Micromanaging: Who’s at fault?

Have you ever had a manager who literally looked over your shoulder while you were typing a memo or telling you how to do work at which you already are proficient, or second guesses every decision you make? Many experts have described this action as micromanaging, which can lead to several negative occurrences in your office or organization. It can lead to a lack of creativity, codependence on the manager, and a lack of development and learning opportunities for the employee. Micromanaging impedes the progress of workflow, so everything becomes a bottleneck. The ultimate result is the downgrade of morale among employees and team members.

This management style was around well before the word “micromanager” became part of our lexicon. In 1946, Peter Drucker referred to as the “ultimate of management gurus,” called for a “democracy of management” whereby organizations should decentralize and delegate greater decision-making authority to employees.

Employees that are micromanaged begin to develop distrust between the employee and their managers. The employee is inhibited from taking the initiative in making decisions for fear the work will be second-guessed. But what if the manager has cause to meddle or look over an employee’s shoulder? Who should be at fault for this behavior?

Now, I am not naïve to know that there are valid reasons why managers micromanage employees. For example, poor work ethics, training purposes, or new policies and regulations are implemented. Perhaps the manager is not efficient themselves. If the manager is insecure, self-doubting, and getting constant pressure from above, such behavior is normal, even if not warranted.

Before we place all the blame on the manager, employees need to look critically at themselves to see if there is a reason for the manager’s actions. Employees must put forth their best effort in every part of the job so the manager will notice it. Perhaps the manager then will have no reason to second-guess the work.

If this is not the case, the manager will not effectively lead those subordinates to you. Therefore, trust must be re-established to be an effective Manager, Team Lead, or Supervisor.  

The effective manager knows how to strike a balance between hands-on supervision and instruction without excessively monitoring employees’ every moment. No matter who is at fault, the manager must take the lead in resolving the issues. Manager must use their leadership skill and core competencies to bring resolution to a distrusted environment.  

So, how to stop the micromanagement of leadership style? An article in The HR Specialist in 2011 gave four solutions to help micromanagers stop the behavior and find balance. They are still relevant today:

1.      Clearly communicate the goal and objectives of the project, plus deadlines. Managers who don’t communicate exactly the requirements to an employee will have to micromanage because the employee doesn’t clearly understand expectations.

2.     The manager should determine where micromanaging is needed, what particular project requires a close eye on, and when it is appropriate to micromanage. For example, will the manager focus on all of the projects or a specific few? Will the manager focus on all employees or certain ones, and just when should micromanaging be done?

3.      Understand the art of delegating at a steady rate. Know when to back off on micromanaging top performers and those who show the ability to be productive without ongoing supervision. Start by delegating tasks that are less risky and require few to no decisions by the employee. Then gradually increase task and decision making as the employee improves and you feel they are more capable.

4.      The manager should ask employees for suggestions for every new task or project.

If you are the guilty micromanager described in this blog, you need to take a critical look at yourself and understand that you are keeping your employees from being creative and innovative, reducing productivity and profits for the organization.

Good managers should focus on the big and strategic picture instead of the small details of the operation. Good managers should empower, encourage, develop, and inspire their employees and not become overbearing and controlling.

Thanks for reading my thoughts.

Dr. D

(The Carolyle Destiny Group)



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