How Not to Hire a Micro-Manager


Q: Our department of five used to be managed by a micromanager who thankfully is no longer here. Now we’re in the process of hiring a new manager and I’m on the selection committee. Which questions do you recommend asking so we make sure we don’t end up with –heaven forbid- another micromanager?

A: It sounds like your department experienced some of the damaging effects of micromanaging: lower morale , loss of trust and innovation, higher stress and turnover.

When employees feel like the manager is looking over their shoulder it makes them paranoid, second-guess themselves and it leads to dependent employees.

So we agree, micromanaging is bad.

As Steve Jobs said:  “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Regarding the interview questions, it would be reasonable to assume you could start with the predictable “How would you describe your management style?” But of course, a micromanager is not going to come out and tell you, “I’m a proud micromanager!”. In fact, they may not even be aware of it.

A better way to explore the topic is to dig back to their own real world experience and ask lots of follow-up questions. So it may sound like:

Tell me about a project where you had to lead different people.

How do you go about checking in on progress? How often do you get updates?

How do you communicate changes along the way? Deal with surprises?

Has something gone very wrong during a project? How did you handle it?

Do you give subordinates latitude to make their own decisions? What you want here is someone who has parameters, “decisions under $500 can be made”, “or as long as xyz is followed team members can do what they think best.”

How do you determine how often someone should check in with you?

How has your management style changed over the years? You want to hear some introspection here, growth, insights.

You get the idea. Generally, good managers give people guidelines/guardrails, and don’t need to be consulted as long as people stay inside those. Micromanagers have a need to know even small inconsequential details.

Lastly, I would not just rely on interview questions, I would also make sure I check references from previous subordinates. They would certainly know and be happy to tell you.

Originally posted on HRbox.


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