Micromanagers are often regarded as bad-tempered, condescending, and inherently evil individuals. In reality, many of them want the best intentions for their staff. In many cases, their behavior results from a lack of proper leadership tactics and skills. Unfortunately, the cycle of micromanagement perpetuates itself from managers to subordinates. Most of the time, poorly led employees become unintentional micromanagers.
When Trinity Solutions president Harry Chambers commissioned an independent survey, he found that 79% of 200 respondents had been micromanaged at one point. According to Sensemakers co-founder Oxana Razumova, micromanagement is an extremely controlling leadership style. Because employees are robbed of their independence, they become demoralized and disengaged. For this reason, it’s imperative to address micromanagement in the workplace.
What Is Micromanagement?
Workplace abuse comes in many forms, but what does micromanagement mean? In the business context, this term is used when a person in a leadership position is excessively controlling of processes and work. LeadershipIQ founder Mark Murphy said that this behavior is likely a result of a mix of fear and a strong desire for power.
There are plenty of micromanagement examples, but let us show you one scenario. Let’s say a graphic designer is working on an ad that will be posted on Facebook. A micromanager would constantly disrupt that employee to ask for updates. They may require the graphic designer to CC them on every relevant email. The micromanager may even give unsolicited advice on the design. Of course, the one on the receiving end knows how bad this feels.
What Are the Signs of a Micromanager?
If you’re still uncertain whether some form of abuse is happening in your workplace, here are some signs you’re being micromanaged.
The Manager Must Approve Everything
For a task to be considered complete, the manager has to see it, make their own edits, and provide their approval. They won’t go without having complete ownership over the work of their team. As you may have guessed, this can be a problem.
Employees Must CC the Manager on Every Email
Even the smallest discussion cannot happen without the knowledge of the supervisor. The manager must be copied on all work-related correspondence and emails. If the company’s using Slack, they need to be part of all the channels. Otherwise, they’ll feel anxious and disrupt employees’ work to ask for updates.
The Manager Knows Their Team Members’ Whereabouts
The supervisor starts to look for employees if they’re running a few minutes late. They also notice if it takes more than ten minutes for a person to respond to their Slack message. Throughout the day, they get stressed about their employees’ whereabouts.
The Supervisor Always Nitpicks on Their Employees’ Work
The manager gets a thrill from discovering mistakes in their subordinates’ work. They may love the feeling of pointing out the smallest error they find. The micromanager will also ensure that each employee is aware of their mistakes.
The Manager Prefers Doing Everything
Every micromanager believes that they are the only one who can do a task perfectly. They hate delegating things to their employees. When they do and someone makes a mistake, they’ll point out that the result would have been perfect if they had handled the task.
The Supervisor Stresses Over the Smallest Things
Attention to detail is an important leadership skill. However, if a supervisor starts to obsess and stress over all the small details of a project, they’re dealing with micromanagement issues. Instead of trusting their employees to submit quality work, they waste time reconsidering every aspect of a task. Managers are not meant to examine all the components of every project. Instead, they should act as a large decision maker, team leader, and general project overseer.
Is Micromanagement Good or Bad?
Some people will claim that micromanagement is not all that bad—it gets the job done efficiently. Well, let’s look at the pros and cons of this leadership style.
What Are the Advantages of Micromanagement?
- Thoroughly controlling a company’s operations – Micromanaging allows you to control and monitor the progress of your employees every step of the way.
- Ensuring accountability from employees – Micromanagement helps you ensure that you consistently submit satisfactory results to your clients. As a team leader, you’re not waiting for mistakes to happen. Instead, you ensure consistent accountability by catching errors in advance.
- Completing projects with complicated processes – Some projects require highly specific approaches and very particular results. When you micromanage your employees, you can guide them through the steps. So, no matter how complex the processes are, you can still expect consistent productivity from your team.
- Measuring outcomes accurately – If you want to know whether an approach is profitable, you need to find out how long it takes to complete certain tasks. Of course, you’ll be branded as a micromanager if you regularly track your team’s progress. However, you’re also a supervisor who knows the full capacity and efficiency of your team.
- Building stronger teams – Micromanagement may be a practical option for business operations if you’re bringing in new employees or assembling a team. It’s likely that your workers are not ready to be independent. So, you need to take a more detailed and hands-on approach when leading them.
- Unifying remote employees – If you’re overseeing a geographically scattered team, micromanaging your workers may keep them engaged and connected. By keeping an eye on your remote employees, you can ensure that they won’t get distracted at home and work towards their shared goals.
What Are the Disadvantages of Micromanagement?
- Implying that there’s no trust in the workplace – Employees will naturally become frustrated if they feel like their managers don’t trust them. Supervisors who micromanage usually exhibit behavior that implies doubt about an employee’s skills and character.
