• Company culture

The threat of micromanagement to your business

Aude Creveau

Micromanagement can be the death of teams and entire organisations. 

A management style that closely scrutinises or controls the work of subordinates, micromanagement is one of the lowest levels of leadership.

Micromanagement is a style that usually stems from a manager's lack of trust in their employees. When someone begins to micromanage their workers, they do so believing it's the only way to succeed. 

However, micromanaging employees sends a message that employees don't have the foresight or intelligence to find solutions to their problems. This distrust can significantly hinder a team's workflow.

If left unchecked, micromanagement can derail your business. Keep reading to learn more about the threats posed to your work by micromanagement and how to overcome them.

Why micromanagement is a problem

According to a Trinity Solution's survey, 79% of employee respondents reported that they had experienced micromanagement. Of that, 69% said that they had considered quitting. 36% of those individuals actually did.

There are several reasons micromanagement can fester and eventually derail your organisation. 

1. There's no room for innovation

When managers are obsessed with numbers—or any quantitative metrics—they establish a culture of transactions instead of innovation achieved by creating value through working relationships. 
In a culture dominated my micromanagement, it's made clear that it's the numbers that matter, not the people. Micromanagement is a management style laden with unethical and impersonal behaviour. 

Your employees can't take risks that lead to success under the close scrutiny of a judgemental boss.

2. Micromanagement leads to decreased self-confidence among employees

The best leaders take the time to learn what motivates their employees and find the right leadership style. They lead their team by encouraging participation, inspiring vision, and building employees who excel.
Poor leaders mistake criticism for coaching. They will point out the shortfalls of their employees, continually warning them that they will fail if they don't do what's expected of them. Accentuating the negative is demoralising and disheartening to employees. 

3. Undermined performance channels rebellion

When capable teams leaders aren't left alone to do their jobs, their stress levels increase.
Micromanagers don't trust their teams because they don't find their teams capable of getting the job done to their standards. This excessive, negative attention ultimately undermines the performance and productivity they're trying to drive.

4. Micromanagement causes high turnover rates

Employees hate to be micromanaged, and they simply won't stick around if they can't get out from under the thumb of a poor leader.  
High-performing team members know their worth and have the confidence to take their skills back to the marketplace. Closely monitoring their performance only encourages them to leave more quickly and increase employee turnover rates.

Why do people resort to micromanagement?

Sometimes managers lose touch with the day-to-day work of their organisation as they rise through the ranks.

Because they're not working with staff or customers as closely as they once did, they begin to feel isolated. Managers who survive this shift seek information through one-on-one meetings, reports, and conversations.

However, managers in different positions and at different levels read the same data differently.

1. They can't let go of old ways

Because many managers are promoted through the ranks because of their professional abilities, they are unable to let go of the ways they operate in their jobs.

The best managers learn how to let go of their operational focus to be more strategic. This requires trusting employees to manage day-to-day operations and only stepping in and coaching as-needed, rather than doing their jobs for them.

This transition can be difficult for many leaders and they continue to spend time in the same comfortable operational range as their employees.

2. They fear blows to their reputation

As leaders get promoted, they're at greater risk of getting an inflated ego. With this ego comes a healthy dose of fear. 

Bosses tend to view themselves as an expert in their role because they've been noticed for doing superior work. They believe they're responsible for managing employees who aren't as good as they are. So, they begin to fear that they're slapping their name on work that isn't up to par. 

Leaders with big egos want to be seen as authority figures or experts at what they do, and 41% of them have a strong desire for power.

Typical signs of micromanagers

A micromanager closely observes minute details. This leadership approach eventually leads to a perpetual environment of inefficiency, dependent, and unease. 
There are several ways to spot micromanagement in your work environment. 

1. They do the work themselves

Micromanagers don't trust anyone to do a decent job, so they do everything themselves. While this may provide positive results in the beginning, this situation can't last 

Eventually, they'll succumb to the fact that there are only so many hours in a day, and they can't do it all. Micromanagement will cause leaders to take on tasks that they aren't as qualified to produce, and their performance will falter. 

If your manager revises your employees' work rather than providing feedback on how it might be improved, they're a micromanager.

2. They must approve all tasks

As micromanagers believe that they're the only person fit to make effective decisions, they'll ask to check and approve all of their team's work. 
While this behaviour may come across as helpful in the beginning, it eventually leads to decreased self-confidence. Employees begin to believe they're not capable of producing high-quality work the first time around. 

