Micro-Managing, or Micro-Meddling??

I’ve recently had a couple of clients resort to “micromanagement” during some tough economic times. I know these executives; they are smart, on-the-ball, and savvy about their business and their people. My conversations with them surrounded the dangers of that micromanagement, and why that might be the precisely wrong move.

The dangers to me are straightforward: in times of economic scrutiny, we need employees to be thinking MORE, not less. A controlling environment may aid in the immediate task at hand, but from a downside, it also:

1. Limits an employee’s growth, and subsequently their inherent ability to “do more (presumably ‘with less’).”

2. Micro-managing, to be effective, consumes an inordinate amount of management’s time; effectively empowered employees (don’t get lost w/the fad word, just the concept) free up a manager’s time to think and contribute — presumably at a higher level of value.

3. Micro-managing frequently over-tasks managers unaccustomed to it. In an effort to “touch” everything, they become micro-MEDDLERS instead, interjecting just enough to cause chaos and confusion, then flitting off to the next victim.

Counter-intuitively, micromanaging provides less reaction to turbulent times instead of more, burns out managers, and frustrates employees.Better to simply constrict existing parameters at some reasonable level, such as spending levels and authorities, and micro-manage by exception in those few areas (or with those few people) who need it.

I can tell you with certainty that managers prone to micromanaging anyway will feel vindicated, and that “this is THEIR time” to shine. It’s not… quite the opposite.


Kevin Berchelmann


  1. says

    Your reply to my comment met the “balloon joke” definition for a manager (or a management consultant) http://www.ahajokes.com/bus161.html

    None of your clients have the time to read the entire “Set Up to Fail” book.

    The original magazine article is posted online at:
    (A related article is on the author’s web site at:

    Good companies are destroyed the same way they are built – one career at a time.

  2. says

    Richard, strangely enough, I know the work from Manzoni and Barsoux of which you speak… they also wrote a book, if memory serves. I met them a few years prior at INSEAD.

    Simma, if we can get our arms around “micro-meddling,” it becomes more insiduous than “micro-managing.”


  3. says

    great blog entry. I think that micro-meddling is an apt description. Managers at all levels need to become aware of how it negatively affects organizational performance.

    Simma Lieberman

  4. says

    Micro-meddling of course, usually due to a breakdown in communications.

    One of the most horrifying examples of this is the infamous “Set-Up-To-Fail Syndrome”. Ten years ago Manzoni and Barsoux brilliantly described the script for it on pages 104 and 105 of the April-May 1998 issue of the Harvard Business Review. They used just eight frames of wonderful cartoons by Sidney Harris.

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