Oh, the micromanager; hovering, peering over shoulders, ensuring perfection, checking, and double-checking everything! As a manager, you carry the weight of accountability for everything. So naturally, you might find yourself tempted to insert yourself into every corner of the workplace to ensure things get done correctly. After all, complete control seems like the ideal way to guarantee success, right?
Well, there are a few good reasons to micromanage, but there are also ample reasons why it’s not such a good idea. Let me share a real-life example that illustrates the impact of micromanaging and its consequences.
A Case of Micromanaging
In my workplace, we introduced a new program designed to help employees reach their sales targets. Managers were required to check in with every employee three times a day: in the morning for goal setting, in the afternoon for progress updates, and at the end of the day for achievement assessments. On top of that, we had a morning team meeting, end of the day team wrap up, coaching sessions, and a truckload of checklists.
The intention behind this program was to ensure that employees were clear about their daily goals and remained focused on the actions needed to achieve them. It had good intentions, but was the method truly effective?
How Employees Reacted: A Tale of Three Groups
Initially, as someone who never micromanaged, I assumed that everyone would feel suffocated and resent being under constant scrutiny. However, I quickly learned that every individual is unique, and their reactions varied. For simplicity, I’ll break it down into three groups: the high performers, the steady performers, and the work-in-progress employees.
High Performers: Quiet Resilience and Lingering Dissatisfaction
Some employees gracefully adapted to the changes and did what I asked without question. They quietly added a little extra time to their workday to accommodate the new requirements. However, others ranged from annoyed to resentful. Despite knowing it was a mandate and that I still trusted their capabilities, they felt their autonomy was compromised. A few expressed dissatisfaction with the unproductive nature of these activities. While they complied, their job satisfaction took a hit.
Steady Performers: Balancing Act and Unintended Consequences
Steady performers are the reliable pillars that hold the workplace together. They might need some guidance, but they are capable individuals who work hard and strive for success. For some of them, the increased micromanagement led to over-preparation for every meeting, which in turn reduced their overall productivity. On the other hand, some employees found the constant pressure too stressful and started avoiding me whenever they were falling short of targets.
Work-in-Progress Employees: A Necessary Evil with Limited Shelf Life
Micromanagement is often necessary for new or underperforming employees. Although I initially thought the program was excessive, I discovered its benefits for new hires. Consistent expectations and follow-up helped them get on the right track. However, for underperforming employees, progress was only evident when there was consistent follow-up. Whenever the micromanagement subsided, their results declined.
So, a few good things did come out of this micromanaging approach, but it also had its drawbacks. But hey, that’s work life, isn’t it? New programs get introduced, things change, and we all put up with them and carry on. It turned out okay. But is “okay” really what we aim for in a work environment?
Reasons Not to Micromanage: The Water Leak in Your Home
The full impact of micromanaging may not be immediately evident. People put up with a lot and soldier on. But it’s like a little water leak in your home: a trickle here, a water stain there, and before you know it, toxic mold starts to build up, and the walls are crumbling.
When you control everything, you strip away employees’ autonomy. As a leader, your primary role is to foster their growth. How will they grow if they’re not permitted to think and act for themselves?
Trust, Dignity, and Respect
Trust, dignity, and respect are fundamental needs for everyone. Micromanaging creates self-doubt about employees’ capabilities and hampers the development of a trusting and productive work environment.
Essentially, micromanagement results in everyone doing everything your way. But is your way truly the best? Team creativity flourishes when individuals contribute their unique perspectives and ideas.
Decline in Workplace Productivity
You might believe that checking everything leads to efficiency and fewer mistakes. However, micromanagement often causes bottlenecks because no one can act without your approval. To be efficient, people need the freedom to make errors, learn from them, and ultimately become more productive.
The Toll on Health and Job Satisfaction
Numerous studies have explored the connection between workplace stress, health, and job satisfaction. Responsibility and challenge alone do not create stress, but a lack of control and trust can lead to unhealthy stress levels.
Moreover, when employees are constantly micromanaged, they may choose to leave, resulting in frequent turnover that is both costly and disruptive. Alternatively, they may stay but become dissatisfied and bitter, merely ticking off another day on the calendar. In such cases, the walls are indeed crumbling.
