Brief 

Micromanaging leaders may be “over-functioning” if they are jumping in to help without being asked, feel a need to do things their way or overworry about employee reactions, writes Jennifer V. Miller. “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,” she writes.

 

Insight

Nobody 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.

Why Do Leaders Micro-Manage?

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.”

Why Leaders Who Micro-Management Might Be 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.

 

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