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The Good…The Bad…The Micromanager.

A quick guide to identifying and solving micromanagement.

Management specialists say that micromanagement is a sign of weak managerial skills. Whether it is true or not, our years of experience in upskilling managers indicates that most employees who step into a new managerial role suddenly micromanage their teams. Not only can it have a negative impact on business, but nobody wants to be a micromanager or work under one. This article will explore what micromanagement is, why it happens, what the dangers are and what you as a manager can do to avoid micromanaging your own subordinates.

What is Micromanagement?

Micromanagement is seen as a negative management style. In short, it is a manager who demands to be involved with every single detail of their subordinates’ work responsibilities. They closely observe, control, or remind their employees of the work that needs to be done. Simon Sinek is spot on with his quote: “A boss who micromanages is like a coach who wants to get in the game. Leaders guide and support and then sit back to cheer from the sidelines.”

Why do people Micromanage?

One of the managers who did our Leadership course the other day, said: “I just want to be kept in the loop.” This manager did not even realise that they were micromanaging their team members. She did not comprehend that she was limiting freedom in the workplace.

Managers micromanage because of:

  • A lack of managerial skills stepping into a new role.
  • A lack of trust because they might feel they have unskilled staff on their team.
  • The manager has a poor self-image and feels insecure.
  • A fear of losing control over projects which might make them look inadequate.

So how do you know if you are micromanaging your team?

Signs of Micromanagement

Chances are that you are micromanaging your subordinates if:

  • You resist delegating and constantly worry that no one will be able to do the job as good as you. At the end of the day, you feel overworked even burnt out because you are doing everyone else’s work.
  • Your employees or team members feel like they must run every conversation, every idea, and every decision past you first, even if it is simple email correspondence.
  • Your team is obsessed with having to know what you, the boss, think and do not trust themselves. They become more worried about how they perform for you than fulfilling the customers’ needs.
  • You constantly hover around your employees and watch over their shoulder; afraid you will lose control over situations.
  • You obsess over correcting tiny details instead of looking at the bigger picture.
  • You end up redoing everything because you think it is not good enough.
  • You insist that you must put your “mark” or add your “touch” to everything your team does.
  • You feel upset if they do not get your approval for the smallest thing.
  • You criticize everything your employees do.
  • Your employees are quiet and afraid to take control or share their opinions and ideas, hence innovation and creativity come to a halt.
  • You don’t praise your employees’ efforts enough or at all.
  • You withhold project context and keep your subordinates in the dark.

Many managers might argue that some employees deserve to be micromanaged, mainly because the manager feels like the employee is unreliable, they underperform, and their behaviour is not acceptable. Ultimately, the manager is responsible for the end result, thus if employees don’t perform, they are the ones in hot water. This is enough reason for any manager to become a control freak. We would go so far as to say that, in some circumstances, a little bit of micromanagement is not inherently bad but, as with everything in life, too much of anything is never a good idea. It can backfire and end badly for the company.

Dangers of Micromanagement

Employees do not like a boss who looms over them. Nobody wants to be inspected and criticized on every minor detail of a project, not just because it is annoying, but it is also demotivating and demoralising. Employees immediately doubt if you trust them, question their opinions, skills, and their capability. The top 5 dangers posed to companies include:

  1. Innovation and creativity are hindered.
  2. Regular staff turnover.
  3. Employee confidence and self-esteem decreases.
  4. Reduces employee morale and thus influences productivity negatively.
  5. It wastes time and resources.
  6. It limits employee growth, promotion, and performance.

For the entire company to function effectively, employees need a sense of workplace-freedom.

How to prevent or stop yourself from Micromanaging?

People have important insights, ideas, and creativity they are burning to explore and share in the workplace. There are employees who have the potential to outshine the rest, but when they work under a micromanager, they are suppressed. Excellent managers and great leaders empower their subordinates by giving them opportunities to excel in the workplace. Stop micromanaging your team with these few tips:

  1. Hire the right people from the start. Managers are more likely to micromanage someone without the right skill set or who are underqualified.
  2. Create trust and a sense of open-mindedness within your team
  3. Focus on developing your employees’ strengths by becoming more of a mentor and coach to them rather than a micromanager.
  4. Learn to delegate. When used properly, delegation is an effective way of managing personal time and developing staff.
  5. Align your team and set clear goals. Most managers who micromanage do not communicate clear expectations. With clear objectives like project deadlines, and the performance criteria you are going to use to measure success, the better their performance.
  6. Let go of your inner control freak. Realise that your way is not the only way. There are many ways and approaches to do something. People might approach scenarios differently but ultimately may reach the same goal. Learn to let go and see failures are learning curves. You might be surprised.
  7. Ask and listen. Learn to effectively communicate. The best way to determine if you do indeed micromanage is to ask your team for their honest opinion, and then really listen to what they have to say. Ask for their suggestions. Many employees prefer various kinds of management styles. Sit down with them, talk, listen and make the changes.

If managers are micromanaging, they are ultimately denying people and the company growth and prosperity. Retaining talent will become difficult. So, if micromanaging is dragging down your team’s performance, creativity and morale, do something about it.