The Perils of Micro-Managing | RefinerLink

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The Perils of Micro-Managing

By Steve Pagani

Dec 12, 2016

Why micro-managing is the worst style of leadership.


Yes, it’s that dreaded word. Micro-manager. It’s that person no one wants to work for, no one wants to be, yet no one can admit they are. So how exactly can you identify if you’re a micro-manager and why is it really so bad?


There’s a fairly simple way to determine if you’re a micro-manager. Answer this question… Do you tell your people what

to do or how to do it? If you’re getting involved in the how, chances are you’re micromanaging to some extent.

I once had a supervisor that asked me to put together a Powerpoint presentation on a topic. Once that presentation was complete we sat down and reviewed the content. The adjustments we made involved everything from re-phrasing sentences to changing the formatting of the text. Yet, nothing on the actual subject matter.


I’ve also had supervisors that wanted to review every little decision that I made. They’d ask the generic questions about alternatives considered, and weighing benefits and cost as if they were foreign concepts to me.


In both those cases, I felt dissatisfied with my work and didn’t have the same sense of ownership over my work. As engineers, most of us want our work to mean something. We want to feel valuable and know that we’re contributing. And a micro-manager works against all those objectives.


If you’re going to ask your people to work on something, have a little bit of trust. Let them work towards a final product and own in. The more involved you get in sculpting the final result, the less ownership your people will take.

So how often do you ask for a final product and not get involved until it’s truly finished? If the answer is never, it may be time to give it a try.

Building ownership is critical to developing a good workforce, especially in a refinery.

It’s important to let your people make their own decisions and drive their groups. If you’re  getting involved in all aspects of the business or asking to review all decisions before they’re made, you’re not only limiting your people but you’re increasing your own workload.


Remember your role as a supervisor. It is to set goals and expectations, develop your people, remove obstacles, provide feedback, and set the long term vision for your organization. If you do that well, you won’t need to get involved in the how… and you can keep focusing on the what.


And if you’re not sure where to start, here’s a list of items you can focus on instead of trying to come up with the solution yourself.


  • Define Success
  • Ask about challenges that may impede path to success
  • Help remove obstacles along the way
  • Set priorities between competing projects or objectives
  • Check on status of work
  • Set intermediate checkpoints
  • Recognize progress towards goal
  • Hold people accountable
  • Make yourself available and approachable
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