Are Micromanagers Lazy?

Jake Tuber made an interesting comparison in a newsletter this week:

Helicopter parenting and micromanagement share striking similarities. Just like helicopter parents, micromanagers prefer to exert control rather than invest time and energy into developing their team members’ skills. For instance, a micromanaging boss may choose to revise every report themselves instead of providing constructive feedback and guidance to their team. While this approach may seem like a display of diligence, it’s actually a form of laziness, as it takes more effort to empower employees and teach them to excel independently.

I hadn’t thought much about the helicopter parenting trend as it compares to micromanagement, but I think he’s on to something here. Both are, to some extent, the easiest option. You don’t have to spend a lot of time figuring out how to develop the people in your care or what outcomes to measure, you just do it all yourself. I can see why Jake thinks of this as being lazy, at least from the perspective of being intellectually lazy – avoiding the more difficult decisions.

Personally, I wouldn’t use the term lazy. I don’t think they are just being lazy, I think parents and managers default to this approach because they don’t know any better. They haven’t been given clear direction on how to parent or manage, and they’ve been overwhelmed with the variety and often conflicting information they can get. Without clarity, they’ve defaulted to the simplest solution – do it yourself.

For managers, that looks a lot like Jake describes it. Fixing the work of your reports instead of providing feedback, reminding them repeatedly about deadlines, needing to see them in the office working, being CC’d on every email, and generally just looking over their shoulder at every turn. I don’t know many managers who want to work that way, yet we all know there are plenty of managers who do. As I said earlier, I don’t think they want to be lazy, I think they lack the proper training and clarity about managing. How much better could they be, and in turn the people who report to them be, if our organizations provided that?

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