“I’m just trying to help!”
“I want to ensure our success!”
If these lines sound familiar, you should know that they’re classic micromanagement warning signs. And, unfortunately for the well-intentioned micromanager, the results are rarely positive.
For his book My Way or the Highway, Harry Chambers organized a interesting study about micromanagement. According to the survey results, 71 percent of non-managers said micromanagement has interfered with their job performance, and 85 percent said it damages their morale.
Chambers says that micromanagers are motivated to act by three things: personal comfort, potential employee confusion, and fear of failure. But if micromanagers are just supposed to be looking out for the team, why does it backfire?
1. Micromanagement deters innovation
The satisfaction of knowing everything is going according to plan helps managers sleep at night. Project outcomes are easier to predict if the manager lays out every expectation and guideline for his or her employees in advance—no last-minute surprises.
But, unfortunately, this results in no creativity either. Instead of innovators pushing their business to new levels, employees become “yes men” and “yes women.” One of the largest effects of micromanagement is employee timidness; in fear of making a misstep, people stop taking risks and do only as they’re told. No new ideas. No creative solutions.
Due to this fear, the micromanager becomes a lecturer instead of a leader during meetings. Planning sessions are silent because employees conclude that speaking up is pointless when the micromanager won’t consider any ideas but their own. Employees stop caring about doing the best job, and just worry about doing the job assigned to them. Under the watchful eyes of a micromanager, innovation dies and companies stagnate.
2. Micromanagement decreases business agility
Confusing or unexplained processes turn many good managers into micromanagers. If a task seems too complicated to explain, many managers just opt to do it themselves. As a result, they take on extra work and don’t distribute knowledge.
They may think they’re helping their employees, thinking “since I have taken this on myself, that means they have less work.” True on some level, but here’s the problem—it decreases overall productivity and prevents employee growth.
We’ve all heard the proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Micromanagement is like constantly giving out fish without sharing how to catch them.
If every task, discount, and feature rollout requires managerial approval, employees waste time stuck in limbo, blocked from proceeding with the project. Productivity screeches to a halt, and overseers lengthen their own to-do lists with daily approvals.
It’s hard to delegate. The National Federation of Independent Business acknowledged that a transfer of power is one of the most difficult tasks for micromanagers. But, it is important for a manager to learn to embrace the distribution of power and responsibility. When employees learn expectations and protocols, they maintain their work momentum for better productivity. Managers who delegate responsibilities help their employees evolve.
3. Micromanagement increases employee turnover
Many micromanagers fear negative outcomes, thinking, “If I don’t tell them exactly what to do, then our project could fail.” But a survey conducted by Trinity Solutions, Inc. (as referenced in My Way or the Highway) found that almost 70 percent of non-manager respondents considered changing jobs because of micromanagement, and 36 percent actually made the move.
David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work, asserts that when people feel micromanaged, an automatic threat response kicks in. Employees begin to resent the role of manager because being told what to do every step of the way is akin to being told, “I don’t trust your judgment.”
As a result, company morale plummets. Because they feel ignored and judged, employees lose interest in their work, resulting in a plummet in productivity. They stop committing extra effort and disengagement increases, and employees begin to rely on putting in time and little else. In the end, people no longer enjoy their work environment and may ultimately quit.
Micromanagers Have Good Intentions
Micromanagers are not bullies. Typically, they’re supportive people who take their help one step too far and accidentally interfere with innovation, productivity, and employee retention. As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
While many micromanagers mean well, their companies suffer. So, if you notice micromanagement in your company, consider that it may be time for an intervention. And, if you find yourself heading down this path, stop right there and let go of those reins. Don’t let your micromanagement become a macro hindrance to your team’s productivity.
Have you dealt with a micromanaging boss? Have you been guilty of micromanaging your employees? Share your experience and what you have learned in the comments below.