suffer
    • Job security is questioned
    • Progress is slowed
    • Teamwork is destroyed
    • Morale is lowered

    Clearly, micromanaging blocks any attempt at creating a preferred workplace and must be avoided, yet Market Watch reports that over 50% of employees feel as if they are micromanaged. Keeping out of the micromanagement swamp starts with self-awareness and a sincere desire to release the creative energy in team members. Not sure whether you are a micromanager?  Try the online self-evaluation offered by The Workzone.

    5 Ways to Avoid Micromanaging

    Managing by “control patrol” is a sign of insecurity and often originates from fear: fear of losing control, fear of project failure and fear of not being viewed as the authority figure in charge of the team. To escape the fear, a leader must develop a keen sense of self-security that is clearly evidenced in the way he/she interacts with the team. Leaders who are secure in their position seek to gain stature through the empowerment of others. Author Geoffrey James offers the following insight for those who want to abandon the micromanaging style of leadership:

    • Rethink your role as a leader. Visualize yourself as a leader who is meant to guide and develop your team rather than a boss charged with controlling behavior. View your team members as the capable and competent people they are and individuals who desire is to meet your requests and serve the organization while developing their own personal skills.
    • Delegate projects. Assigning responsibilities to others eases the burden of leadership and sends an important message that you trust your team. When you delegate, make sure that the assignee understands the goal, the parameters within which he/she must work, and the timeline for completion. Agree on checkpoints that keep you in the loop then set the boss’s binoculars aside and trust that the team will come through on the project.
    • Ask how he/she plans to proceed. As the project or assignment takes off, remember that the goal is to go from point A to point B. Anticipate that someone else may solve the problem differently than you would, allow the individual to select the route and be okay with it. The intent is to bring the project to closure, not to dominate the process.
    • Establish reasonable check in via email. Check in must be appropriate for the complexity of the task and the experience of the person assigned to complete it. Requiring a person to check in more than necessary does not convey trust in the person’s capability and implies that you don’t trust your own decision to assign him/her the job. Limit yourself to checking in once a week by email so as not to intimidate the person you delegated for the project. Keep the tone cordial and collaborative.
    • Focus on developing others and giving them credit for their work. Micromanaging and empowering are polar opposites and mutually exclusive. The best and quickest way to change your reputation as a micromanager is to re-direct your attention to developing others. Be a thinking partner as well as a support system for team members who seek additional responsibility and have the desire to learn new skills.

    Many people describe the “worst boss I ever had” as the controller who managed everything and everyone through a telescopic lens. If your team has trouble with high turnover, low morale or other consequences associated with micromanagers, consider the possibility that you may be one. Turn the lens on yourself, loosen your white-knuckle grip, embrace the concept that there is more than one way to achieve a goal and more than one person who can do it. Ironically, by releasing authoritative power, you strengthen personal power and emerge as the recognized leader of a loyal and productive team.

    Tom S. Davis, DNAP, CRNA, MAE, is the former Chief of the Division of Nurse Anesthesia at The Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and former Chief CRNA at (Baylor) Scott and White, Main OR in Temple, TX. Col. Davis, USAF (Ret.), is well-known throughout the Nurse Anesthesia community for his leadership in clinical anesthesia, including developing the first distance education model while on the graduate faculty at Kansas University Medical Center. Recognized for his expertise in team-building across department lines, Tom is a sought-after speaker, educator, author, and leadership trainer. Follow @procrnatom on Twitter.