- Overly depending on managers – When a manager tries to control every decision that an employee makes, the latter will think that they need approval before taking another step. This outcome can be frustrating for both parties. Workers will always doubt their work, and managers will find themselves with too much responsibility. As a result, everyone gets stressed and the team will lose motivation and organization.
- Failing to manage teams in larger organizations – No matter how prolific you are, you cannot micromanage everyone in a big company. You can attempt to take this leadership approach, but you will only mess up workflows and create animosity among the employees.
- Lacking focus on long-term goals – Regardless of a company’s size, micromanagement can make a leader obsessive about mostly irrelevant and small details. Because the manager focuses too much on perfecting superfluous work aspects, they end up sacrificing the overall quality of a project.
What Is a Micromanager’s Personality?
To understand the character of a micromanager, let’s look at what motivates their behavior. A Harvard Business Review article says there are two reasons why this type of leader acts the way they do. For one, they want to feel more connected to their subordinates. Another reason is that they prefer doing their old job instead of supervising employees who now own their previous responsibilities.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, fear can also be a factor behind a leader’s micromanaging tendencies. According to leadership expert Mark Murphy, micromanagers are worried about employees doing something that will harm their credibility and reputation. They may have felt secure when they were doing a non-supervisory role. Because they were only responsible for their actions, they were more confident with their work, which eventually resulted in their promotion. However, when they became a manager, they started to fear that even the smallest weakness in their team would reflect their leadership abilities.
Aside from fear, a desire to be seen as an authority figure and expert is another driving force for micromanagement. This is evident in the results of an online survey conducted by LeadershipIQ. 41% of leaders who participated in the study said that they were motivated by their thirst for power. Of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it becomes a problem once a manager gets carried away.
Negative Effects of Micromanagement
If you’re not convinced that micromanagement is usually an ineffective leadership approach, take a step back and start contemplating. Here are some of the negative effects of micromanaging employees:
Damage to Employee Morale and Trust
A Trinity Solutions survey revealed that 85% of respondents believed that micromanagement negatively affected their morale. If you have ever worked under a micromanager, you have firsthand experience of how demotivating this can be. When an employee feels like someone’s always on their tail, they lose their sense of independence. Consequently, they become demotivated. No one wants to put in extra effort when they know that their work will be excessively questioned, edited, or criticized.
Higher Attrition Rates
The same survey from Trinity Solutions revealed that 69% of respondents who were micromanaged thought of changing jobs. People undeniably dislike micromanaging bosses.
Burnout for Employees and Managers
A Southern Illinois University study discovered that micromanaged workers are three times more likely to experience burnout. Employees become tired of constantly working hard to keep their managers happy. Meanwhile, the micromanaging leader becomes overly stressed with obsessing over the smallest details. Both parties are simply wasting precious energy that could be dedicated to other, more relevant tasks.
There’s little to no room for innovation and creativity when people are limited by strict rules. If a manager constantly watches over their employees, the latter will be afraid to do anything extraordinary. They will fear that anything they do out of the usual will elicit a negative response from their boss.
An Accountemps survey revealed that 55% of respondents found micromanagement to be harmful to their productivity. Constant edits and check-ins at every project stage create a bottleneck that slows down progress and hinders workflows.
What Can We Do About Micromanagement in the Workplace?
Happy Ltd. founder and CEO Henry Stewart says that micromanagement is the leading cause of frustration among employees. He recommends that managers should create clear guidelines for their workers. They should establish what they expect their employees to achieve. Of course, managers should give their subordinates the freedom to choose how they’ll accomplish their goals.
Everyone in an organization should be reminded about the role of a manager. A leader is a coach and a decision-maker. They are not meant to oversee every step that an employee takes.
Monitor Your Team Without Micromanaging Them
Now, it can be difficult to supervise workers without becoming too obsessive about what they do. However, there is a tool that can help you take a step back and still ensure employee productivity. You can use an online monitoring app like Traqq.
This lightweight time tracker is easy to download, install, and use. All your employees need to do is click Start on the desktop widget and Traqq will start logging their hours. You don’t have to focus too much on every aspect of your team’s work because the app will do the job for you. Traqq also monitors productivity and activity levels.
When you go to the dashboard, you will see how active an employee has been throughout the day. The time tracker analyzes activity levels based on keyboard input and mouse clicks and scrolls. Now, if you see that their productivity is incredibly low, you can check the screenshots to see if they’ve been engaging in non-work-related activities. What’s more, you will get a report on the websites and apps that take up the biggest chunks of their time.
Everything that has to do with your team’s productivity will be highlighted in the reports generated by Traqq. By getting an overview of your team’s performance, you can easily identify individuals who need attention. This way, you can monitor everyone’s productivity without micromanaging them.