The boss, Walter explains, didn't believe that his young hire's output was ready for prime time, and therefore he buffed, polished, and prettied up the work before passing it upstairs. There's a thin line between mentoring and micromanaging, and sometimes the line just may be invisible. Adds Walter: "As I got better in my job performance, he loosened the reins; he backed off and gave me more freedom." A quarter-century later, Walter has risen high up the career ladder, but, he says, "that experience shaped me as a manager." He says he'll sit down with fresh hires and tell them, "I don't want you to make mistakes, but if you do, part of my job is to correct them." That, he says, isn't micromanaging - it's putting out quality work. Period.

Do the math: If more than three-quarters of employees complain that they are micromanaged, that means a whole lot of bosses are guilty as charged. What about you?

As a micromanagement expert, Chambers regularly grills bosses, and his first question is: Do you allow others to influence how things are done?

If your answer is that you provide subordinates with step-by-step instructions even for routine jobs, move on to question two: Does everything have to be done your way?

Say yes and here's the last question: How often do you tell people to rework a report before you approve it? If the answer is "always," guess what? You are a micromanager.

Is there a cure? Career coach Les McKeown, who often counsels micromanagers, says those who want to change usually can. He offers two tough steps to help change things: Get a buddy­ to be your reality check and sounding board. Somebody you can ask, “When I did this, was I micromanaging? What should I have done?” This could be a coach or even a peer. The idea is to gain an outside perspective on one’s management style. Step two is tougher: “Ask the people you manage for help,” says McKeown. “This is the hardest step for a micromanager, but it’s critical.” Tell them, “Yes, I’ve been bad … but with your help, we’ll all enjoy work more.” When they catch you micromanaging, ask them to call you on it. “This is a very powerful way to get progress quickly,” says McKeown. “It produces a powerful bond.”