In 1960, micromanaging was called out in The Human Side of Enterprise, a management treatise by famed MIT Sloan professor Douglas McGregor. In it, he outlined two distinct leadership styles: the "Theory X" manager and the "Theory Y" manager. Theory X execs believed workers needed constant prodding to do their jobs, because humans are basically lazy and unmotivated.
Theory Y was liberating for bosses who had no interest in the in-your-face school of management. It said workers were inherently self-directed, so managers should focus on getting employees to commit to the organization's objectives. McGregor was all for Theory Y.
What Makes Them Tick:
Micromanaging comes naturally, says J. Keith Murnighan, a Northwestern University professor and author of Do Nothing! How to Stop Overmanaging and Become a Great Leader. Why? Hyperactivity. We evolved to be active beings, always hunting for food and avoiding predators. Thus, we have a hard time sitting back and directing others.
Is Micromanaging Really Bad?
It's inefficient, but the problem is deeper. "People react badly to being micromanaged," Murnighan explains. "If you want team members to be motivated, committed, and driven, looking over their shoulder all the time is not the way to get it." Murnighan recommends that micromanagers try to let go of one small project at a time.