- In line with other forms of harassment, micromanagement is often about control and the fear of losing status in the workplace.
- Micromanagement can have many damaging consequences, including a toxic working environment.
- Employees are more likely to thrive and realize their potential in a workplace in which they are trusted with the autonomy to make judgments and develop ideas.
If you have ever been micromanaged by an employer, then you’re aware of how damaging it can be.
Micromanagement is the practice of excessively controlling and scrutinizing one’s employees, which can occur in any profession and often creates toxic working environments. It’s distressingly pervasive in workplaces — 59% of employees report that they have experienced it.
Excessive control, criticism and an overbearing and distrustful manager can negatively impact job satisfaction, productivity, and the overall well-being of employees. When micromanagement goes unchallenged, it can become a form of bullying and harassment.
Why Do Some Employers Feel Compelled To Micromanage?
The practice of micromanagement exists on a spectrum. Many employers sometimes focus too attentively on detail or seek progress reports more frequently than required. The managers who operate at the more extreme end of micromanagement are those whose behavior can create a toxic working environment.
A typical micromanager is reluctant to delegate tasks, constantly requires updates, and is overly critical. They could also be closed to novel ideas (except their own), unwilling to express gratitude and praise (unless it is for following their lead) and become easily upset when employees do not take their advice.
Micromanagers closely observe every task and process, often to the point where employees lose any sense of autonomy. These employers might believe that their management style ensures greater precision and quality performance; however, there is little evidence that this method is the most effective or productive way of operating any business in the long term.
Micromanagers often cannot see their damaging impact on the workplace (or do not even recognise that they are micromanaging). Some managers have always engaged in micromanagement because it’s “just in their nature,” whilst others are products of their environment.
The difference between the two types of micromanagers can be illustrated by the manager who fears losing control, does not accept anything less than perfection and has an innate need to be in charge, versus the manager who is insecure due to a negative performance appraisal or because their own line manager is detail-oriented.
Regardless of the rationale for their actions, micromanagement is never a good thing.
What Are Some Of The Negative Consequences Of Micromanagement?
According to a recent Allwork.Space article, micromanagement is counterproductive to the idea that autonomy encourages business growth and productivity. It has a detrimental effect on staff morale and performance and can even impact a manager’s motivation when things do not go their way.
There are numerous reasons why micromanaging in the workplace should be discouraged:
- Disempowerment: When autonomy is lacking, it leads to disengagement, subsequently reducing overall productivity and growth.
- Distrust: A lack of perceived faith in one’s staff can create a sense of distrust (77% of employees stated that they would “quit their job” if they felt distrusted by management).
- Stress/ burnout: Constant monitoring and being “controlled” can lead to increased absences and decreased well-being. Employees might start to feel stifled by unrealistic expectations, leading to burnout.
- Decreased job satisfaction: Employees might feel undervalued, leading to lower job satisfaction and reduced morale.
- Less innovation and creativity: When employees have little freedom and choice, their creativity and ability to develop their talents (and career potential) are hindered.
- A culture of dependency: Micromanaged employees often become dependent and develop a need for constant support and guidance. This is another cause of decreased growth and productivity potential.
- Time inefficiencies: Constant check-ins and reporting can waste time that would be better spent on more productive tasks.
- Strained relationships: Micromanagement can make working relationships challenging — especially when employees feel belittled, harassed or bullied. Tense relationships are behind many toxic work environments.
- A lack of vision: When an employer is too focused on small details, they often lose sight of the bigger picture i.e. long-term strategies that benefit everyone.
- High staff turnover: Micromanagement leads to a demoralized workforce, resulting in lowered retention rates and a loss of top talent.
What Can Employers Do To Stop Micromanaging?
Micromanagement can be a hard habit to break. A good place to start is prioritizing what matters and learning to step back and reflect on your behavior. Evaluate why you might be micromanaging in the first instance (perhaps enlist external support).
It’s best to focus on why you should not micromanage rather than why you should. Obtain honest feedback by gathering anonymous data from employees and other staff members (confidentiality allows people to criticize freely). Someone who has micromanaged their staff for a long time might benefit from stepping back slowly. This process could entail taking a break and assessing how the team fares without you (or simply initiating a more open dialogue with your employees).
Micromanagers must learn to relinquish control and delegate tasks. By broadening their management style — being more open to ideas and communicating effectively, for instance — micromanagers can gain the trust of their workforce. Employers also need to trust employees by reducing their levels of scrutiny and the number of restrictions they place on staff. Enabling others to progress in the workplace should be the inevitable outcome of any effort to halt micromanaging.
A reported 95% of employees perceive trust and autonomy as crucial to job satisfaction. Employers should, therefore, develop the capacity to build cohesive teams based on trust and have faith in their workforce to “get the job done.”
More trusting and empowering management styles could help transform employers from traditional office managers to people adept at leading employees into the future — one in which hybrid working is the norm and the best managers are the most emotionally intelligent.