An Essay on “The Micromanager”

The case study entitled “The Micromanager” was written by Bronwyn Fryer, Jim Goodnight, Mark Goulston, Craig Chappelow and Michael Lawrie for the Harvard Business Review journal last September 2004.

The fictional story was about a CEO of Retronics Corporation, George Latour. George believes that he is an exceptional leader and has a command to increase the company’s profits with a goal of excellence towards the software-engineering firm. Instructed by the board chairman, George hired a new marketing director, Shelley Stern, who, according to the chairman, only needs a bit of training in the software-engineering business. He does his best to bring Shelly up to date.

George has her sit in on developer meetings, forced her to do client calls, and even has the finance office explain the company’s financial affairs on her. George has tendencies to be meticulous, interfering with Shelly’s work, suppressing her creativity and suggesting his own “better” ideas. George also gives blind comments like when he said “Thanks, Shel. You’re the best” although Shelly felt down that time when George repelled her creativity. Doing all this made Shelley unhappy and never seems to show interest. In truth, she sees George’s management style as oppressive, making her awfully depressed. In the end, Shelly rebelled and accused George as a “micromanager”, while leaving George taken aback and could never believe what he heard.

Both parties, George and Shelly, have some problems in terms of belief and character. As CEO of the company, George carries a lot of pressure on his shoulders that is why he tries his best to excel the demands of the firm since the company is not in a good shape. He overexerts himself by interfering with the work of his subordinates. Clearly, he lacks some sensitivity and trust to his underlings and makes the work done by doing it himself. George is uncomfortable with his job and thinks that the blame could only point at him that’s why he is afraid to accept radical ideas from his underlings.

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Shelly, on the other hand, is quite new to the business. Although she has the qualifications for the job, she still needs a lot to learn and needs to adjust spontaneously according to the demands of the firm and her boss. Shelly believes that she has good qualities and gives overconfidence on her work. She also thinks that her ideas are excellent and needs to be praised not criticized, as done casually by George. As a newly hired employee, she is pressured to show her good qualities to her co-workers and leave a good impression as a marketing director. Shelly trusts herself and believes that she can stand on her own without the help or intervention of her superiors.

According to the U.S. Army Handbook of 1973, there are three general types of leadership. They are: (1) Authoritarian or autocratic style; (2) Participative or democratic style, and; (3) Delegative or free reign style. Authoritarian or autocratic style is basically used when the boss tells his subordinates what he wants done and how he wants the job done without getting the advice or opinion of his subordinates. An appropriate condition to use this style is when all the information to solve the problem is provided, there is time pressure, and the subordinates are well motivated to accept hasty commands.

Some narrow minded people think of this style as an excuse for yelling, using humiliating language, leading to threats and abuse of power. This is not the authoritarian style but rather an abusive, unethical style called “bossing people around”. Authoritarian style is normally used on rare situations when necessary. Participative or democratic style of leadership is preferred if time is more available and the leader wants to gain more commitment and motivation from the subordinates. This style includes the employees in on the decision making processes. However, knowledgeable and skillful employees should take part in the process and the leader affirms the final decision as a sign of authority.

Using this style does not show weakness of the leader but rather a sign of strength and trust that the employees will respect. In delegative or free reign style, the boss allows the employees to make their own decision. This style is used when employees are able fully capable of analyzing the situation and can determine what needs to be done to solve a certain problem. Although the employees had the power to make decisions, the responsibility and final decision always lie on the leader himself.

For a good leader to become more effective he should be able to use all three styles depending on the situation and the forces involved between him and his subordinates. The leader should know when and how to adjust to meet the demands of the firm as well as to maintain a good image to his employees. As for George Latour, he should improve on becoming a leader by listening more to develop more productive ideas and to have a mutual relationship to his followers. He should not concentrate himself on how his employee sees him but focus on maximizing the available resources to have better and productive planning.

The biggest problem for Shelly and George would be the lack of efficient communication. Most of the problems and conflicts that occur in a firm or organization are the direct result failure to communicate and misunderstanding. Faulty communication leads to confusion and can cause good plans to be unsuccessful. Communication is said to be the exchange of information or ideas from a sender to a receiver. (Communication and Leadership) Efficient communication happens if the receiver comprehends the information that the sender wanted to address. Open mindedness also plays a big part in communication. It sharpens the ability of the receiver to understand what the sender is saying thus making the communication process more efficient.

Good communication is also hard to attain especially when there are some barriers that prevent the sender and receiver to understand each other. Some of these said barriers of communication are: culture, beliefs, noise, physical and mental stresses, past experiences, and environmental factors such as bright lights, unnatural sights, unattractive person or any stimuli that can cause distraction. (Communication and Leadership)

For a good communication process to happen, both parties should overcome these barriers to have a more productive relationship with each other. In the case of George and Shelly, they must relieve themselves of the stresses that they carry so that they can communicate effectively. Shelly should exert herself on listening to suggestions and combining it with her creative ideas while George must also try to become more sensitive and to give more trust to his employees.


Bronwyn Fryer, J. G. (Sep 2004). The Micromanager. Harvard Business Review 8p, 2c, 4bw , p31-40, 8p, 2c, 4bw.

Communication and Leadership. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2007, from The Skagit Watershed Council Website:

Leadership Styles. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2007, from The Skagit Watershed Council Website :

United States Army Handbook. (1973).

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