How to Avoid Micromanaging (for Bosses and Employees)

Posted on February 2, 2019 by in Business | 10 comments

How to Avoid Micromanaging (for Bosses and Employees)

At times, it can seem as if micromanaging is necessary for getting ideal results. However, in reality, it only slows productivity and leads to unhappy employees.

In this article, we’ll discuss what micromanaging is and why it’s problematic. Then we’ll explain how to spot signs of it in the workplace, discuss how to avoid it as a boss, and talk about what employees should do if they’re being micromanaged.

Let’s dive right in!

An Introduction to Micromanaging (And Why It’s Harmful in the Workplace)

Simply put, micromanagement is an attempt to control every aspect of an undertaking. This could include a supervisor who spends their day watching employees instead of doing their own work, for example. It could also include managers who insist employees complete tasks in a specific way, and ignore suggestions of other methods.

Many people who micromanage others feel that they are ensuring their employees complete work correctly, improving the efficiency and quality of the work done. It actually does the opposite. Studies show micromanagement decreases productivity and creativity.

It does this by building a relationship based on fear between employer and employee. This decreases the quality of the employee’s work, which results in the employer feeling they have to criticize and micromanage the employee even more closely – a dangerous cycle.

5 Signs of Micromanagement in the WorkPlace

There are several warning signs that can alert you to the possibility of micromanagement taking place in your workplace. Spotting them can help you work to eliminate this bad practice. Let’s take a look at the key signs.

1. Avoiding Delegation Because You’re Afraid of Mistakes

Many micromanagers believe if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. This becomes dangerous as the micromanager starts to take more and more work on. Not only does this create more stress for the micromanager, it also leaves their employees with little or no work to do.

Delegation is a crucial part of communication between bosses and employees. It provides an opportunity for bosses to fill employees in on the goals of the business and make sure everyone knows the role they’re supposed to play.

By refusing to delegate, bosses also have less time to focus on the work only they can do. There are some tasks that have to be completed by people in certain roles, and if you’re busy completing your employees’ work, you won’t have as much time to dedicate to your own.

2. Letting Details Bog You Down and Distract You

Another tendency of micromanagers is to focus too much on little details and forget about the big picture. Many people who practice micromanagement want every last step done to their specifications, and obsessing over those details can distract them from their larger goals.

With the big picture in clear focus, it’s easier to see what’s needed to reach the end goal. It doesn’t matter much if one particular aspect is exceptional if the rest of the project suffers for it. Starting with the big picture and filling in the details as you get closer to finishing tends to produce better results.

3. Placing Too Much Importance on Miscellaneous Tasks and Missing Your Goals

In a similar vein, micromanagers tend to place too much emphasis on small tasks such as emails or file organization. These day-to-day necessities usually have little impact on the larger goals of the business, but micromanagers can get hung up on them.

Making time for low-priority tasks is important, but they shouldn’t get in the way of the team accomplishing its goals. If given too much weight, these less significant tasks can prevent you from completing assignments by their deadlines, causing serious problems for your business.

4. Discouraging Others From Making Decisions So You’re in Control

Micromanagers like to be in control. Part of that is making all the decisions related to the projects they oversee. They tend to leave little room for others to exercise decision-making and problem-solving skills, dampening the creativity of the entire group.

This creates time-management issues, as employees have to engage in a lot of back-and-forth with micromanaging bosses in order to receive input on every small decision. When employees can make some decisions on their own, they complete tasks more efficiently.

Having more autonomy also increases employee satisfaction, which has been shown to increase productivity. Therefore, discouraging decision making in employees has a double drain on their on their ability to do an efficient job. Ultimately, it could be detrimental to the whole team.

5. Ignoring Others’ Opinions and Ideas and Forcing Your Own

Additionally, micromanagers usually dislike hearing others’ opinion and ideas, and sometimes will even put them down. They tend to believe that their way of doing things is the best way, and can miss out on potentially helpful insights from their employees because of it.

Being discouraged from contributing ideas lowers employee engagement, which in turn produces lower-quality work. A lack of engagement can also lead to an increase in safety incidents and absenteeism, as well as worse customer ratings and a high turnover rate.

