Hi all,

I am a high-C first-time manager supervising two temporary unpaid direct reports. One of the reasons is that my boss wanted me to gain managerial experience in a "safe" environment. However, she has indicated her concern that I might be micromanaging my team. I should note that she generally follows a very relaxed managerial style (eg, she never sets deadlines, refuses to help me clarify which things are urgent when I have too much on my plate) and is more interested in providing a vision than ensuring its execution.

My approach is as follows:

On their respective first days, I met with each employee and outlined the deliverables for which they will be responsible for. I shared with them the project plan which included milestones and due dates for the next two months. Typically, this took the shape of saying "the first draft is due on X, the second draft is due on Y, and the final version is due on Z". I also specified the kind of language and tone that each deliverable document should have (eg, keep it accessible, non-bureaucratic, avoid passive tense or "you must" statements).

Generally, this planning allows us to have review meetings every week to discuss progress, introduce adjustments where necessary, and share feedback - as well as talk about employees' interests and career aspirations. In short, my take on O3s.

Once the assignments are given and the planning shared, I never check on their work until the next review meeting - unless they have questions for me, which I am happy to address. I do tend to go through their submissions carefully and give detailed feedback on all aspects of the work - from the tone and the depth of content coverage to the relevance of images and illustrations used. I also informed my team that I need all work submitted to me by Friday COB, so that I can review it in detail over the weekend and we can have a productive meeting on Monday (I hate situations where a manager is handed a 50-page document an hour before the meeting and is expected to give feedback on it).

The only "commandment" I have issued is that I expect to be copied on all emails that go "upstairs". Recently, I left on a two-week vacation and intentionally did not check in on the work being done (although I was available to review e-mail submissions as they came in).

Does this sound micro managerial?


Smacquarrie's picture

Answer to your question: No.

I can see how a laid back manager, and many of your employees, may see this as micro management, but you are not writing their reports and preparing everything because you "know" they won't be as good as your own.
I take your actions as someone giving clear direction and the. Holdi g them accountable to them.
Once you get your directs to a level where they are producing consistantly, you could dial it back a notch if you want to see how much growing they have done. This could help. To identify new areas of growth and opportuninity for them.

My question back to you is:
Do you feel that your own work is suffering from taking time out to "correct" issues that come up with what your directs produce?


nkvd's picture

 Hi Mac,

Thanks a lot for your prompt reply and for the interesting question you posed. Indeed, my work is suffering, but usually not because of the time it takes to correct issues. In fact, issues are quite rare and when they do crop up, I prefer to correct a few ones and then send it back to them saying that this is how they need to fix up the rest of the problem. This allows me to provide guidance without doing all the work myself.

Generally, my work has suffered as a result of the following three factors:

1.  Doing my part on the project - there are some deliverables that only I can provide, so that requires me to roll up the sleeves and get down and dirty in the trenches. It's not something I can delegate as such tasks leverage my unique skills (e.g., I'm a very quick learner when it comes to IT solutions and can master new software in days)

2. Guidance and orientation - the organization we work for is a very unstructured one that does not map easily onto common corporate frames of reference. As such, I often allow my employees to spend more time with me talking through things that they observed and discussing hypothetical and conceptual questions, as I believe it will help them better understand the context they operate in.

3. Reviewing work in advance of meetings - I make it a matter of principle to review in detail the work that my team submits to me. As I see it, if someone takes time to do something I asked them to do, then I owe it to them to review in detail, instead of just providing superficial feedback and generalities.

In general, 1 and 2 are the biggest time sinks; actually correcting issues usually doesn't require a lot of time, and I always prefer to let the employee handle it themselves if at all possible.

jocadl's picture


your approach sounds perfectly reasonable to me. It appears properly balanced between giving trust (never checking on their work between review meetings) and exercising caution and control (sharing of the project plan and quality expectations, regular review meetings). That's how I'd like to work for you. No need for an identity crisis. Sounds good!

To share some perspective, here are some actual examples of behaviors from my previous managers where I felt "micro-managed" (and I'm almost 20 years on the job and have, at times, managed dozens of people on million-dollar budget projects):

  • asking to be cc-ed on EVERY e-mail I send
  • getting back to me with feedback on every 2nd e-mail I send ("I wouldn't have written it that way")
  • calling my cellphone, their first question being "where are you?" (when I was also managing relationships and might easily spend 50-80% of my time away from my desk, seeing contacts or in meetings)
  • desire to control -- and subsequent inability to delegate -- even the most basic administrative tasks (scheduling meetings, travel bookings, expense reports)
  • delegating tasks to produce document deliverables (e.g. a slide deck) without giving any indication of major "macro" factors like audience, expected volume (words/pages), tone, ...
  • at the same time, incredibly detailed feedback on the same document deliverable (e.g. the slide deck) -- fixing typos, twisting wordings (in a foreign language) -- while overlooking to review major "macro" factors like the clear purpose, the fit for the audience, consistent layout/formatting, ...

