Micromanagement Is Not A Leadership Strategy: Everything You Need To Know
While some well-intentioned managers may simply get carried away in supervising their team’s day-to-day work, there is an entirely different breed of manager despised by the entire office: the one who micromanages.
What is micromanaging?
In layman’s terms, micromanagement is defined as a management style whereby a manager has excessive control over the work of their team members and lays out exact conditions in which each task must be performed.
The problem is, this form of management is harmful in the long-run, and the manager eventually not only dilutes their productivity but also stunts their team’s development.
Imagine if you have to work with someone who is seemingly incapable of delegation, displays an acute lack of trust in their co-workers and subordinates, and takes great pride in making corrections day-in and day-out. It is frustrating!
Micromanagement ≠ Effective leadership
No one likes to be micromanaged. It is demotivating and makes the job less rewarding. The worst part is that such managers don’t even realize they are micromanaging. And how can they if the line between an effective leader and a micromanager is blurred?
No one decides to act as a bad supervisor. One may think they are detailed-oriented, sufficiently constructive, and deeply involved in their team’s work. However, in reality, they obsess over the smallest of details, find faults in the tasks done by their team, and are overly controlling.
As Steve Jobs once said, “What’s the point in hiring smart people and telling them what to do; we hire smart people so that they can tell us what to do. Thereby, making our job simpler.” He was right. Micromanagement has a negative connotation because it highlights a lack of freedom in the workplace.
According to an Accountemps survey, 59 percent of professionals claimed to have been micromanaged at some point in their careers; 55 percent said it hurt their productivity, and 68 percent observed a decrease in their morale on being micromanaged.
Micromanagement drives employees crazy, and it could ‘literally’ kill them. A study from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business reported a 15.4 percent increase in the odds of death of employees with less control and freedom at work.
While no one wishes an early grave on their team members, micromanagers can still find it tough to loosen the reins, which brings us to the next section in the article:
Five traits of a micromanaging boss
1. Discourages decision making
90 percent of managers believe that better decisions can be taken when the entire team contributes. Unfortunately, micromanagers don’t think like that. They often hate it when their team members decide without consulting them first!
By doing all the thinking themselves, micromanagers believe they are making their team’s job easier. But discouraging someone to make decisions is demotivating. It is wrong to deny every employee the autonomy they deserve.
The Solution – Micromanagement indicates that there is a lack of trust in the team member’s ability to execute. Alternatively, you can hire candidates with the right skills to execute the job and give them autonomy. With the right candidates, you can delegate the tasks with trust and with regular check-ins, the progress of the project goes smoothly.
2. Dictates everything
There is a famous saying by motivational speaker Simon Sinek: “A boss who micromanages is like a coach who wants to get in the game. Leaders guide, support, mentor and then sit back to cheer from the sidelines.” But not micromanagers.
Micromanagers, on the other hand, love giving exact instructions on how to complete a task. They focus on straightening out the tiny details of a task right rather than seeing the big picture. This way, even the smallest of tasks take longer to complete, and the team loses sight of long-term goals.
The Solution – Alternately, as a manager you know your employees’ skill and will level which means their ability to complete a task and their motivation. It is your job to achieve this clarity for each of your team members. Ask them about the time they would take to execute the task. Collectively, have an honest dialogue about the timelines, the level of the direction they need from your end and don’t micromanage.
3. Intervenes all the time
One of the worst traits of a micromanager is suspicion. They suspect everyone is wasting the company’s time and resources, hence the prying. Micromanagers hover over their team members and command a detailed record of phone calls, meetings, spending, tasks, or anything else they think could be wasted.
Micromanagers also have the habit of requesting unnecessary and overly detailed reports. That is because of their need to know everything in detail. This is convenient for someone managing a small team of five people. However, it gets overwhelming with a group of 15 or more.
There is only so much information that one can consume. Reporting is important. But too much of it is a project roadblock.
The Solution – As a micromanager, set goals at the beginning of the task and have periodic (weekly/biweekly/monthly) check-ins for determining the progress. To minimize the anxiety of a micromanager of not being in control, hold regular progress meetings to discuss the developments.
4. Avoids delegating tasks
There is an adage: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” Micromanagers tend to take this a bit too seriously.
Rather than giving their team members a chance at a vital task, micromanagers feel they would do better justice to it, so they find themselves doing the work of others. As a result, team members stop taking the initiative and the manager’s workload increases.
