Are you a micro manager?

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 13, 2019 09:01 Updated

A micro manager – a boss who gives excessive supervision to employees – can be a problem for any business. Here, golf clubs’ staff trainer Frank Newberry explains how they come about.

A micro manager is a person who closely supervises all employees to ensure that work is carried out to the highest standard. Not a bad thing at all if:

• The slightest error or omission might be spotted immediately by paying customers or other key stakeholders;

• The stakes are high for the employer (‘make or break’ for the organisation);

• The staff are new or unqualified, seasonal and / or inexperienced and the boss is the only one with the necessary expertise and knowledge.

The above conditions are often determined by an organisation’s situation. However, many micro managers closely supervise their staff whether these conditions exist or not. The micro managers people complain to me about seem to have little or no confidence in employees’ ability to do the work to a decent standard.

Micro managers often excuse all the checking and inspecting they do by claiming to be ‘a perfectionist’. Because of this they can also find delegating tasks to people very difficult.

The opposite of this type of individual would be a ‘macro manager’. Macro managers, when at work, are more likely to define the desired outcomes of a task and then leave staff alone to perform the task. A macro manager assumes staff are competent and can complete a task without being continually reminded of the process and the standards expected.

Why do some people become micro managers?

Many micro managers were promoted from the lower levels after they had proved their ability at the lower level – perhaps where the real work is done. After a while they may have been promoted because of their accumulated experience and expertise. Their employers at some point may have even used promotion to stop them leaving and going to their competition.

Sadly, in this sector, many people get the manager job but not the manager training. In my experience, many end up not being a true manager but an expert worker who can solve work-related problems. Unfortunately, the supervisory management skills like planning and organising the work, motivating people and controlling results are often not developed.

Many promotees are also not trained to build their staff’s confidence so that one day they will be able to take on greater responsibility. So, promotees micro manage to compensate.

This inevitably causes some managers to judge their staff on their current skills – often unfavourably because the manager’s own skills are superior. They have not yet accepted, for whatever reason, that their staff’s skill development is their professional responsibility. So again, they micro manage to compensate.

Many promotees even find it hard to give up the ‘work tasks’ that they are good at themselves so (you’ve guessed it) they micro manage to compensate.

The biggest problem caused by micro managers

There are several unnecessary problems caused by micro managers, but I want to mention just the biggest one.

I believe that the greatest problem micro managers cause their employers is the loss to the organisation of good workers, or people with real potential. These good people leave the organisation because they feel they cannot progress under a micro manager. These ‘better’ employees usually leave to get a job with more prospects, or one with greater potential for growth and professional development.

The micro manager ultimately causes the employer to be left with the less talented (who cannot get work elsewhere) and who – guess what – need to be micro-managed.

In my view, there can be no greater loss to an organisation than the loss of its good workers.

Frank Newberry

This is the first of a two-part series and in the next article Frank will suggest some ways we can all manage the micro manager.

Frank Newberry has been training people in the UK golf sector since 1989 and clients include St Andrews Links Trust, Gullane Golf Club, Royal Cinque Ports and The Wisley.

Visit, email or tel 01908 520202 / 07939 200056


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 13, 2019 09:01 Updated
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