I’ll never forget the second job I ever had. Not because it was awesome or even terrible. It’s because of my boss. Sadly, no, this wasn’t a mentor or someone who showed me the ropes. This person was a micromanager and they drove me absolutely bonkers.I would be hard at work and then I’d get this feeling that someone was right behind me. Sure enough there was my boss dissecting every move I was making. Even worse, they constantly pointed out how I was doing things incorrectly and would then tell me exactly how my job should be done. After just a couple of months, I had had enough. I literally felt like I was being suffocated. That’s why I say micromanaging kills motivation.
This is definitely not a unique experience.
A survey conducted by Trinity Solutions and published in author Harry Chambers’ book My Way or the Highway found that a whopping 79 percent of respondents had experienced micromanagement. Around 69 percent reported that they considered changing jobs because of micromanagement.
Then we have the other 36 percent who didn’t consider changing jobs — they had to change jobs. Seventy-one percent said that being micromanaged interfered with their job performance with 85 percent stating morale was negatively impacted.
For your company and for your team.
“For the sake of your team, you need to stop,” says Muriel Maignan Wilkins, co-author of Own the Room and managing partner of Paravis Partners. Maignan is an executive coaching and leadership development firm. “Micromanaging dents your team’s morale by establishing a tone of mistrust — and it limit your team’s capacity to grow,” she says.
“If your mind is filled with the micro-level details of a number of jobs, there’s no room for big picture thoughts,” adds Karen Dillon, author of the HBR Guide to Office Politics.
Simply put, micromanagement is just bad for business. How bad? It can estiquish all motivation and even result in your business failing.
What exactly is micromanagement?
Micromanagement is simply the act of controlling each and every aspect of how someone performs specific tasks of their role. For example, it would be telling your Social Media manager where to place hashtags.
To be perfectly blunt, nothing good comes from this style of management. That’s because it suggests that a you don’t trust your team or that you believe they don’t possess the ability to their job.
Eventually, this will, “at best create a perpetual environment of dependency, inefficiency and unease, and at worst, render irreparable harm to staff morale.”
Why is micromanagement so bad?
There’s no way around it. Micromanagement definitely has a negative effect on employee engagement and morale. That’s because when employees frequently criticized they feel that they can’t do anything right.
While they may try harder the next time, they’ll quickly realize that it’s a lost cause and will eventually throw in the white towel. That means employees who were once productive lose motivation, which decreases their productivity.
Micromanages are often considered high maintenance and exert inappropriate influence over others, like a bully. And, micromanagement can be so detrimental within an organization that employees quit just to find peace of mind.
The effects of micromanagement in the workplace.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this. A micromanager basically has the same personality traits as a tyrannical boss. This would be someone who doesn’t give their employees a chance to spread their wings. Even worse, micromangers don’t allow employees to explain when something goes wrong.
As a result, employees become afraid to communicate and may even fear that they’re job is in limbo — or about to be gone.
According to author Kathleen Rao’s book My Boss is a Jerk: How to Survive and Thrive in a Difficult Work Environment Under the Control of a Bad Boss, there are seven common symptoms and consequences of working for a tyrannical boss:
- Stress. This affects both the employee’s work and home life.
- Health problems, such as heart problems or high blood pressure.
- Economic problems and job insecurity. The constant fear of being demoted or losing your job.
- Emotional strain due to verbal or emotional abuse.
- Fatigue from being overworked and stressed.
- Lack of appreciation leaves employees unmotivated since they don’t know if their work is being appreciated or valued.
- Lack of confidence. This makes meeting with the manager challenging since the manager looks down on their team.
At the end of the day this all leaves employees feeling disengaged, stagnant, rebellious, and exhausted. It also crushes creativity and innovation. This doesn’t just kill their motivation, it’s also putting their health and well-being in jeopardy.
How to avoid micromanaging your team.
If you believe that you’re a micromanager, here are a couple of ways to stop this ASAP.
Reflect on your behavior.
First things first, reflect on your behavior. You need to understand where this is coming from,” says Dillon. “Most likely it’s because of some insecurity.
“You may be afraid something will reflect badly on you if your team doesn’t do something exactly the way you would do it. You may be worried you’ll look out of touch if you’re not immersed in the details, so you overcompensate,” she says.
Wilkins recommends “asking yourself: what excuses am I using to micromanage?” Common justifications include: “It will save time if I do it myself.” Or “Too much is at stake to allow this to go wrong.”
Focus on “the reasons why you should not micromanage”—it’s bad for your team since they can’t learn and grow—“and the benefits you’d derive if you stopped,” mainly having more time to do your job.
Set clear expectations and have a defined goal.
At the beginning of the month, discuss exactly what’s expected of each employee. Setting clear, measurable goals makes it unambiguous about what is expected. It also opens up the lines of communication so you can learn their motivators and what their limitations are.
Additionally, when you set goals your team will have a better understanding of how their work fits into the bigger picture, while providing them with a sense of control.
If you’re new to this, start with systems like SMART goals and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to make the goal setting process more effective.
And, don’t forget to outline the actions and steps required to get to the end goal. It makes your employees feel like they’re a part of the bigger picture
Prioritize what matters—and what doesn’t.
“A good manager trains and delegates,” says Dillon. That can’t be accomplished if you’re doing everything.
Determine what is the most critical work for you to be hands-on and what are less important. Wilkins suggests reviewing your to do list “to determine which low-hanging fruit you can pass on to a team member.”
You should also highlight your lists’ priorities, meaning “the big ticket items where you truly add value,” and ensure you are “spending most of your energy” on those, she adds.
Remember, says says Jennifer Chatman, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business., “Micromanaging displaces the real work of leaders, which is developing and articulating a compelling and strategically relevant vision for your team.”
Communicate what accountability is.
When you do have meetings or one-on-ones, clearly explain what accountability mean, as well as what you expect. If you feel that an employee is not taking enough ownership or initiative provide them constructive feedback.
This means telling them where they can improve and the steps needed to make those improvements. Again, opening up the channels of communication can build trust and rapport with your team.
“Autonomy is people’s need to perceive that they have choices, that what they are doing is of their own volition, and that they are the source of their own actions,” writes Joan F. Cheverie is Manager, Professional Development Programs, EDUCAUSE.
It’s the antithesis of micromanagement since it doesn’t focus on the minute details. Instead, “you now need to direct your focus to the goals and strategic objectives for each staff member. Let them take care of the minor details of meeting those expectations.
What is autonomy?
If you’re able to create autonomy while holding people accountable for stated goals and objectives, you’ll find that the details get done without your having to worry about them.”
Autonomy, in short, gives your team the freedom to reach their full potential. Once you do that, you’ll make your team extremely happy.
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