A manager micro-managing a co-worker.

Micro-Managing What is It and How Can Managers Avoid Doing it the Wrong Way

Although micromanagers often have good intentions, their actions can adversely affect team morale and overall performance. Furthermore, if a manager doesn’t trust in their team’s ability to carry out their responsibilities, it can hinder productivity. Assessing whether you are experiencing micromanagement necessitates a thoughtful self-evaluation of your current circumstances.

This post will discuss what micro-management is, why people micromanage, and the pros and cons of this practice. Lastly, we’ll discuss how managers can avoid micromanaging. 

What Is Micro-Management? 

Micromanagement can be defined as a management style in which a manager meticulously oversees employees’ actions and exerts excessive control.

Some micromanagers may think that the only path to their team’s success is total control, even for the smallest tasks. However, when a manager becomes overly engrossed in their employees’ performance, it can often lead to more harm than good. 

In fact, according to Capgemini, nearly 68% of remote employees felt micro-managed in 2020– this was higher than the reported global average of 48%. 

A few examples of micromanagement in the workplace include:

  • Round-the-clock surveillance of work activities 
  • Excessively partaking in inconsequential decisions
  • The need for meticulous reports
  • Reluctant to delegate 
  • Demanding revisions repeatedly

Why Do People Micromanage?

Micromanagers often don’t recognize themselves as such; instead, they view themselves as diligent and detail-oriented managers.

Both inherent traits and learned behaviors influence micromanagement.

Inherent Traits:

  1. Individuals who tend to lean towards micromanagement often exhibit fear-driven characteristics, including:
  • Fear of Losing Control: They have a strong desire to maintain control over every aspect of a project or team.
  • Need for Authority: They seek to be perceived as the ultimate authority figure within their team or organization.
  • Fear of Subpar Results: They are highly opposed to delivering work that falls below their standards of excellence.

These character traits can become more pronounced when individuals feel insecure, especially when taking on a new supervisory role or being informed that their team’s performance is lacking.

Workplace Culture:

Various organizations possess distinct cultures and hierarchies. Businesses that prioritize control and meticulous attention to detail or operate under high-pressure environments tend to foster a climate conducive to micromanagement.

While some individuals are naturally inclined to micromanage, regardless of their workplace, others may exhibit this behavior to a lesser extent but can be significantly influenced by their organization’s culture. Even those who wouldn’t typically engage in micromanagement might adopt these practices if their workplace culture promotes and reinforces such behavior. In essence, organizational culture can play a substantial role in shaping individuals’ management styles and tendencies.

A manager working with a co-worker in an office.
Micromanagers often don’t recognize themselves as such; instead, they view themselves as diligent and detail-oriented managers.

How Micro-management Negatively Affects Employees

According to research, nearly 52% of employees need a degree of autonomy in their jobs. This lack of autonomy can have adverse effects on the workforce. 

Constantly receiving instructions can be demotivating for anyone. When employees are under continuous surveillance, it can harm their morale. Most individuals value a certain level of autonomy in their work, and micromanagement leaves little to no space for this freedom.

Below, you’ll find a list of detrimental consequences associated with micromanagement:

Lowered Productivity:

Employees become distracted, lose enthusiasm, and become complacent when constantly monitored. Although it might be within legal bounds, excessive employee control is generally discouraged.

Despite its well-intentioned purposes, this management style can stifle employees, reducing their drive to perform at their best.

If only a single employee experiences a decline in motivation, it may go unnoticed. However, when multiple employees fail to fulfill their responsibilities as effectively as needed, this productivity decline accumulates, ultimately impacting the overall profitability of the business.

Lowered Morale:

Micromanagement indicates a need for more trust in your team’s ability to excel.

When employees perceive that their employer lacks confidence in them, it erodes their self-assurance in their abilities and their commitment to their job.

Micromanagement detrimentally impacts their workplace engagement and significantly dampens their morale. Paradoxically, this excessive control reduces productivity, as it undermines their self-esteem.

Employees Develop Self-Doubt: 

When managers always give feedback, employees might start doubting themselves.

If managers closely watch and control everything, the team might feel like they’re always being watched. This can make them think they can only do their job well with constant management.

Affects Employee Well-Being Negatively 

Having good mental health is important for being happy at work. When work becomes too stressful, it can make people sick or lead to mental health problems. 

Working in a place with a lot of micromanagement can be very stressful and harmful to mental health. In fact, research purports that there may be a link between micromanagement and depression in employees. When an employee’s mental health is affected, it can also impact the overall work environment and the company’s financial performance.

Are There Any Upsides To Micro-managing? 

While many leadership and management approaches discourage micromanagement, this technique has a few potential advantages. Some benefits of micromanagement include:

Team Accountability;

Some project managers believe micromanagement is necessary to keep their team on track. This is especially important when projects have strict deadlines, as micromanagement can help prevent delays and ensure everything is finished on time. In a micromanaged environment, managers can also see who is working hard and who may need more support. 

A manager who micromanages will hold everyone responsible and take action as required, whereas projects without close oversight might hide problems and protect team members from scrutiny.