These may or may not be representative of all work environments, but based on my experience alone, THAT'S what I would call micro-managing.

Hope this helps, warm regards

JustHere's picture

 Jochen gave some very good examples.  Um, the reason why your boss might think it's micro managing is that they are unpaid direct reports (volunteers? interns?).  Depending on the shop and the expectations that were made to the direct reports when they joined, your boss may be expecting you to give them easier work.  There are many different types of micro managers, one type that people often forget is the "bottleneck".  It's the manager that always stalls you from moving forward for whatever reason.  It tends to be constant.  It's the type of environment that you know you can get something done properly in a short amount of time if only that boss would stop blocking you at every.step.of.the.way.

Hope that helps.

SuzanneB's picture


I wonder if this part may come off as micro-managing


3. Reviewing work in advance of meetings - I make it a matter of principle to   review in detail the work that my team submits to me. As I see it, if someone takes time to do something I asked them to do, then I owe it to them to review in detail, instead of just providing superficial feedback and generalities.


I'm not sure what kind of "in detail" feedback you are providing.  But if your feedback is of the nature of "i would do this instead of that (what you did)" instead of "that (what you did) causes confusion/is inaccurate/is not appropriate to the audience" then it could be seen as micromanaging.

When I give feedback on specific work - especially stuff like wordsmithing - I ALWAYS have to decide if they did it differently from what I would have done and that makes it somehow wrong or if it just makes it different;.  Different, but still correct, isn't wrong. And providing too much feedback on things that are just different than your preferred way can be seen as micromanaging.

nkvd's picture

Hi Suzanne,

First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to respond to both of my threads!

No, I intentionally avoid the "I would do this differently" feedback - the way I approach it is, the second I delegate work to someone, it will, by definition, be different from the way I would have done it. It follows that the only way to ensure that the work gets done the way I would have done it is to do so myself.

For example, in this particular case, I asked the team member in question to make the tone more conversation and engaging, instead of stuffy and bureaucratic. I pointed out two of three instances in the text of what I consider to be bureaucratic and made revisions to illustrate my point. However, the subsequent 95% of the revisions were made by the team member. In short, when it comes to wordsmithing, I give feedback on the tone and style, rather than the individual verbiage (e.g., I would never make a revision along the lines of "this sentence would sound better like this - please revise it.")

Other than tone and style, my "in-detail" feedback would consist of the following:

1. Pointing out that some areas are not as developed as they should be, or, equally, that a certain topic takes too much precedence in the chapter and should be brought in balance with the rest of the content

2. Use of visual illustrations - if I think an image or a graph is confusing and doesn't make sense, I will ask the team member to revise it for clarity

3. Missing logic - e.g., the document starts off making an argument but them doesn't follow it through to its conclusion.

4. Sequence - e.g., the document starts talking about what should logically be at the beginning towards the end

The only time when I - I hope - I genuinely micromanage a piece of writing (as in, literally taking the draft e-mail and editing sentence structure, turns of phrases, etc) is when we're looking at sending out a company-wide announcement that will be read worldwide.

If you can let me know whether the above sounds micromanagerial, I'd be very grateful.

SuzanneB's picture

NKVD... after reading through both of your posts and responses I suspect you have a communication issue and not a micro-managing issue.  You are clear that you are a high C.  This is extremely clear in your initial posts and your responses.  You have been thorough and explained things in a crisp, clear, decisive manner with lots of detail.  These are great qualities.  BUT... they can be misread by others - especially high-Is (which I suspect your boss may be). 

my suggestion is to focus on the casts that deal with DiSC.  Make your best assessment of your boss and directs styles and focus on how you can communicate with them. Focus on building the relationships, not the work.  The details of their work are important but if they are Is, your relationship with them is more important to them.

Those details that to you seem like logical, solid, actional discussion and feedback probably FEEL like micromanaging to an I or S. Not wrong - just different.

nkvd's picture

Hi Suzanne,

Thanks a lot for pointing out what I should have remembered - indeed, my boss is a high "I" (with an occasional "D" streak - which makes it interesting because she would sometimes tell me off about using the "how do you feel about" phrase, saying that here we're dealing with thoughts, not feelings).

I also re-took the DISC test a few days ago (the last time I took it was two years ago - before I had exposure to leading a team) and discovered that my D score has crept up by quite a bit - in fact, I was a high C and a moderately high D.

I'll try to focus more on building a good relationship with my boss - we used to have it back when I was still a very junior staff member and basically her word was divine law insofar as I was concerned. Upon reflection, we lost it as I became increasingly assertive about the way I wanted things done, which I think flies in the face of her "I" tendencies (I'm more concerned with getting things done than being liked, while she is all about maintaining a vibrant network, having alliances, and maintaining rapport - often at the expense of deadlines, execution and follow-through).

Thanks again for pointing this out - led to the mental equivalent of me slapping myself silly and going "duh" for not realizing this earlier.