The label “Micro-manager” is really a nice way of saying “Control Freak”. We all know what it feels like to have someone hover over us, whether it is a parent, a boss, a manager or a spouse. It doesn’t feel good. The message that it conveys is clear “I don’t trust your judgment, your willingness, or your ability to gets things accomplished without my interference.”
Although some people may need to step up their level of responsibility and commitment in order to be acceptable self-managers, many others will shrink if they encounter this kind of external pressure. Their creativity and productivity may actually suffer because they feel constricted by an over-control of their person-hood.
What motivates a person to become a control freak?
One possibility is anxiety. They have an internal pressure to achieve a certain goal, and believe that people have the power to block that goal. So they feel they must control people at a detailed level in order to ensure success. When they encounter resistance, which is inevitable, it just reinforces their need to control, which triggers further resistance. A negative cycle has been established.
Another possibility is a need for significance. If people can do their job without me interfering, does that mean that I am unnecessary? Will I then micromanage to prove that I am valuable? Will my insecurity lead to interpersonal conflict and perhaps relational chaos?
Thirdly, am I a narcissist? Do I believe that I know better and therefore people need to pay attention to me? This personality type will hold contempt for any person who does not acknowledge the superiority of their abilities and follow their minute instructions without question. A hostile narcissist will have few friends. A nice narcissist may not have many intimate friends.
The solution is to manage agreements, not people. If you have clear agreements, then you can have clear expectations instead of unspoken or hopeful ones. Managing the agreement means talking about the possible blocks to achieving the desired goal, removing them when discovered, and then letting go of the process.
What’s important here is first being a clear communicator. Can you get your message across? Also, it is not enough to state what you want. You must also have a concrete commitment from the other person. Just because you say it, does not mean it is agreed upon. Silence from the other person does not mean tacit approval or agreement. It may actually mean they do not agree, or are thinking about it.
If you are a micro-manager, it will be hard to let go of control. You will likely need to learn to control your inner conversation and inner conflict by offering grace to yourself first. But you will enjoy better and deeper relationships if you can.