Micromanagement is a counter-productive management style characterized by such behaviors as an excessive focus on observing and controlling subordinates and obsession with details.
Micromanagement is generally considered to have a negative connotation, suggesting a lack of freedom and trust in the workplace, and excessive focus on details at the expense of the "big picture" and larger goals.
Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines micromanagement as "manage[ment] especially with excessive control or attention on details".
The online dictionary Encarta defined micromanagement as "atten[tion] to small details in management: control [of] a person or a situation by paying extreme attention to small details".
Dictionary.com defines micromanagement as "manage[ment] or control with excessive attention to minor details".
Often, this obsession with the most minute of details causes a direct management failure in the loss of focus on the major details.
Rather than giving general instructions on smaller tasks and then devoting time to supervising larger concerns, the micromanager monitors and assesses every step of a process and avoids delegation of decisions. Micromanagers are usually irritated when subordinates makes decisions without consulting them, even if the decisions are within the subordinates' level of authority.
Micromanagement also frequently involves requests for unnecessary and overly detailed reports. A micromanager tends to require constant and detailed performance feedback and to focus excessively on procedural minutia (often in detail greater than they can actually process) rather than on overall performance, quality and results. This micro focus on trivial matters often delays decisions, clouds overall goals and objectives, restricts the flow of information between employees, and guides the various aspects of a project in different and often opposed directions. The sum of such inefficiencies is unlikely to be a net gain for the organization, even if it allows a micromanager retention of control or the mere appearance of it.
It is common for micromanagers, especially those who exhibit narcissistic tendencies and/or micromanage deliberately and for strategic reasons, to delegate work to subordinates and then micromanage those subordinates' performance, enabling the micromanagers in question to both take credit for positive results and shift the blame for negative results to their subordinates. These micromanagers thereby delegate accountability for failure but not the authority to take alternative actions that would have led to success or at least to the mitigation of that failure.
The most extreme cases of micromanagement constitute a management pathology closely related to workplace bullying and narcissistic behavior. Micromanagement resembles addiction in that although most micromanagers are behaviorally dependent on control over others, both as a lifestyle and as a means of maintaining that lifestyle, many of them fail to recognize and acknowledge their dependence even when everyone around them observes it.
The most frequent motivations for micromanagement are internal and related to the personality of the manager. However, external factors such as organizational culture may also play a role. Other factors which can induce micromanagement include the importance of a project and its timeline, with more important work and more demanding deadlines increasing the stakes for the manager in charge.
Micromanagement can also stem from such dynamics as a breakdown in the fundamentals of delegation and lack of trust. When a task or project is delegated in an unclear way, or where a lack of confidence exists between the manager and the person doing the work, both common characteristics of too little management, micromanagement, however, may instead ensue. Preventatives include clear delegation, a well defined goal, and a firm grasp of constraints and clarify].[
There are multiple potential effects from micromanagement, which include failure to meet goals, loss of the "big picture", lack of trust, employee disenchantment or disengagement, and an erosion of creativity and initiative in the workforce - any combination of which can lead to a hostile work environment.
A pattern of micromanagement suggests to subordinates that a manager does not trust their work or judgment, which can lead to individual or workforce disengagement and other forms of a dysfunctional workplace. Disengaged employees invest time, but not effort or creativity, in their assignments. The effects of this phenomenon are worse in situations where work is passed from one specialized employee to another. In such a situation, apathy among upstream employees affects not only their own productivity but that of their downstream colleagues.