The Solution – Help your managers by grooming their communication and delegation skills. Often micromanagement is the outcome of high-performance managers getting promoted to further leadership posts. Leading means working with the team including the skills of delegation, decision-making, and teamwork. Constant refining and advancing in these skills lead to long-term leadership.
5. Complains constantly
Micromanagers love nitpicking and go to great lengths to find flaws in their team’s work. This could even include pinpointing a typo in a calendar reminder, or missing commas or hyphens in a sentence. Such managers can find fault in anything and everything - no matter how trivial.
Micromanaging is a hard habit to break. One could downplay this habit by claiming that they like to keep close tabs on the team or that they are a “control freak.” But these are all poor excuses. Micromanagement can cause a team to derail.
The Solution – As a leader, expand your view and be more strategic. While you need to remove the weeds, the critical aspect of leadership is stepping back, not to micromanage but trusting your employees to handle their tasks. Shift your conversations to guiding the team members as to what needs to be done.
If you are being micromanaged or realize that you are a micromanager, either way, this dysfunction needs to be resolved. Let us start with its downsides.
Four disadvantages of micromanaging
1. Employee resentment
While a little micromanagement is essential during the onboarding process of any employee, it eventually erodes their confidence and their feeling of owning work. That makes it impossible for the employee to grow and leads to dissatisfaction at work.
2. High employee turnover
Being micromanaged won’t just lead to resentment - it will also cause ambitious and hard-working team members to quit because they don’t see any opportunities for growth. According to a study by the Center of American Progress (CAP), it takes $4,291 to replace a $10 per hour retail employee. The figure is even higher for high-skilled positions. This is an expense that hurts a company’s bottom lines.
3. Unhealthy anxiety
Imagine if your micromanaging boss continually keeps tabs on you, in-person, and online. Wouldn’t that affect you? Absolutely! This will make you conscious about yourself and hamper your freedom to do your job correctly. Finishing even the simplest of tasks will bring you anxiety because you have an overly controlling superior tracking your move!
4. Zero innovation
Micromanagers don’t realize this, but their behavior at work is detrimental to the team’s creative spirit. While not all of their ideas and suggestions will be winners, turning a deaf ear to the team destroys all chances of the good ideas coming out from them.
By refusing to listen to them, a micromanager hampers the potential for progress - which is not a wise thing to do in the long-run.
Every problem has a solution, so does micromanagement. It is not a black and white process that everyone can figure out quickly. Productive management takes careful thought and consideration, and there are steps you can take.
How to improve as a manager
- Foster a two-way communication. Don’t just give orders, rather ask the team for their ideas and opinions. Remember that there is more than one way to do a task.
- Share your expertise and knowledge with the team. Every employee wants to work with managers and colleagues they can learn from. Advise them, share your best practices, tell anecdotes.
- As a manager, it is crucial to stay in the know, and you can do it without excessive reporting. Set a deadline for every stage of the project and then conduct meetings to receive updates about the work completed.
- Ask your team how they would like to be managed. Seek their input. That way, they will feel more involved, and you can still manage them without suffocating your team or making them feel uncomfortable.
- Motivate your team; give constructive feedback to them on how they can improve. More importantly, compliment them for a job well done.
- Give your team more responsibility. Start by delegating smaller tasks. Discuss with them in detail and answer all of the concerns upfront. Be available to give feedback. The more you practice autonomy, the easier it gets.
- Physically remove yourself from the same room. If you and your team sit together, then change your place. That will put them in a favorable situation and give them the space to breathe. No one likes to have their supervisor looming on their head. Create boundaries.
- As a leader, do only what you can do. A part of your role is to get the job done and manage the outcome. Micromanagement means that you have not delegated correctly. Train your employees, set timelines and focus on the outcome.
- Focus on creating a culture where leaders can communicate their values and beliefs. The trait of a smart leader is to ensure that the team completes tasks and embodies the values and culture of the company.
- Use project management to create transparency and visibility. Micromanagement happens when the leaders do not have the ability or tools to view the projects or track the progress in real-time. When you implement project management your managers can view the status and movement on the project without the need of being overbearing.
- Adopt the role of a facilitator instead of a taskmaster. Encourage open communication for facilitating a shared team vision.
- Encourage intrapreneurship where managers are not just expected to perform tasks but be an integral part of your brand’s vision. This highlights that the work they do is significant and meaningful to your organization and not just a chore.
People indeed leave managers, not companies. Everyone wants to be appreciated for their work. There is no more significant victory for a manager than trusting their employees and knowing they can get the job done without constant supervision.
After all, effective leadership, in the words of Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.