Leading can be an enriching and powerful experience. It’s an opportunity to utilize the benefit of experience to influence colleagues toward mutual success. Indeed, with the right set of leaders in place, all contributors to your company can benefit from a diverse range of supportive and inspiring management styles.
Unfortunately, there can also be occasions when leaders’ behavior can have a negative impact on the business. One of the key examples of this is micromanagement. When leaders pull too tightly on the reins of their teams, there can be a range of consequences for everyone involved. This is also a concept that is getting renewed attention, with the shift to remote operations seeing a rise in debatably toxic management monitoring practices.
So, how can you stop micromanaging behavior in your organization? Let’s take a closer look at the issue.
What is Micromanaging?
In order to know how to stop micromanaging, it’s important to understand what it is. By definition, it is the process of seeking to control every aspect of a situation or task. From a business perspective, this often features company leaders who must have visibility of and authority over everything all employees and departments are doing. While management naturally involves asserting a certain amount of sway, micromanagement tends to involve going to extremes.
Unfortunately, one of the common challenges here is that the concept can be open to interpretation. Micromanaging leaders don’t always recognize when their actions fall within the definitions. What may seem like a dedication to the success of a project from a manager’s perspective can be an overly controlling and oppressive approach for employees. As such, it can be wise to familiarize yourself with what constitutes micromanagement.
Some examples of micromanaging behavior can include:
- Requiring consultation on the details of the majority of tasks.
- Being overly critical of employees’ actions regardless of their performance.
- Discouraging independent decision making and creative thinking among team members.
- Prescribing how all tasks should be undertaken to a minute level of detail.
- Constant monitoring of all staff activities.
- Requiring frequent detailed reports on staff actions.
- Avoiding delegating leadership tasks.
Why is Micromanaging Negative?
One of the dangers here is that some micromanaging leaders may recognize their behavior, but don’t consider it to be a negative thing. Unfortunately, it is a common issue in corporate circles to misinterpret some toxic actions as dedication. Yet, it is important not to cross the fine line from assertive authority into being unnecessarily controlling. The result of this can be significant disruptions across various areas of operations.
Some of the negative consequences of micromanaging can include:
Disengagement and Turnover
Among the most common results of micromanagement is staff disengagement. Micromanagement can create a toxic atmosphere in the workplace in which workers feel constantly observed and oppressed. As such, employees can become gradually disconnected from the workplace over time. Few workers want to operate in this type of environment for long, so disengagement can quickly result in dysfunctional turnover.
Reduced Creativity and Innovation
It’s important not to think of workers as simply tools that get a company’s daily tasks completed. Each worker has talents, ideas, and perspectives. When they have space to be creative in their work, the result can be forms of innovation that the company and consumers benefit from. The overly controlling nature of micromanaging leaves little space for employees to explore new approaches, which limits the company’s access to innovation.
Stress and Burnout
Consistent examples of micromanaging are more than just negative, they can also be unhealthy. For employees, relentless monitoring and unreasonable demands create a stressful workplace environment. Over time, this can lead to burnout. Indeed, leaders who micromanage may find their drive to maintain control to be stressful, too. This not only fails the company’s duty of care for its workers. It can also result in higher costs related to absenteeism.
Strategies to Stop Micromanaging
Given the potential consequences your company could face, it’s important to adopt strategies that can stop micromanaging. Some of these can be impactful if you have concerns about your own micromanaging behavior. Others are implemented on a more systemic level and can also prevent micromanaging tendencies in other members of company leadership.
One of the most important steps in limiting micromanagement is to hire mindfully. Certainly, this involves identifying management candidates that understand how to effectively supervise in an open way. However, it’s also important to focus on hiring well-qualified, self-sufficient, and agile staff members. This tends to mean that your company builds an employee base that is able to manage their tasks and function effectively. In turn, leaders with tendencies to micromanage know they can trust workers to operate independently.
Some leaders micromanage because they don’t feel comfortable relinquishing control or don’t know how to delegate effectively. As such, it’s important to ensure that all leaders in your organization receive training in this area. Help them to understand how to identify tasks that can and should be delegated. Provide insights into how to effectively assess staff members based on their skills and characteristics and match this to delgateable tasks. Importantly, emphasize the importance of stepping back once tasks have been delegated and leave assessment and intervention until the tasks have been completed.
Seek Insights from Staff
Staff members often have the most useful perspectives on the presence of micromanagement in your organization. After all, it is likely to form part of their everyday experiences. As such, it’s worth reaching out to your employees to gain their insights in this area. You can ask questions as part of a wider employee experience survey. Though, you may find you get more detail from a targeted pulse survey on the subject of micromanagement. Look into how prevalent this management style is in your organization and the impact it has on workers and the company. Importantly, seek their opinions as to preferred solutions to the issue.
One of the common characteristics in companies with micromanagement issues is a lack of effective communication. When leaders feel they need to exert control, this may be because tasks haven’t been completed effectively in the past as a result of misunderstandings. It’s also important to recognize that measures such as delegation tend only to be effective when there are clear communication protocols that ensure all involved understand their roles. Therefore, communication tools and standards must be in place. Train all staff on interacting effectively and efficiently. Set guidelines for when and how to communicate in certain scenarios. However, it’s important to also ensure leaders don’t check in too frequently, as this can in itself be a form of micromanagement.
Knowing how to stop micromanaging requires focused and decisive action. Take the time to understand what types of behavior constitute micromanagement and ensure all leaders recognize the wider consequences to your staff and company. You should then build strategies to mitigate overly controlling actions into your everyday operations. This can include mindful hiring practices that attract self-driven workers and training your leaders how to delegate effectively. Don’t forget that your staff has key insights into this area, so take the time to reach out to them for their perspectives. When leaders and staff collaborate on this issue, there is the chance to overcome the toxic effects of micromanagement.