Examples of Micromanaging
First, let’s talk about what micromanaging is not. Managers who micromanage rarely hold animosity or ill will toward the employees they manage. They do not abuse their employees with unprompted negative reviews or resort to public ridicule. Most managers who micromanage don’t even realize they’re doing it because it looks innocent, like this…
Reluctantly, a manager assigns an employee a project. A day or two later, the manager asks for a progress report. They aren’t happy with an “it’s going fine.” They need to know everything done up to that point. The employee spends additional time going over their work and the manager allows the project to continue.
The manager, not happy though with the specific way the employee is working, asks to be CC’d on all future communications involving the project. When a decision needs to be made, the manager steps in and insists on being the one to make it. When the project is completed, the manager reviews the work and corrects the mistakes without sharing their changes or solutions with the employee.
The above demonstrate some examples of micromanaging and next we’ll identify why this practice has mostly negative effect on employee motivation and engagement.
Is Micromanaging a Problem?
Yes; micromanaging in the workplace is definitely problematic in the way it makes employees feel and how it impacts their performance. Micromanaging also means that the leader or manager is taking on more than their normal work and that can quickly lead to overwhelm, frustration, and burnout. This holds true whether someone is working in person or remotely.
We’ve known micromanaging is a problem since 1998 when Harry Chambers published My Way or the Highway: The Micromanagement Survival Guide. A study cited in the text found the following results among workers and managers reporting on micromanagement:
- Among non-managers:
- 67% indicated they have been previously micromanaged with 37% responding they are currently micromanaged.
- Among managers:
- 71% of managers said they had previously been micromanaged and 27% indicated they were still currently being micromanaged.
Remote work has only exacerbated the micromanaging problem. The professional network Blind asked 2300 employees whether they have been micromanaged more or less since the pandemic—42% of employees said more. In a study from Track Time 24, findings report that almost half (48%) of employees believe trust from management has declined and 20% of employees cite micromanagement as the most stressful aspect of working from home. In a 2021 survey of 3000 workers, GoodHire reported that micromanaging was tied for first in being the trait cited as making the worst managers. Micromanaging remote workers has negative effects and is definitely a problem.
The Negative Effects of Micromanaging
Micromanaging at work is detrimental to the employee, the manager, the company, and clients and customers. Employees are often less empowered and their confidence in their own abilities falls which can lead to decreased employee engagement. Managers become burnt out. The company deals with higher turnover (Forbes cites that 69% of employees considered changing jobs due to micromanagement and 36% actually changed jobs). All of this culminates in the result that clients become dissatisfied with your service.
Why Do Remote Managers Micromanage?
Have you said or thought any of the following?
- I just like being in the loop.
- I’ve been here longer so I know how to do that better.
- I wish I could trust them to do it right.
- I’m afraid they’ll get it wrong and tank the project.
- I’d rather not hand off this project, but it looks like I have to.
Thinking along these lines can indicate that a manager micromanages or is on the verge of doing so. But, in many cases, it may not be the manager’s leadership style that results in micromanagement. Broader organizational processes and structures must be analyzed to see if the idea of micromanagement is baked in by accident and simply labeled as “QR” or “checks and balances.”
How to Avoid Micromanaging Employees
- Increase Trust in Employees
Without seeing them diligently working at their computer just a few desks over, it can be difficult for managers to trust that their reports are putting in enough effort at home. By increasing general trust in employees, managers will be less tempted to perform copious oversights.
- Empower Employees
A manager can’t truly show trust in their employees if the manager never lets them make decisions. Empowering employees to make decisions for projects will increase their engagement at work and lead to a greater sense of purpose. Employees with high intrinsic motivation will work harder and managers will not feel the need to micromanage them.
- Increase Empathy
When a manager steps into an employee’s shoes, they will better understand how and why that person works the way they do. They will better recognize that we are all unique with different thought processes and experiences that drive our actions. Managers with high empathy will micromanage less.
- Personal and Professional Development
When it comes to learning how to stop micromanaging at work, personal and professional development courses can help. Whether it’s on-the-job hard skills training or a non-work program to increase soft skills, these courses can help both employees and managers do their jobs better and with more confidence (and less micromanaging).