We Know Micromanaging is Bad, but How Bad?

No one likes a micromanager. Micromanaging impacts employees and the organizations they work for in myriad ways.

Employee satisfaction

Think about how satisfied you can be with a job well done or an accomplishment when someone has dictated every step you take, every decision you made, and everything you contributed. Job satisfaction comes not from being told how to do something or to make decisions for you; it comes from taking chances and seeing successes, diagnosing and solving problems, identifying new opportunities, or even ways of doing things. It involves having pride in what YOU have learned and accomplished.

Employee engagement

How can you be engaged when you have someone hovering over you, holding your hand, or demanding constant updates on minutia? Employees become engaged in their role with an organization when they understand how they contribute to the success of the company’s mission. But, beyond that reason, employees become engaged when they see their work has successful outcomes. When employees know their job knowledge and skill did not contribute to anything aligned with the company’s mission, they know they can be replaced anytime. So why would they become engaged?

In addition, one of the primary reasons for engagement with most employees is a sense of career direction. When someone is being micromanaged, they don’t feel like they are learning; they are just doing. They struggle to see any future career potential without knowledge and skill growth.

Employee commitment

The way to maximize the performance and productivity of employees requires that they commit to the company. When an employee is micromanaged, there is no need even to desire to be committed to their work or the company. To be committed to your job and role in a company requires the employee to believe in the company mission, know they are contributing to the mission, feel a sense of ownership in their job, feel their work makes a difference, is treated as though they are empowered to make decisions and relevant changes to their job, and to feel valued for the time they invest in their work. Micromanaging staff removes ALL reasons employees feel a commitment to the company or their work.

Employee self-confidence

This may be a “no-brainer,” but I’ll say it anyway. If a manager is questioning, second-guessing, and smothering an employee through micromanaging, they cannot have self-confidence.

Self-confidence results when an employee feels that their work is appreciated and that their opinions and ideas are valued. How can someone have self-confidence when they have no empowerment over their job or its processes, have no say in decisions that affect how their job is done, and are never trusted to do the job they are paid to do? Employees will only seek improvement, make suggestions, or innovate when they are confident in their role and position.

Employee stress

We know one of the primary causes of stress in the workspace is being out of control in their role and responsibilities. When a manager is micromanaging an employee, they have stolen any control over their job and are still help responsible for the outcomes of their work. That is the ultimate stressor. Employee stress and the resultant anxiety can be directly correlated to the lack of presenteeism and absenteeism.

Employee efficiency

How can anyone be efficient or effective in their job when exposed to constant, continual oversight and correction? Not only do they lose the drive to work faster, smarter, or cheaper, they lose the ability to improve, enhance, or innovate in their roles or tasks. Employees and the department/company become more efficient when we allow our staff to diagnose their challenges, problems, and processes and learn from their mistakes. Experiential learning is how adults learn best—micromanaging removes this learning option.

So, we see how, from these six examples, how a micromanager ends up costing the company thousands of dollars. Still, it also costs them employees that have the potential to be high performers or future leaders.

So why do managers micromanage?

The reasons for micromanaging have a few core reasons.

  1. Poor leadership/management training – too often, an employee is promoted into a management role because they were good at the tasks they did in their previous job. The promotion strategy helps to breed micromanagers. Since they were good at what they were doing, they often feel like they can do the job better than anyone else and therefore never want to give up the task or delegate it – they choose to micromanage others to do it exactly like they would do and make decisions that they would make. To stop this cycle of micromanagement, promotions should be based not only on job excellence but on their ability to delegate trust, lead as a manager, and not just try to do everyone else’s job. Also, a leadership development class and coach training would minimize their tendency to micromanage.
  2. The manager is in over their head – When a manager is anxious about their competencies and abilities, they tend to manage to the lowest level they can control – this ends up being micromanagement. If you can’t strategically or tactically manage the job responsibilities, you seek to manage them at their comfort level.
  3. The boss is micromanaging the manager – As adults, we learn two ways, by observation and experience. If the model the manager is exposed to is that of a micromanager, the cycle of micromanagement will persist.

Immediately upon learning that a manager is micromanaging one or more of the direct reports, the leader has two responsibilities:

  1. Diagnose why they are micromanaging. Is it because they need more training or coaching, they are over their head, or their boss is modeling this behavior to the manager?
  2. Once the cause for micromanagement has been identified, the steps to fix the management style will become evident. But, it will require the training/coach to be immediate, monitored, and communicated. The trainee needs to be given specific assignments, actions, and recommendations that require them to manage and behave differently. They must be told when they have completed a project or guidance and when they need additional work.

The resetting and retraining of manager behaviors are never easy, and we must know that not everyone has the right motivation, EQ, or intentions to be a great manager. When the leader learns that the deep-rooted management behaviors cannot be corrected, the leader must recognize that person is in the wrong seat on the bus. A good manager is a skill and talent not in everyone’s DNA, but they can still be excellent contributors to the organization’s success in a task role versus a management role.

We Know Micromanaging is Bad, but How Bad?

No one likes a micromanager. Micromanaging impacts employees and the organizations they work for in myriad ways.

