Being a diligent project manager is a quality, just like being detail-oriented is an advantage in most professions. Over-diligence, just like perfectionism, is desirable in some situations, while in all others over-diligence becomes an obstacle in the way of getting things done.

Micromanaging means over-supervising each task that the team members need to complete, not delegating tasks, and, ultimately, not trusting the team members and their competencies.

Micromanaging is not bad essentially. It is just a very inefficient, and thus costly, way of managing people to achieve the desired outcome. Micromanagement is actually useful in some situations, such as when an inexperienced team member needs to complete a task that would be too risky to not complete perfectly, or when an employee has demonstrated that he or she cannot be trusted. Micromanagement, to some extent, may even be useful in the early stage of a project.

In most other situations, micromanagement frustrates everyone involved, and hurts the project. It steals the project manager’s time that should be spent on motivating the team and keeping the project on track. Micromanagement undermines the team’s morale and impedes the project’s progress.

Are you Micromanaging?

You are “guilty” of micromanaging, in situations when you should not, if you recognize yourself in all or some of the following statements:

  • You prefer to complete the team members’ tasks yourself because you are convinced you can do it better than they could.
  • You organize several-hour-long status report meetings more often than you need to.
  • You tell your team members all the tiny steps they need to take to complete their work.
  • You monitor everyone’s progress closely, but you are losing sight of the project’s progress.
  • You allow your team members to make no decisions.
  • You think perfectionism is the best quality of a project manager.

A micromanager lives with the illusion that he or she has increased control over the project by monitoring tasks closely, estimating the tasks at the highest level of detail, not empowering team members to make decisions, and solving everyone’s problems. But people want to make their own decisions and want to know that the project manager trusts their intellectual capacities.

Avoiding Micromanagement

To avoid micromanaging, keep in mind that you should manage the team and the project, not the tasks. Make sure you know the level of everyone’s skills and experience, that you assign the right tasks to the right people, and that you express your expectations clearly. Finally, let people earn your trust, and earn your team’s trust too.

Evading micromanagement is difficult if the project manager is a subject expert and convinced that he or she can do each task better than the team members could. But even though a project manager with domain knowledge or experience is often an advantage, becoming invasive and mixing the project manager job with that of a technical expert—unless the job specifically asks for that—can lead to micromanaging.

The project manager should not get lost in details, but invest energy in keeping the project on track. The right type of management eases the team’s job. Micromanagement only complicates it by creating conflicts and nourishing the lack of trust in a team.

About Cristina Neagu

Cristina Neagu, PhD, is a freelance editor and proofreader, and a Certified Associate in Project Management. She loves creative writing and managed a virtual team of writers for three years. When she's not working, she likes to read, spend time outdoors, and travel. Visit her website, www.languageediting.com, or contact her on LinkedIn.