As a manager, it can be tempting to want to keep a close eye on your team’s progress to ensure everything is running smoothly. In fact, team management is likely part of your job description. There’s a fine line between supporting your team in their roles and micromanaging employees. Crossing the line can negatively impact morale and productivity and is likely to do more harm than good.
In this article, we provide examples of micromanagement, offer questions to ask yourself to determine whether you may be subconsciously micromanaging employees, and detail how micromanaging can impact a business and its employees.
What Micromanaging Looks Like As An Employee
Micromanaging in the workplace can be overt or subtle and thus, hard to identify. It may look like:
- Being asked where you were when your Slack status changed to “Away” or receiving continuous comments about your Slack status.
- Receiving more scrutiny than praise on your work without clear steps for improvement.
- Not having tasks delegated amongst other team members despite competence or eagerness to learn.
- Being continuously asked to report on outputs, including small day-to-day tasks.
- Being told what to do or how to perform with no room to provide feedback about what is/is not working for you.
Are You A Micromanaging Boss?
Micromanagers are not always easy to spot. Although you likely have your team’s best interest at heart, your subconscious behaviours may not come across this way. To evaluate whether you may be micromanaging employees, ask yourself:
- Does my immediate team have to obtain my approval before they share it with others?
- Do I zone in on my employees’ location, either in the office or check in on their virtual status on Slack, Microsoft teams, or other platforms?
- Do I get fixated on the details and believe my employees’ work is not up to standard?
- Do I delegate tasks to team members?
If you answer, ‘yes’ to any of the above, dig a bit deeper. Is it because an employee is new? If yes, are you providing them with actionable feedback so they will eventually be equipped to meet your/the company’s expectations?
How Micromanaging Impacts Employees
There’s no doubt that micromanaging employees impacts a company’s culture. However, it can extend beyond the company and impact an individual at their core. Micromanagement can:
1. Decrease trust and stifle autonomy
One of the biggest issues with micromanaging is that it can lead to a lack of trust and autonomy among employees. When a manager is constantly looking over an employee’s shoulder and checking in on their work, it can make them feel like they are not trusted to do their job. This can lead to decreased motivation and engagement, as employees may feel that their opinions and ideas are not valued. Ken Sher provides the example that micromanagement sounds like, “All decisions much come through me…follow the process without deviation,” whereas autonomy would sound like, “You know your job better than I do; I TRUST you to do what you think is best.”
2. Suppress creativity and innovation
Another issue with micromanaging is that it can stifle creativity and innovation. According to Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, authors of The Process Principle, “Micromanagement not only poisons inner work life; it stifles creativity and productivity in the long run”. When employees feel constrained by a manager’s constant monitoring, it can be difficult to think outside the box and come up with new and innovative ideas. There’s a link between creativity and productivity and thus, suppressing creativity can be detrimental to a company’s growth and success.
Micromanagement stifles creativity and innovation in a few ways.
- Constraint on decision making: When employees feel like they are constantly being watched and monitored, they are likely to be unable to make decisions without seeking approval from their manager. This can lead to a lack of autonomy resulting in impaired creative thinking. Asking for approval stalls the creative thought process.
- Fear of failure: When employees perceive they are not trusted to make decisions independently, they may become more risk-averse. They may be less likely to propose new and innovative ideas for fear of being criticized or reprimanded for making a mistake. Fear of failure can impair both creativity and innovation in the workplace.
- Lack of ownership and engagement: When employees feel they are not trusted to make their own decisions, there is often a diminished sense of ownership over their work. Reduced ownership can lead to reduced engagement and investment in work, causing a lack of creativity and innovation.
- No room for experimentation: Micromanagement often involves close monitoring of the process, which may not allow employees to experiment, try out new methods and explore new ideas. This can lead to stagnation in the way work is done, and a lack of creativity and innovation.
Overall, micromanagement creates an environment where employees feel constrained, fearful, disengaged and unable to experiment. As a result, creativity and innovation are hindered; ultimately, it suppresses diverse thinking. A more effective approach is to set clear goals and guidelines, and then trust employees to work towards achieving them in their own way. This can result in increased engagement, autonomy, and creativity.
3. Time-consuming and inefficient
In addition to the negative effects on employees, micromanaging can also be time-consuming and inefficient for the manager. Instead of focusing on more important aspects of their role, a micromanaging manager may end up spending too much time on small tasks and details.
So, what is the solution? Instead of micromanaging, managers should focus on setting clear goals and guidelines for their team. By providing employees with clear expectations, they will have a better understanding of what they need to accomplish. And by trusting employees to work towards achieving these goals in their own way, managers can create a more positive and productive work environment.
Overall, micromanaging employees is not the answer to achieving success in the workplace. It can lead to a lack of trust and autonomy, stifle creativity and innovation, and be time-consuming and inefficient for the manager. By setting clear goals, trusting employees to work towards achieving them, and providing opportunities for feedback managers can create a more positive and productive work environment.
Director Of Talent Development
Amela manages Jarvis’ Talent Incubation Program, which identifies and develops high-potential individuals for technical positions in various Canadian organizations. The program also helps companies build a more stable and high-quality talent pipeline with an emphasis on diversity.
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Jarvis is a leading IT consulting firm headquartered in Canada that provides total talent solutions with ongoing partnerships across North America’s top financial institutions, cutting-edge startups, and major technology companies.
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