Employee satisfaction

Think about how satisfied you can be with a job well done or an accomplishment when someone has dictated every step you take, every decision you made, and everything you contributed. Job satisfaction comes not from being told how to do something or to make decisions for you; it comes from taking chances and seeing successes, diagnosing and solving problems, identifying new opportunities, or even ways of doing things. It involves having pride in what YOU have learned and accomplished.

Employee engagement

How can you be engaged when you have someone hovering over you, holding your hand, or demanding constant updates on minutia? Employees become engaged in their role with an organization when they understand how they contribute to the success of the company’s mission. But, beyond that reason, employees become engaged when they see their work has successful outcomes. When employees know their job knowledge and skill did not contribute to anything aligned with the company’s mission, they know they can be replaced anytime. So why would they become engaged?

In addition, one of the primary reasons for engagement with most employees is a sense of career direction. When someone is being micromanaged, they don’t feel like they are learning; they are just doing. They struggle to see any future career potential without knowledge and skill growth.

Employee commitment

The way to maximize the performance and productivity of employees requires that they commit to the company. When an employee is micromanaged, there is no need even to desire to be committed to their work or the company. To be committed to your job and role in a company requires the employee to believe in the company mission, know they are contributing to the mission, feel a sense of ownership in their job, feel their work makes a difference, is treated as though they are empowered to make decisions and relevant changes to their job, and to feel valued for the time they invest in their work. Micromanaging staff removes ALL reasons employees feel a commitment to the company or their work.

Employee self-confidence

This may be a “no-brainer,” but I’ll say it anyway. If a manager is questioning, second-guessing, and smothering an employee through micromanaging, they cannot have self-confidence.

Self-confidence results when an employee feels that their work is appreciated and that their opinions and ideas are valued. How can someone have self-confidence when they have no empowerment over their job or its processes, have no say in decisions that affect how their job is done, and are never trusted to do the job they are paid to do? Employees will only seek improvement, make suggestions, or innovate when they are confident in their role and position.

Employee stress

We know one of the primary causes of stress in the workspace is being out of control in their role and responsibilities. When a manager is micromanaging an employee, they have stolen any control over their job and are still help responsible for the outcomes of their work. That is the ultimate stressor. Employee stress and the resultant anxiety can be directly correlated to the lack of presenteeism and absenteeism.

Employee efficiency

How can anyone be efficient or effective in their job when exposed to constant, continual oversight and correction? Not only do they lose the drive to work faster, smarter, or cheaper, they lose the ability to improve, enhance, or innovate in their roles or tasks. Employees and the department/company become more efficient when we allow our staff to diagnose their challenges, problems, and processes and learn from their mistakes. Experiential learning is how adults learn best—micromanaging removes this learning option.

So, we see how, from these six examples, how a micromanager ends up costing the company thousands of dollars. Still, it also costs them employees that have the potential to be high performers or future leaders.

So why do managers micromanage?

The reasons for micromanaging have a few core reasons.

  1. Poor leadership/management training – too often, an employee is promoted into a management role because they were good at the tasks they did in their previous job. The promotion strategy helps to breed micromanagers. Since they were good at what they were doing, they often feel like they can do the job better than anyone else and therefore never want to give up the task or delegate it – they choose to micromanage others to do it exactly like they would do and make decisions that they would make. To stop this cycle of micromanagement, promotions should be based not only on job excellence but on their ability to delegate trust, lead as a manager, and not just try to do everyone else’s job. Also, a leadership development class and coach training would minimize their tendency to micromanage.
  2. The manager is in over their head – When a manager is anxious about their competencies and abilities, they tend to manage to the lowest level they can control – this ends up being micromanagement. If you can’t strategically or tactically manage the job responsibilities, you seek to manage them at their comfort level.
  3. The boss is micromanaging the manager – As adults, we learn two ways, by observation and experience. If the model the manager is exposed to is that of a micromanager, the cycle of micromanagement will persist.

Immediately upon learning that a manager is micromanaging one or more of the direct reports, the leader has two responsibilities:

  1. Diagnose why they are micromanaging. Is it because they need more training or coaching, they are over their head, or their boss is modeling this behavior to the manager?
  2. Once the cause for micromanagement has been identified, the steps to fix the management style will become evident. But, it will require the training/coach to be immediate, monitored, and communicated. The trainee needs to be given specific assignments, actions, and recommendations that require them to manage and behave differently. They must be told when they have completed a project or guidance and when they need additional work.

The resetting and retraining of manager behaviors are never easy, and we must know that not everyone has the right motivation, EQ, or intentions to be a great manager. When the leader learns that the deep-rooted management behaviors cannot be corrected, the leader must recognize that person is in the wrong seat on the bus. A good manager is a skill and talent not in everyone’s DNA, but they can still be excellent contributors to the organization’s success in a task role versus a management role.

About Rich Jones

Strategic consultant and Keynote Speaker, Rich brings a deep experience in the disciplines of Strategic Planning, Marketing, Business Development, Digital Transformation, Data Utilization, Leadership Development and Cultural Alignment. A husband, father, runner, cyclist, beer drinker with a passion for life.

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