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Micro vs Macro Managers: Who is better to work for?

Macro and micro managers are generally maligned. In extreme cases the former give staff little support while the latter sit constantly on their shoulder, but both types of manager have great attributes.

What is micro management?

A micro manager asks questions around deadlines, involves the team in the project’s progress and encourages feedback.

What is macro management?

A macro manager looks at team members’ career aspirations, personal and role development skills and general happiness and fulfilment. The trick is to incorporate the best of both.


Hannah Mason* was always happy when her former manager was sick. There was no malicious intent; it’s just that her manager’s absence always signalled a highly productive day. “It meant I could get a few things done without all the hold ups,” says Mason.

The delays Mason speaks of were the result of micro management, the much maligned management style that, when taken to the extreme, can jeopardise workplace culture, reducing efficiency and employee satisfaction.

Mason was employed in a communications role within a department of the Victorian public service. Part of her job included editing a quarterly magazine. “My manager would insist on daily progress updates even though the magazine was published four times a year. She wanted everyone in the team to copy her in on all emails. I felt like she didn’t trust us. On a superficial level she’d encourage input and ideas but she never included them in the final decision. I just put it down to her being a highly anxious person, but others in the team were really bothered by it. On a few occasions there were tears.”

Nervously sitting on the shoulder of employees, micro managers are seen as overly involved in day-to-day operational tasks, which can convey a lack of trust in people’s ability to do the job.

“There is a very negative association with the expression ‘micro management’,” says Stephanie Thompson, principal corporate psychologist with Sydney-based consultancy Insight Matters. “It tends to convey a sense of interference, maybe even bullying, and just a rather unhealthy level of perfectionistic paranoia.”

It tends to convey a sense of interference, maybe even bullying, and just a rather unhealthy level of perfectionistic paranoia.


Micro managers may be problematic, but their polar opposite, macro managers, also receive a bad rap. While micro managers are viewed as being too hands on, macro managers are often criticised for being so hands off that their expectations are vaguely communicated. They are seen to offer little in the way of mentorship and their absence can border on neglect.

James O’Brian* has had the experience of working for a macro manager. A marketing manager for an IT company, O’Brian would struggle to get time in his manager’s diary and felt that he and his team were not a priority.

“I know that her expectation was that we were all fine and capable and didn’t need help, but if something were to go wrong, you don’t really feel that it’s a defence to say ‘well, you weren’t around for me to seek guidance’. It’s a balance between getting the time you need with them and meeting the expectations that they have of your performance,” he says.

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