Coping with Corona: pulling the micro-management plug

Coping with Corona: pulling the micro-management plug

01 May 2020
Gerrit Sarens
Gerrit Sarens
  • This Corona pandemic pushed many of us to work remote. It made me rethink leadership, collaboration and coaching. As I stated in my previous article, the new normal will be more remote, more flexible and more trust-based. It results in pulling the micro-management plug. As precisely that tickled the readers’ sensitive strings, I’d like to elaborate this a bit more.

  • Losing control brings stress. Micro-management is an anti-stress mechanism.

  • The current outbreak is not easy to deal with mentally. The essence can be traced back to losing control. We’re not in control. Nature is. And that creates stress, which, in turn, triggers micro-management. Let’s dig a little deeper into the underlying fears that create stress and lead to a micro-management style.

  • Stress is a symptom of underlying fear.

  • If you want to transform your management style, you must work on the triggers of that functioning. As long as you don’t tackle the fears, your style will not change. Identifying your triggers isn’t easy and is self-confronting. But what are the main anxieties that make micromanagement arise?

  • Typical fears we know that result in micro-management are:

    • Fear of failure. The “I will disappoint my superior” - syndrome
    • Fear of rejection. The “I will get fired” - syndrome
    • Fear of being disliked. The “my manager will not like me”- syndrome
    • Fear of others. The “I don’t want to be worse than others”- syndrome
    • Fear of being stuck. The “I don’t want to admit I don’t know what to do”-syndrome
    • Fear of the unknown. The “what will happen if I let go”-syndrome

    The above fears are often the main triggers of going into micromanagement. Figure out what your personal triggers are. An excellent exercise and starting point is to write down typical situations in which you switch to micromanagement mode. For each situation, reflect on your underlying worries that push you into micromanagement.

  • Don’t just reflect about it yourself. Ask your team.

  • Of course, self-reflection is crucial. But it’s equally important to engage your team. It will give you the mirror you’re looking for. And the very fact that you ask for feedback is an essential first step in overcoming micromanagement. It shows your team members you are aware of the problem. Daring to be vulnerable is a sign of good leadership. You will probably notice that this step means a lot to them and provides you with a dozen insights.

Pain points of the manager

Your managers are

  • new in this role


    • lack self-confidence
    • don’t know how to go from being a colleague to being a boss
    • need to loosen up on the command & control leadership style
    • must let go of the (technical) expert status
    • cannot give or accept constructive feedback
    • feel pressure to perform as manager
    • have difficulty building relationships
    • want to be liked by everyone or want to be the ‘bad boss’
    • play the hero
  • are struggling


    • stay too involved in operations
    • have trouble prioritizing
    • cannot delegate
    • fear conflict situations
    • disconnect from the team
    • flawed strategical thinking
    • do not relate to higher management
    • lack clear communication skills
    • remain not self-aware
    • avoid difficult conversations
    • miss political antennas
    • ...
  • capable of more


    • need mental preparation as successor
    • need to be able to lead big changes ahead
    • need to learn to be emotionally resilient and in control
    • need to learn to make big decisions fast without all the information
    • must become persuasive presenters
    • need to learn how to cultivate their own personal brand
    • need to learn how to lead by example
    • manage by trust, not by fear
    • need to overly develop empathy
    • ...
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