What About the Manager?
How does micromanaging impact your leadership? Sure, having control over everything might feel comfortable, especially if you’re a perfectionist. However, there’s a tradeoff. You can either have a hand in everything, or you can focus on what truly matters and excel at that. Alternatively, you can attempt both, but be prepared to work endless hours and burn out. It’s worth stepping back, considering the big picture and the long term, and deciding which option is best for both you and your employees.
What About Your Personal Growth?
When you’re busy micromanaging, you hang out in your happy place, warm and comfortable. Does the thought of letting go of the reins scare you a little? If it does, that’s a great reason to give it a try.
Managing without Micromanaging
Have you ever had someone genuinely believe in you? Someone who trusted your capabilities, allowed you to make mistakes, and supported your growth? If you have, you know how impactful that can be. If not, how would you feel given the opportunity?
Manage the Individual
The very definition of “individual” reminds us that each person is distinct from a group or class. Therefore, managing people with broad strokes and treating them all the same is an oversight. Here are some general thoughts on managing employees based on their performance levels.
Top performers are capable, motivated individuals who consistently get the job done. Let them do their job and avoid unnecessary micromanagement. This doesn’t mean you ignore them. Keep the communication open, provide guidance, offer feedback, and inspect what you expect. Trust that they will excel, but don’t waste their time with excessive check-ins. Overmanaging may lead them to seek opportunities where they feel trusted and less suffocated.
Micromanaging your reliable and stable performers can hinder their growth. They are capable individuals who need to know that you trust them. Provide guidance, clarity, and feedback when necessary, but avoid constantly checking up on them. Give them the space to find their own way and maintain a sense of control over their work
Think of it this way: Imagine you are on a weight loss plan. You steadily plug away and are satisfied with your diet and overall health. Even though you know what you need to do, you struggle some days, slide back, and appreciate support and guidance, but you don’t need someone inspecting every meal and questioning your progress five times a day. If that were the case, you would feel somewhat beaten, have less control over how you achieve your weight loss goal, and a reduced chance of success.
Employees who are still developing or underperforming may require some extra oversight. However, this should be a temporary measure accompanied by a specific performance plan . Constant follow up may discourage them from thinking for themselves, as they know you’ll step in and fix everything. While it’s okay to provide extra support during the learning phase, ongoing micromanagement only enables poor performance. Redirect your focus to addressing the underlying performance issues instead of wasting time on someone who lacks the motivation to do a good job.
“Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.”Booker T. Washington
When your Boss is a Micromanager
If you find yourself working under a micromanager, don’t hesitate to take action. You could slip them this article anonymously, but that might not be the best approach. Still, it’s essential to prioritize your workplace satisfaction and well-being. If micromanagement is affecting your performance and stress levels, address the issue with tact and professionalism.
Certain situations may require oversight, but true leadership involves finding the right balance and avoiding micromanagement. Treat your employees as valuable, independent individuals. Remember, mistakes can be fixed, delete and undo buttons were made for a reason. Be clear in your expectations and outcomes, and let your employees find their own paths while supporting their efforts. Above all, care about their well-being, as they are the heart of your organization. Ask for their feedback, strive to manage yourself effectively, focus on true priorities, and resist the urge to micromanage. Becoming the best leader means empowering your employees to no longer need your constant presence.
So, let’s break free from the constraints of micromanagement and create an environment where trust, autonomy, and growth can thrive. Remember, the walls of success are built on the foundation of empowered individuals.
Do I frequently check on my team members’ progress and tasks, or do I provide them with the space to work independently and trust them to deliver results?
Do I often make decisions on behalf of my employees instead of empowering them to make their own choices? How can I strike a balance between providing guidance and allowing them to exercise their own judgment?
Do I feel the need to be involved in every aspect of my team’s work, or am I able to focus on higher-level priorities and trust that my team can handle the day-to-day operations effectively?
Have I considered alternative approaches to achieve the desired outcomes without micromanaging?
What’s the worst thing that might happen if I stop checking on everything? What’s the best that could happen?
What are your experiences with micromanagement? Please comment and share.