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Avoiding Micromanagement Develops People

Picture this. Your department has just taken an important project onboard. You have given this task to a more than capable team member and furnished them with all relevant details and a set in stone deadline.

The question is this: What do you do next?

  1. Let them get on with the task and get together periodically for updates.
  2. Constantly send emails and hover around their desk to check progress

If your answer was “2”, you may be micromanaging. If you have been on the receiving end of this, you could well have a boss who is a micromanager.

How to stop micromanagement

While paying attention to detail and being meticulous can be positive attributes, taking things to the extremes of not being able to let go of the smallest details, could have a negative effect. Micromanagers adopt this style because the either need to feel in control of every situation or they have the urge to push everyone to towards perfection. However, the impact of these actions often undermines confidence in the employee and causes stress and anxiety to the point where they feel they have no option but to leave their job.

It´s not all doom and gloom. There are ways that you can detect these over enthusiastic approaches to management before they have negative compounding effects through your department. Also, if you are on the receiving end of micromanagement, there are ways that show your manager that you can be trusted to be left alone to complete the task.

The problem lies in the fact of not understanding where genuine management involvement gives way to the stifling pressure of micromanagement. Here are a few signs that you of micromanagement.

Signs of Micromanagement

  • Resist delegating.
  • Feeling compelled to control projects.
  • Correcting trivial details and not looking at the overall mission.
  • Take over tasks before if they find mistakes.
  • Discourage autonomy in others.

What's Wrong With Micromanaging?

If I get results by micromanaging, why bother to change? It´s a common question and here´s my take on why you should be bothered to change.

Micromanagers, by definition, control, scrutinize and influence their team members, even when that member has been given a degree of autonomy. If that team member is strong, confident and adept in not letting constant supervision get to them, then there are often minimal problems. However, long term micromanagement, erodes confidence and promotes a state of learned helplessness in employees. Sooner or later employees stop thinking for themselves, stop believing in their ability and stop making decisions for themselves.  The only option here is to consult the micromanager for guidance or run the risk of going alone but delivering a substandard end result. This is where the micromanager comes into his or her own. For them, either scenario is construed as proof that without this form of management, the team members will not be able to produce the desired result working alone.

Learn how to delegate

Empowerment v Disempowerment

Micromanagers hinder employee development by refusing to let them be responsible for their own actions and decisions. This form of management undermines confidence and causes people to fail. The flip side is this: Effective managers empower employees with encouragement and opportunities for development.

Disempowered employees are a drain on resources as they enter into a spiral of ineffectiveness. Their lack of motivation affects other employees. They need more time from their manager than other employees and they are generally less effective. As the manager puts more time and energy into the disempowered employee, they have less time and energy to devote to other important managerial tasks. In short, disempowered employees cost money.

The question is: Whose fault is it?

The answer is: The micromanager and those above that allow micromanagement to continue.

If you allow this form of management to exist throughout your department or organization, you are indeed guilty by association.

Moving Forward Together

We have identified micromanagement tactics and the compounding negative effects but what can you do to move forward together?

If you are micromanaging, it´s time to pause and become a reflective practitioner. If you really want to move yourself forward and upward, it´s time to realize that moving others forward and upward by providing development opportunities is key to your own success. Realizing that there is a need for change is a positive change and not a weakness. The word change can be substituted for opportunity or growth.

Conducting a positive change appraisal with each team member, where you are the subject of change is a great move forward. It´s important to be open and honest here about you wanting and needing change. However, listening to feedback may be difficult and it´s essential to remain objective throughout. 

If you can adopt the principles of becoming an active listener and a reflective practitioner, you are already on the road to becoming a good manager. People that feel they are listened to, feel valued and people who feel valued are more likely to outperform those that don´t.

Be patient. Some employees may see this as too little too late or just some managerial fad. It may take some time to demonstrate to people that you are serious about change and moving forward together.


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