I was recently asked to consult with a manager at a small firm re: the management style of the CEO. The manager was concerned about the number of resignations at the firm. In each case he believed the reason for the departures was the management style of the CEO. I asked him to describe the work environment and the relationship of the management team with the CEO. It was quickly apparent that the CEO was an extreme micro-manager. We then discussed the challenges of working for a micro-manager.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines micro-management as “management with excessive control or attention to details”. The key word in the definition is “excessive”. Micro-managers become concerned about issues well below their pay grade and typically have little to no trust in the people responsible for handling those details. They immerse themselves in munitiae and as a result lose perspective on the big picture. They closely control all those who report to them as well as workers who do not report directly to them thus destroying personal initiative and any sense of self-worth in addition to their damage to the organization chart. They avoid delegation of even the smallest tasks and control all decisions. Additionally they require inordinate amounts of feedback.

Micro-managers assign blame to others for any failures in the business despite the fact they control the entire process and others are usually just following their directives. When things go well they take all the credit. However, outcomes appear to be of less importance to them than control. Bad outcomes can be blamed on others. The process created by micro-managers is typically slow and tedious with decisions delayed resulting in overtime, increased costs and plenty of tension. Members of a team often find themselves working in polar opposite directions under a micro-manager because goals and objectives become murky and confused.

Micro-managers want input that agrees with them. They do not tolerate criticism or opposing points of view. In my book “Theory You” I dedicated a chapter to micro-managers and pointed out that good managers value input and listen to the people in the organization. Good managers have self-confidence and work hard to build confidence and trust in their team. Good managers work hard to stay out in front of the team focusing on the future and longer term goals and objectives. Micro-managers remain focused on the short term.

Most micro-managers do not view themselves as micro-managers. They also fail to understand the havoc they create in the organization. Thus, when people leave they view themselves as blameless.

The advice I gave to the person who approached me re: this situation was difficult for him to accept. I advised him it was potentially a big mistake to approach the CEO and try to discuss either the large number of resignations or her management style. If he felt he could not work under her then he should seek employment elsewhere as had the previous managers who had left the organization. He was amazed that a number of the people who had left had accepted positions that paid less than what they had earned in his organization. I told him a number of things are more important than money. Self-worth trumps money in most cases.

He asked why the board of directors would tolerate all the resignations. In discussion I learned the organization was profitable and hitting profit goals. I told him that in my experience unless a person well known to the board and respected by the board left the company the issue would continue to be ignored by the board since the organization was profitable. He believed his departure might be that trigger to the board and I reminded him that his resignation would help the next person but not him.

In my experience micro-managers are bosses but not managers. Micro-managers very often produce acceptable results. The key question: what could be achieved by a good manager in the same situation and position? That is a question the board should address. And boards should address that question before their management team has left for greener pastures.