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Are You a Micromanager? Why That’s Not a Good Thing


Nurse managers act as leaders, coordinators, caregivers, teachers, advocate and mentors.

They are responsible for everything from setting goals to assigning care. They measure outcomes, directing staff and ensuring quality. How do they do it all? But more importantly, are they doing more than they should be doing? If you're not delegating, you may be a micromanager.

5 troubling traits of a micromanager

Micromanagement has a negative connotation. A workplace that's micromanaged can have many problems, from employee unrest and job dissatisfaction to low morale, increased turnover, attrition, increased vacancy rates and more. Micromanaging is among the most damaging traits for an executive, according to a recent Forbes article. Let's take a look at why this is true.

  1. Micromanagers are obsessive when it comes to supervision. They check up on staff continually, critiquing or complaining about their performance and not allowing them to exercise initiative, work autonomously or be innovative. Rarely do they ask for their input or opinions, which can be demoralizing.

2. Micromanagers are controlling. Never fully satisfied with others' performances, they ask frequently for status reports and continually question what staff is doing. They're afraid to let people do things on their own, so they hover over them or often just take over the task at hand. 3. Micromanagers are not good at decision making, typically not reacting, giving advice or moving quickly enough on issues. Instead, they allow themselves to get lost in the weeds and lose sight of the real actions needed, which is not only hard on staff, but also a potential detriment to patient care.

4. Micromanagers are poor at priority setting. They tend to treat all tasks and assignments as if they're equally important, which can be confusing to staff and again dangerous to patient care outcomes.

5. Micromanagers are not good at delegation because they think they will "do it best," which can be a serious problem. Micromanagement isn't because of a manager's personality or leadership style, but a lack of understanding of the fundamentals of delegation, according to Harvard Business Review.

How managers morph into micromanagers

Depending on the amount of experience managers have and their leadership strengths and weaknesses, it's easy for some to fall into micromanagement. Nursing units are busy places. Overwhelmed with administrative work and staff and patient care issues, managers strive to get everything done in a safe and quality manner. Rather than staying focused on the big picture of managing the unit, they get involved in little things, "just to help out."

I think the old, well-known saying, "You can't see the forest for the trees," can be applied to many micromanagers.

Although their behaviors begin unwittingly in most cases, the outcome is micromanagers are spending more time looking at the trees to get little things done and losing sight of the big forest they're managing. It's easy to fall prey and it takes work to change.

Admitting you have a problem

If you're worried you may be a micromanager, there are things you can do. Refusing to recognize the signs and continuing certain behaviors will only lead to frustration for your staff. Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do you focus too much on incidentals and minutiae that others have been tasked with doing?
  • Are you likely to involve yourself in small issues and neglect the bigger, more important ones?
  • Do you find yourself stepping in a lot because you don't trust staff to do things as well as you?
  • Are you frequently dissatisfied with the patient care staff is giving or the outcomes of their care?
  • Do you find your staff members are too dependent on you, waiting for your direction?

According to advice from the Society for Human Resource Management, employees who work for micromanagers often believe they're not trusted or valued, which causes them to feel both disrespected and devalued. When they joined the organization, they were hired to do a certain job and believed their boss would be confident they'd do it. If the boss is a micromanager, they may no longer believe or feel they're important to the organization. If you think you might be a micromanager, look at how your management could be affecting staff, patients, your role and ultimately your career, and decide to do something about it. According to Harvard Business Review, steps that you can take to change your ways include introspection on why you became a micromanager, getting feedback from your team and beginning the process of building trust with your team. Your management style is up to you, and only you can change it. But the benefits to your team and your own workload are well worth the effort.  

Courses related to 'building management skills'

CE712: Managing Your Time (1 contact hr) Time management is a core skill of 21st century nurses. It's the key to improving outcomes, keeping patients safe, and reducing burnout. This module identifies strategies to help nurses be more productive, more efficient, and less stressed. It explores ways to improve nurses' ability to manage their time in their personal and work lives by exploring time-management barriers and identifying the strategies needed to overcome those barriers. The how to's of delegation, a complex skill that's central to timemanagement, is included. Nurses who gain control over how they manage their time boost their performance, gain a sense of satisfaction, and reduce their daily stress. CE736: Performance Management (1 contact hr) Organizations use performance management to set goals, monitor data and follow progress toward those goals. Performance management is meant to improve patient satisfaction and patient clinical outcomes, and to control the costs of providing care. Collected data are analyzed to determine how well an organization's processes are working. Once the data are analyzed, they are used to make informed decisions about a process. Performance management allows an organization to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of its operations and processes. It allows operational aspects that affect organizational goals to be reviewed, including service and unit-level functions, and even the performance of individual employees. This module informs nurses about the fundamental concepts of performance management in order for practice areas to gain the basic skills to develop a practical strategy for achieving its performance measurements. 60080: Learning to Lead (5 contact hrs) All nurses are leaders. They not only support patients in doing what they are unable to do for themselves, but they also manage their care and lead them toward a vision and personal goal of better health. Most nurses find themselves in a position to lead a group of colleagues in a team or on a patient care unit. The concepts in this course focus on the skills to manage the patient, as well as a staff caring for an entire group of patients. Implementing leadership and management strategies -- such as conflict resolution, interprofessional communication, coaching, delegation and assessment -- is outlined and demonstrated in case examples.