3. You can't make final decisions

No one is perfect, and someone should always double-check an employee's work. However, team members should be able to make some decisions regarding how their work is done without micromanagement.

It's essential to remember that you chose and hired your team members for a reason. They should feel able to bring their expertise to your workplace. If trivial, routine tasks require approval from a supervisor, consider this a red flag.

When bosses force employees to come to them for every decision through micromanagement, employees begin to focus more on updating their manager than doing their jobs. 

4. They never stop looking for mistakes

If a boss continually looks for mistakes, they will always find them. 
A leader that doesn't trust their team will always look for evidence to substantiate their paranoia. And they will dig up the evidence, whether it's a typo in a memo written only for an employee's own benefit.

A manager may say they're pushing for excellence, but their micromanagement hinders the motivation and performance of your employees.

5. They intentionally slow down projects

If a supervisor is involved in every decision their subordinates make, projects are delayed as they linger while approving.

Your manager's "incredibly busy" agenda will set the pace for everything your team does. They will block all projects while the team patiently waits for their go-ahead. They may also introduce ridiculously long review processes only to change their mind in the middle of a project.

6. They over-complicate instructions

When working under micromanagement, even the most straightforward projects can become overwhelming and over-complicated. 

Put bluntly, bosses who micromanage find pleasure in their employees' failure. It reaffirms their idea that they can't succeed without them. In turn, they'll over-complicate instructions to confuse employees, making it look like an employee doesn't know what they're doing.

7. They avoid feedback

If an employee suggests something simple to a manager and they react poorly, they're actively avoiding criticism. Some leaders will respond with rage when subordinates offer feedback, accusing them of being highly-critical or combative. 

Leaders who embrace micromanagement are always on the defensive, and they won't apologise for their mistakes. They're looking for empathy from their employees and nothing less.

8. They preach, not teach

Employees are motivated to work harder for their boss when they work under someone who inspires them.

For junior employees who are just beginning their careers, a good supervisor can act as a role model. 

To suddenly realise that a boss has no desire to mentor can be a frustrating disappointment for employees. When managers thrive on micromanagement, knowledge is power—it's their currency. To share their knowledge would drain their value.

A bad manager may never verbalise their disinclination to teach, but they may act or say they're too busy. If an employee requests guidance, and they never receive a response, or the boss never follows through, the manager may be avoiding sharing skills that the employee needs to evolve in their role.

Putting an end to micromanagement

If you've identified a micromanager within your organisation, you must come up with a plan to deal with them immediately. Quickly reacting to the situation can lessen the damage they're doing to your employees, their productivity, and your business.

You should engage your HR professional to determine the immediate steps you'll take to act in this ultra-sensitive situation. Micromanagers can become challenging to manage—even when criticised by senior leaders they're trying to impress. 

With the right guidance and some tough love, even managers leading through micromanagement can become good leaders if they focus on becoming a positive influence. 

In a positive workplace culture, staff members feel supported and appreciated. In this emphatic environment, micromanagement can't survive.

Business ecosystems begin to fail when senior leaders lose sight of how their managers are handling their subordinates. Slowly, a toxic culture will start to develop, and that's why putting people first in your organisation is crucial.

How technology can help improve your work environment

Today, leading businesses are adopting technology that allows them to automate time-exhausting manual tasks.

These outdated methods of doing tasks can monopolise a manager's attention, preventing them from spending significant time helping their team members grow and develop—regardless of the size of your business. 

Often, micromanagement occurs because there aren't the right tools present to provide solutions to simple problems. Transparency and visibility are vital for both leaders and employees, and this is where technology does its most beneficial work.

Focus on what really matters at work

Over-scrutinising through micromanagement is not the key to successful teams and high performance. If your managers provide direction through vision and hire people who are passionate about their work, they leave them to do their jobs.

You would be surprised at what confidence in your people and the absence of micromanagement can do for your business.

HR software systems like kiwiHR are now an essential part of workplace technology, as they reduce administrative tasks. In turn, they improve productivity and efficiency, reducing the urge for leaders to turn to micromanagement.

With technology that enables you to put people first, you can develop your employees as you scale your business. Start your free 14-day trial with kiwiHR today.

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