Better Grasp On Complicated Projects:

In every project, certain processes require close supervision by experts. These actions often require micromanagement, where an experienced professional consistently tracks team members’ progress to pinpoint areas where enhancements can be made. In such cases, micromanagement ensures that the results are optimal. Accurate Metrics Micromanagement helps ensure precise measurements. Managers can track factors like an employee’s attendance, their speed of communication with colleagues, and the pace at which they finish tasks by closely overseeing crucial processes. These managers, who are deeply involved in every aspect, rely on metrics and possess firsthand knowledge of each team member’s work style.

Averting Mistakes 

When a manager is deeply involved in overseeing the intricacies of every task, it can help prevent mistakes.

This level of involvement creates a space where team members can make mistakes and learn from them. Consequently, as the team embarks on new projects or tasks in the future, they will be more vigilant and less likely to repeat those errors.

Furthermore, constant managerial oversight ensures that all mistakes are promptly identified. The manager can pinpoint these mistakes and provide valuable feedback to the team. This feedback loop encourages continuous improvement, making it more likely that similar mistakes will be avoided. So, the manager’s ongoing involvement prevents errors and fosters a culture of learning and refinement within the team.

worker on a tablet computer in an office.
It’s crucial to emphasize that micromanagement takes a significant toll, namely, the erosion of loyalty and trust.

How To Avoid Micromanagement At Work?

If you realize you’re engaging in micromanagement, there are effective methods to prevent further issues. Here are some steps to help you break free from micromanaging tendencies and reshape your organization’s culture when necessary.

Build Trust With Your Team 

It’s crucial to emphasize that micromanagement takes a significant toll, namely, the erosion of loyalty and trust. While micromanaging may temporarily relieve managers, it undermines the trust essential in the manager-team relationship. When a manager constantly scrutinizes and monitors their team, it conveys that their team isn’t performing adequately.

Focus On Managing Your Expectations 

Most of a manager’s interaction with their staff is devoted to clarifying tasks and responsibilities.  Sometimes, there can be discrepancies between what is expected and what unfolds. Competent team leaders strive to ensure that every team member understands these expectations. Once everyone is on the same page, micromanagement becomes unnecessary. Ultimately, the results achieved, not the minute details of activities, truly count.

Remove Yourself From The Group

Although they frequently assign tasks and plans to their employees, leaders never ever leave. One client scheduled her trips each month to fit in with a given task. As a result, the discipline of delegation, visiting another team, and assignment was developed. Without the leader hovering in the next room, it put the squad in a good position. As a result, there was increased freedom and production.

Get Your Employees To Weigh In 

In order to avoid micromanaging their staff, confident leaders consult with them. It’s easy to learn how various employees prefer to be managed by just asking them, “Do you want me to check in with you?” or something along those lines. This not only gives the manager crucial information, but it also fosters the employee’s autonomy and builds confidence between them; it’s a win-win situation.

Focus On Your Culture

For astute executives, the oversight of their organization’s culture holds greater significance than the management of their workforce. Leaders can effectively convey the ideals, beliefs, and desired behaviors that should define a company’s culture. When employees grasp the rationale behind their leader’s mindset and the principles embedded in the culture, they are motivated to align their work and projects accordingly.

Let Your Team Fail Forward

Micromanagement often stems from a tendency towards perfectionism. To foster growth and learning in your team, granting them some level of autonomy is imperative. Embrace the idea that failure can be a valuable teacher, and promote open discussions surrounding these experiences. Embracing a “fail-forward” mindset can expedite your team’s success. In this context, your role is akin to a coach – guiding rather than dictating, enabling others to thrive and develop.

A top-level executive at a start-up giving a speech. 
Even top-level executives can exhibit micromanagement tendencies, contributing to the proliferation of this practice throughout an organization.

Work Culture That Promotes Micro-management

Even top-level executives can exhibit micromanagement tendencies, contributing to the proliferation of this practice throughout an organization. Their decisions often become highly personal, and they carry their egos into every meeting. In the process, they prioritize their egos over the organization’s mission, customer needs, and financial outcomes. Such executives may be reluctant to entertain alternative viewpoints, asserting their decisions as absolute law.

Indicators of a leader prone to micromanagement include:

  1. Lack of Transparency: They often withhold crucial context and keep their team members uninformed, leaving them feeling disconnected and unsure.
  2. Inconsistent Control: Their approach to taking charge is erratic, leaving team members uncertain when to take the initiative or await explicit instructions.
  3. Limited Acknowledgment: They rarely offer public praise or recognition to their team, which can demotivate and diminish a sense of accomplishment.
  4. Excessive Decision-Making: They invest excessive time in decisions that others within the team can handle, causing delays and inefficiencies.
  5. Closed to Input: They tend to dismiss or ignore the perspectives and opinions of their team members, missing out on valuable insights and collaborative solutions.
  6. Critique Over Development: They emphasize criticism of what team members do wrong rather than nurturing and developing their strengths, hindering personal and team growth.

When they place excessive pressure on specific narrowly focused goals, measures, and outputs to the cost of general organizational needs and health, leaders can also turn their managers into micromanagers. Organizations are anxious to raise their performance standards without correspondingly increasing their levels of support or communication. As a result, managers get perplexed and anxious, and this anxiety filters down to the front lines.

Conclusion:

Avoiding the urge to micromanage can be a tough task for managers. The most effective approach for a manager is to recognize instances of micromanagement and shift their focus toward delegation. The core of successful management lies in nurturing a team of skilled and self-assured individuals who can independently achieve goals and share responsibilities. This enables the manager to leverage their strengths and contribute to the team’s success.

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