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The Pitfalls of Micromanagement | Embrace Empowerment and Trust


I've always been a fan of Will Larson. His principles, mindfulness, and approach to engineering leadership have consistently elevated my perspective and intentions with management and engineering leadership. In February of 2023, Will posted an article titled "Better to micromanage than be disengaged." In this article, he presented the idea that micromanagement is a preferable managerial style to being disengaged. Reading the title, I was intrigued but also unsettled. Remembering my own experiences with micromanagement, I couldn't help but have a bias for disagreement.

Once, a manager told me they needed me "to crack the whip" on my direct reports. We've all had those experiences that misalign with our values, principles, and overall approach to humanity, and I'm sure they've left a lasting impact and lousy taste in your mouth. Like most, we all have some memory of that "bad manager," typically, it revolves around micromanagement. Nonetheless, I wanted to read the article with an open mind and consider a different perspective.

I want to propose and explore an alternative perspective on managing and managing upwards. Each situation will be unique, and I encourage all readers to approach their situation subjectively and with an open mind. Nonetheless, here are some additional considerations for managing your manager.

While Will argues that micromanagement leads to progress, it is essential to counter this perspective and shed light on the detrimental effects of such an approach on an organization, its employees, and its overall success.

Enforcing Worse Principles Throughout the Organization

Micromanagement is a flawed approach that trickles down throughout an organization, reinforcing a culture of control, lack of trust and stifled creativity. When executives engage in micromanagement, they inadvertently send a message to their teams that they are incapable of making decisions on their own. This creates a culture where employees feel undervalued and unmotivated, as their ideas and expertise should be more trusted and appreciated.

In contrast, a manager who embraces empowerment and trust fosters a positive work environment, encouraging employees to take ownership of their responsibilities. This enables the team to flourish, promotes innovation, and facilitates better decision-making at all levels of the organization.

Potential Misalignment of Interests and Skillsets

Micromanagement can lead to a misalignment of interests and skillsets within the organization. When decisions are made solely by a micromanager, they may need to align with the organization's broader goals, vision, and direct report. Furthermore, micromanagers may need to comprehensively understand each team member's strengths and weaknesses, leading to tasks being assigned to the wrong individuals.

On the other hand, a manager who is engaged and aware of their team's capabilities can better align tasks with each employee's strengths. This ensures that the right people work on suitable projects, maximizing efficiency and overall success.

The Dangers of Being Boxed In

One of the most significant dangers of micromanagement is the risk of employees feeling boxed in and unable to express their full potential. Micromanagers dictate every project step, leaving little room for creativity and personal growth. This oppressive environment can lead to burnout, frustration, and a high turnover rate as talented individuals seek more fulfilling opportunities elsewhere.

A disengaged manager allows employees to take the lead and make decisions based on their expertise and experience. This should empower individuals to grow, innovate, and contribute meaningfully to the organization.

"Either you manage me or I manage you. Which would you prefer?" -Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, founder, and chairman of Joyus

I believe in giving people a lot of autonomy, allowing them to explore their capabilities and see what they can achieve. However, I also possess a keen eye for detail. If someone commits to a particular task but fails to follow through, I become attentive to understand why. In such cases, I need to intervene and pull back on that autonomy. When I micromanage someone's time, it becomes counterproductive for both of us. Micromanagement restricts their creativity and potential, hindering my ability to be at my best. Instead, I prefer a collaborative approach where I combine my vision with theirs. When two perspectives come together, the outcome is richer and more empowering for both parties. Nevertheless, if someone comes without a clear vision, I can't help but impose my own, which is not ideal. I want to foster an environment where individuals feel empowered to contribute their concepts and ideas rather than being subjected to mine without any opportunity for growth or creativity.

Instead of fearing their team members' autonomy, managers should embrace it. When employees can manage their work and set expectations, they feel empowered and more invested in their tasks. This, in turn, leads to increased productivity, creativity, and job satisfaction.


In conclusion, the idea that micromanagement is a better alternative to disengagement is misguided. While disengagement can also harm an organization, embracing micromanagement is not the solution. A more effective approach is to foster a culture of empowerment, trust, and open communication. When managers allow their team members to manage upwards, set expectations, and take ownership of their work, the organization benefits from increased creativity, better decision-making, and a more engaged and motivated workforce. Let us move away from the pitfalls of micromanagement and embrace a leadership style that enables growth and success for both individuals and the organization.