What Is Micromanaging and How to Avoid It?
Micromanaging is a widespread problem among today’s employees. Business leaders and supervisors often have trouble giving their staff members the autonomy to achieve goals on their own. And while it’s common for managers to follow up on tasks and set expectations regarding the quality of work produced, micromanagement is a harmful habit:
- Around 59% of employees say they’ve worked with a micromanaging boss in the past, and 68% of those people reported a decrease in engagement and morale.
- Another 55% state that micromanagement harms their productivity, and studies even show micromanagement causing an increase in employee turnover.
So, how do you avoid this issue?
What Exactly Is Micromanaging?
The term “micromanagement” is used to refer to the act of a boss being overly controlling about the various steps involved in a task.
Micromanagers make it very difficult for employees to demonstrate creativity and intuition, because they’re always hanging over the shoulders of staff members, pushing them to do things in a certain way. For example, a micromanager supervising a new graphic designer might tell that employee exactly which software and tools she needs to use to make a new logo, how long it should take, and which colors to use.
At the same time, the micromanaging leader will be asking for constant updates on how the design progress is going, ask to be involved in every style change, and may send regular emails asking for feedback.
Although employees can benefit from guidance and clarity in most environments, micromanagement makes it impossible for team members to thrive, because they’re constantly worrying about what they may be doing wrong.
Common Signs of Micromanagement
For some companies, a high level of specific direction will be necessary to ensure each task is done correctly. For others, it may be necessary to regularly check in with employees working remotely to ensure they’re still on the right track. Such practices may not necessarily amount to micromanagement.
In other words, different people define micromanagement in different ways. So how do you recognize it?
The common signs of a micromanagement issue include:
- Every task needs approval: Employees can’t make decisions or complete any specific part of a task without feedback from a certain individual.
- Constant check-ins: While communication is crucial in any business, constant emails and messages asking for updates are often overwhelming.
- Stress levels are high: Employees are constantly stressed or nervous about starting new projects. They don’t have the initiative to start jobs themselves.
- Delegation is poor: If one person in a team attempts to do all of the work themselves, this is a sign they might be a micromanager.
- Little mistakes are a big deal: Micromanagers obsess over the tiniest details of a project. This often causes discomfort and low morale in the business.
When these signs are present in the workplace, productivity and company culture are likely to suffer.
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How to Stop Micromanaging
Micromanagement has a serious impact on employee engagement. With only around 36% of employees saying they felt engaged in the (largely remote) pandemic year of 2020, companies need to make sure they’re using the right management styles now, more than ever.
The best ways to minimize micromanaging are:
1. Practice delegation
People who don’t know how to delegate well often resort to micromanaging. If you feel as though you have to do everything yourself to ensure it’s done correctly, you’ll struggle to let go of each employee and allow them to do their best work.
To ensure you don’t end up unintentionally micromanaging your team, make sure you delegate the right tasks to the correct people. Get to know the strengths and weaknesses of each employee, and make sure you have hired the right team members in the first place. Taking on people who share the same business values and show specific characteristics will make it easier to trust these individuals when it comes to them doing independent work.
Gallup studies show that CEOs who excel in delegating tend to generate up to 33% higher revenue. Although relinquishing responsibility can be hard, delegation allows managers and business leaders to focus their attention where it’s most needed.
2. Set clear expectations and offer guidance
Part of ensuring that your employees deliver the right results for every project is establishing clear expectations upfront. The clearer you can be about the objectives of an assigned project, including when it needs to be completed and which benchmarks are going to be measured, the more likely you are to see the right results.
Taking the time to make sure your employees understand what the goals of each project are should help you to feel confident they can achieve the right outcomes.
When setting expectations, try not to be too specific, or too much of a perfectionist. Make it your aim to let your employees know what the outcomes of their work should be, but still give them the freedom to use different techniques and strategies to achieve those results.
Remember, as well as setting clear expectations, it’s still important to be flexible and understanding. Team members will make mistakes when they’re learning. Offering additional support and guidance to those who struggle will ensure you can make the most of your team.
3. Get feedback from employees
One of the best ways for business leaders to ensure they’re managing their employees in the right way is to listen to feedback from team members. Employees can offer both direct and anonymous insights into how they feel about management in a range of ways.
One of the easiest ways to gather information is to send out an anonymous survey covering what kind of things employees like and dislike about working for your company. Another option could be to conduct stay interviews where you meet regularly with members of staff and learn what they think their managers could do better to help them thrive.
Taking the time to really listen to employees makes it easier to find issues not just with micromanagement, but all kinds of factors that could influence team engagement and morale.
Banish Micromanagement from Your Business
Micromanagement might be a common problem in the current world of work — but that doesn’t mean it should be something we simply allow to happen.
To achieve amazing things in any business, teams need the freedom to be creative, adapt, and learn from their experiences.