One of the most common things that people come to me to complain about is that they do not have enough time to monitor the work of their employees. Therefore, they are looking for ways to implement some kind of monitoring system. This raises a good question: why would you monitor someone’s work at all? Is it because you think they will be lazy without your supervision? If you think along the same lines, I will certainly disappoint you. It is not supervision but motivation that inspires employees to work effectively. Conversely, it is the control that makes them lose their motivation.
What I have described above is called micromanagement. In essence, it is excessive control over employees when a manager prohibits them from showing independence and requires them to mechanically adhere to a strict set of actions. If you do not work in a factory, the mechanical approach is bad because creativity is just as important in business as in art or filmmaking. Especially in high-tech startups, creativity is valued, and fresh ideas need to be generated on a regular basis.
The consequences of micromanagement, if you abuse it, are extremely harmful and long-lasting. Your employees become accustomed to constant pressure from the outside. If it no longer exists or is eased, they will simply stop coping with their duties. It is like teaching a child to be independent: if everything is done for a child, they will never learn to tie their own shoelaces. The professional “muscles” of the team will simply deteriorate over time, and it will be exceedingly difficult to make the team dynamic and independent again.
Who is at risk of becoming a micromanager?
In my experience, managers with a specific type of character or level of knowledge frequently fall victim to micromanagement. Namely:
- The young manager. Due to their age or lack of field experience, they fear making mistakes and do everything to avoid them. Thus, perfectionism is why the manager is afraid to delegate tasks and either takes care of everything themselves or frequently monitors everything. However, it is crucial to understand that experience comes with time, and there is no such thing as a perfect boss.
- The expert of all experts. A manager who believes they know more than their employees is doomed to fall victim to micromanagement and to destroy their business. A manager does not need to be the best in everything and better than others. They have to lead. Such people often refuse to hire strong and experienced professionals, fearing competition and perceiving the professionalism of others as a threat. In the end, they have to take on tasks that they are not supposed to.
- The controller. Usually, this type of manager believes the quality of work depends on the number of issues they control. Therefore, they will double-check documents and letters, often getting confused and repeating everything several times. Most commonly, this type of boss includes neurotics who were brought up by overprotective parents and unwittingly transferred this unhealthy relationship model to the workplace.
How to tell if you or your boss is a micromanager
You are dependent on micromanagement if you or your boss:
- Spends more than 70% of their working time on operational tasks, not strategic ones;
- Focuses on current processes and not results;
- Has never recently agreed with an employee’s opinion or approach and still believes that they are always right about everything;
- Checks multiple times a day on their employee’s progress;
- Does not delegate tasks to their staff;
- Reacts strongly and negatively to criticism and criticizes employees for mistakes;
- If they participate, the work process becomes slower than without their involvement.
However, you will be able to see whether your employees have lost a good deal of productivity because of your micromanagement by the following signs:
- They miss deadlines whether you control them or not;
- They work faster when you stand over them;
- They do not show initiative and shift responsibility;
- They work according to a strict standard and do not try to enhance their work process, even if possible;
- They double-check what does not need to be checked at all;
- They get confused about their industry, relying on their boss for everything;
- They focus on engaging themselves in the process rather than achieving results.
How to stop micromanaging
Suppose your business has all the signs mentioned above. In that case, you urgently need to stop micromanaging before it is too late. To do this, I strongly advise you to:
- Delegate tasks
To help you avoid being afraid of trusting your employees with important tasks, you must trust them first. Next, ensure you have responsible and experienced professionals working in your team, even if micromanagement has messed them up a bit. Approach work as a group activity, where every team member’s participation is vital. This is how employees will compensate for each other’s weaknesses (including your own) while reinforcing each other’s strengths. I assure you from my experience: managers who know how to delegate tasks reach far greater heights than those who carry everything on their shoulders. Finally, only focus on the pressing issues that cannot be resolved without you.
- Use the SMART methodology
With SMART-based planning, it is much easier to set effective and clear goals for your team, making it easier to allocate responsibilities and monitor your team’s progress. You can learn more about this methodology in one of my favourite Lectera articles, “Success Is on the Way: The SMART Goal-Setting Methodology.”
- Establish feedback with employees
A major flaw of micromanagers is that they do not listen to the opinion of their employees. While feedback is one of the best ways to monitor progress! Ask your own team how comfortable they are working in this environment and with your management style, how they see their own contribution to the company on a day-to-day basis, and what can make them more productive. Having new knowledge about your team can help you motivate them effectively. Motivation does not have to be monetary! It can also be a free lunch for the best employee, or even simple praise in a work chat.
- Hold regular meetings
Meetings are a fantastic way to stay updated and keep track of progress without imposing your opinion or presence. The key here is to keep the meetings short (15-20 minutes maximum) and have them several times a week, not daily.
The best way to stop micromanaging is to make every team member a manager. Let them take control of their work and come to you with the finished results. If your employees feel personally responsible for the business, they will feel involved, meaning they will be interested in its overall success. Focus on your management work and let them do what they were hired to do. Trust them, yet do not overdo it and aim not only for your personal career growth but also that of your staff.