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Are You A Micromanager Or A Bully?

“Sure, not everybody loves me. But a micromanager? Nah. I couldn't possibly be that. I'm not a micromanager. I don't hover over people."

It’s easy for a leader to view themselves in a highly positive light, especially if they haven’t received a great deal of honest feedback from others or they haven’t held a mirror up to themselves recently.

However, when I ask a lot of questions of them in person, many leaders get in a defensive position in a hurry: "Why are you asking me so many questions about what I do and how I do it?” Now, all I’m trying to do is understand what they do – not aiming to question their every move. The fact is, there are many leaders who fall into one of two categories that they don’t want to belong to for very long: The Micromanager or The Bully.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these and if one of the two sounds familiar, we’ll also explore how you can begin to dig yourself out of that position for the well-being of yourself, your team and your culture overall.

The Micromanager

The Micromanager doesn't let employees breathe. She smothers them. He won’t let them make a move without his say-so. Sure, they may be doing valuable work, but it rarely feels like it because everything has to be checked by The Micromanager.

The Micromanager is not an engaging leader and typically keeps everything close to his vest. That’s less of a confidentiality issue and much more of an insecurity issue. She doesn't want people to get a leg up on her. She’s almost paranoid. She keeps others down by starving them of information because it diminishes their importance or power base.

Believe it or not, however, the Micromanager is sometimes a perfectly well-meaning person rather than a jerk. And that well-meaning person could say, “You know what? I’m just going to do this myself," without realizing they’re being a Micromanager at all. He can simply be a very conscientious person who says, “We can't have a mistake. I'm going to tell you exactly how to do it because I want it done a certain way and here’s the way I want it done.”

Or, it could be that he’s asking all those questions because that’s the way he learns best. They aren’t challenging what you’re doing or how you’re getting it done, rather they are just trying to understand things. This behavior is often displayed by a leader who is new to the company or department.

Or, maybe you’re not proactively keeping them informed about what’s going on and to avoid being surprised, The Micromanager finds it necessary to ask you about the things he needs to know about. If you feel you don’t have to keep your boss informed because of your level in the organization, you need to put that idea of yours in the dustbin.

The Bully

In The Bully, you have someone who is not a transparent communicator, which presents a different problem. He doesn’t tell his employees anything. He keeps them in the dark and only gives them tasks that are beneath what they’re capable of doing. He’s not very motivating. The Bully has a lot of the same characteristics of the Micromanager in that he can hover and constantly make others feel like they aren’t living up to his expectations.

The Bully is going to exert his power over employees and doesn’t care how it looks. This could stem from insecurity or jealousy. He could remember all the tough experiences he went through coming up through the ranks and want to dish out the same treatment to his employees – or worse. But in this case, it’s not to make his team better. It’s to be hard on them for the sake of doing so. In contrast, the Micromanager may not be that intentional in demonstrating his ranking in the universe.

Bullies are fairly easy to identify in organizations. The have unusually high turnover in their departments. They are quick to place blame for mistakes and poor performance rather than accept responsibility for the results. They tend to be political, adept at manipulating situations to their advantage and effective at getting people to bend to their demands. They are also usually very good at what they do from a technical perspective. This is because if they weren’t, their behavior wouldn’t be tolerated.

Whether a leader is more of a Micromanager or a Bully, you can be sure that it’s only a matter of time before resentment appears in the environment among employees. And really, why wouldn’t there be? If you were an emerging leader with aspirations for making an impact, would you enjoy continuously being in the dark or given assignments beneath your capabilities?

Do you represent one of these two profiles? Well, ask yourself how often you:

  • Say “Oh, forget it. I'll just do it myself."

  • Are afraid to delegate.

  • Are afraid to tell your employees too much.

  • Frown upon an employee being proactive on something without telling you.

Be honest with yourself. If you believe your behaviors align those of a Micromanager or a Bully, don’t despair. It’s still possible to turn things around, even if it feels like a bucket of cold water splashed on you right now with that realization.

Real Change Starts With Unfiltered Feedback

We won’t lie – hearing feedback from others isn’t necessarily easy to take. But would you rather pretend these sentiments about you don’t exist? It doesn’t mean that you will take every ounce of feedback from your people as things in your behavior to change, but if you are seeing a pattern, that raises a flag that’s worth addressing now. That’s only going to make you a better leader.

For instance, let’s say you’re a Bully who lacks transparency with your employees. An important step toward breaking down these walls you’ve built up between yourself and your people is to ask them how they see you.

Now you need the tools to make this feedback possible. If you use one of our 360 feedback tools at Leading With Courage Academy, you’re going to see how you were rated by your own people. There’s a misconception that asking for feedback means you have to ask every employee what they think of you. Not so. We suggest starting with the people closest to you, which hopefully might make the experience a bit smoother. You don’t need any more than three to six people to rate you. Why this number? Most days, you're dealing with three to six people at all times and these core people know you better than anybody. Therefore, they're probably not afraid to say something that may represent a suggestion for making change.

In our follow-up post, we’ll speak to how you can now empower your team while further bridging the gaps in your existing relationships. In doing so, the image of you as a Micromanager or Bully will not only begin to melt away but you’ll also find this transformation could have wonderful implications for having a healthier culture and reaching your goals. If that’s something you’re struggling with right now, don’t wait another day to contact us. Call Leading With Courage Academy at 312.827.2643 or email us at

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