How to Prevent Micromanagement as a Boss

As a boss, preventing yourself from micromanaging your employees can lead to much better results. If you’ve recognized any of the above signs in your own work habits, it may be time to make a change in your management style, for the betterment of your whole team.

If you’re hesitant to delegate or find yourself picking at details, try sharing your expectations with your employees instead of just assigning them tasks. When they understand your overall goals, they’re more likely to accomplish tasks correctly.

You can also try starting your day by working on the tasks that only you can complete. This will encourage you to delegate tasks to others, and help you prioritize the project’s main goals over miscellaneous tasks.

Lastly, try improving communication with your employees. This can be achieved by clearly explaining the team’s big picture goals, and listening to your employees’ ideas, and considering them important. This will help your employees set more effective goals, and become more engaged in and satisfied with their work.

How to Work With Micromanagers as an Employee

If you’re the one being micromanaged, the best way to get your boss to let up a little is to prove to them that you don’t need to be constantly monitored. Try taking on tasks and assignments you know you’ll complete successfully. You can prove your credibility and hopefully encourage your boss to delegate to you in the future.

You can also practice decision making by completing tasks without asking for your boss’s input on small details, then requesting feedback once you’ve completed the task. This will give you the chance to implement your own ideas while still showing your boss you respect them.

Seeking out your company’s big picture goals can also help increase your accuracy on assignments. You’ll be better able to understand your boss’s goals and can anticipate what they want from you so they don’t feel the need to manage your every move.

Conclusion

Ultimately, micromanagement has no real benefits to bosses or employees. While managers might feel hovering over and controlling their employees leads to better results, it tends to decrease productivity and employee job satisfaction. For employees, working under a micromanager can inhibit your ability to perform your job to the best of your ability.

In this article, we’ve discussed what micromanagement is and what its drawbacks are. We’ve also shared strategies for bosses to avoid micromanaging, and tips for employees who are being micromanaged. Plus, we’ve discussed some common signs of micromanagement in the workplace, including:

  1. Avoiding delegation because you’re afraid of mistakes.
  2. Letting details bog you down and distract you.
  3. Placing too much importance on miscellaneous tasks and missing your goals.
  4. Discouraging others from making decisions so you’re in control.
  5. Ignoring others’ opinions and ideas and forcing your own.

Do you have any questions about micromanagement in the workplace? Leave them in the comments section below!

Article Image Thumbnail: Petityul / shutterstock

10 Comments

  1. I’ve just parted company with the world’s worst micro-manager! At first, he appeared to be a breath of fresh air as he was organised to the nth degree, but it soon became obvious just how out of his depth he was. I believe fiercely in the art of delegation – it helps me manage my own workload and empowers my colleagues; however, this guy was incapable of it. He felt he had to control every aspect of a task himself, even though he had no experience of the skills-set required.

    I agree entirely with you: micro-management undermines and disempowers. It can create a toxic working environment that impacts on productivity and staff retention.

    • John Hughes

      Thanks for your real-world insight, Paul. I’m glad you’ve got out of the swamp. 🙂

    • I’be been micromanaged, and I can relate to everything said in here, even comments. I decided to leave my job and I feel soooooo relieved! Great energy for my personal project now!

  2. Great article and so timely. I’ve got a boss who is doing all of this and it’s so hard to deal with.

    • John Hughes

      Hopefully our tips will inspire change, Elizabeth!

  3. While working at my father’s company, a small one, I was the only one that knew every little bit of business. Micro and macro. I had the same problem which you mentioned here. While observing what other employees are doing, I often lost focus on my job.

    Since I don’t work there anymore and I want to develop my own company and team of employees, these 5 signs of micromanagement will definitely be on my radar.

    • John Hughes

      Fantastic, Milan. You’ll have to let us know how you apply the techniques!

  4. I too have a boss that is doing this and takes it to another level. Worst thing about it is that he sends ALL voicemails to everyone by email and controls everything thru a group outlook. Is it time to seek another venue?

    • John Hughes

      Only you can decide that, Jim. However, gut feeling is usually a good one. Good luck. 🙂

  5. Not sure whether it is going to work for me, got to know that I was ignoring, thanks for your time and sharing this post.

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