Leaders Who Micro-Manage are Over-Functioning

by Jennifer Miller on January 6, 2016

in Leadership, Uncategorized

breaking the chains of micro-managingNobody likes to be micro-managed. Yet nearly all of us have felt the intense pressure of a manager who was too involved in the minutiae of our daily work lives. There are many reasons why leaders micro-manage. In some cases, a hands-on approach actually has benefits, according to this BBC article by Sydney Finkelstein.

Leaders micro-manage because they have concerns that employees will make a mistake or can’t do the job properly. This is true with new employees or when a new policy or system is introduced. It makes sense for leaders to stay involved with day-to-day operations while employees are learning.

Yet some leaders have a hard time pulling away after the initial learning curve. Or they simply can’t accept a way of accomplishing a task that’s different than their own way. What’s going on with that? It might be that the manager is “over-functioning.”

If a manager:

  1. Gives advice when none has been requested.
  2. Makes corrections to procedures that are different than theirs, yet still within company guidelines.
  3. Worries excessively about how employees will react.
  4. Avoids taking necessary action because he or she thinks it will upset an employee.
  5. Steps in to “help” when it wasn’t requested, then is upset when people seem “ungrateful.”
  6. Rushes in to “fix” things at the first sign of trouble.

He or she is “over-functioning.”

I first learned the term “over-functioning” from Shelley Row, the author of Think Less, Live More: Lessons from a Recovering Over-Thinker. It’s a term that’s often used to discuss relationship dynamics in families. (You can see an excellent overview of the terms over- and under-functioning here.) In the business world, we often call leaders who over-function “micromanagers.”

Because micromanagement has such a negative connection, I was intrigued by the idea of over-functioning because it has a more neutral sound to it. In Row’s definition, one person in a relationship “over functions” by assuming too much responsibility and the other person therefore assumes less responsibility and “under-functions.” In a management context, leaders over-function because they perceive that their team member(s) are not able or responsible enough without the leader’s assistance or intervention.

According to Row, a former transportation executive, “Over-functioning happens all the time, because [at work] we are constantly in systems with other people. If you don’t clearly understand where your responsibility ends and others’ begins, it is very easy to cross over into someone else’s responsibility. It’s possible for [leaders] to take over a role that was not theirs to take over.”

Are you doing too much for your staff? It’s possible. Take a look at the six questions above. If any of these sound familiar, it’s time to take a step back and decide: am I taking on too much of the responsibility for this situation?

If you agree that you have overstepped your boundaries, then practice saying these words the next time you’re tempted to rush in to direct, fix or make a change: “My team members have this handled. I am here if they need assistance, and that is all I need to do for now.”


Disclosure: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you click the link a make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. Please know that I only mention items that I think my readers will find value in. However, you should make the final decision as to what is “valuable” to you.

Image credit: Copyright : iqoncept

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