A significant role of the manager is to constantly improve their department. This entails allowing employees to do their jobs and encouraging them to provide work improvements that will increase department productivity and morale. In this way employee performance keeps improving, freeing up the manager so enable them concentrate on the bigger picture, not how their employees execute their specific jobs.
In the world of business management, micromanagement is a management style “whereby a manager closely observes or controls the work of subordinates or employees”. Micromanagement generally has a negative connotation.1
When you encounter a micromanaging boss the root cause is most often not bullying tactics, its fear. While a manager typically should have their employees making many of their own decisions, ultimately the responsibility for the final decision rests with them. Micromanagers are driven by a need to control situations through their fear of being held accountable for other peoples’ work.
Additionally, and this is the fear most responsible for causing bosses to micromanage, that a large percentage of them are driven to be seen as experts and authority figures. As a manager one moves away from the being directly involved with the core work of the company. Imagine how you would feel if your employees were working so well and self-sufficiently that they seem to have no use for your expertise and authority. In other instances managers may find themselves unable to let go of their previous job and so they linger in old, familiar territory, and closer of the operations of the company, instead of moving forward into a more strategic role. 2
Why is micromanagement so bad?
Micromanagement inhibits employee productivity and can eat into time that would be better spent meeting business and client needs. Managers are expected to oversee employees’ work and provide guidance or correction whenever necessary. However, the time it takes a manager to demonstrate each and every task eventually will eat into the time dedicated to actual production. Employees whose performance appraisal ratings are based on their production levels may even be evaluated lower than expected due to no fault of their own.
A supervisor who micromanages employees prevents them from demonstrating their aptitude and potential. Unnecessarily monitoring of every job task limits opportunities for employees to accept increasingly responsible positions. Employees lose initiative as well as the motivation to exercise independent judgment, both of which are professional characteristics on which many promotional opportunities are based. With time, employee aptitude dulls and becomes so squashed that the possibility of their career succession becomes nonexistent.
Employees whose managers constantly oversee their work ultimately lose enthusiasm and drive. They begin to wonder what their purpose is in being assigned certain duties if a manager constantly dictates how to complete each job task. With constant intrusion comes disengagement from the job itself until the employee’s job is no longer challenging or fulfilling. Employee disengagement manifests itself in a number of ways, including poor performance, reduced productivity and low employee morale. Frustrated employees become dissatisfied, and, as a result, the employer-employee relationship suffers.
Many employees begin their careers as young professionals who require guidance and supervision; however, during the course of their careers, they become more skilled and the need for direction and supervision gradually decreases. When supervisors micromanage employees, employees may believe the only alternative is for them to look elsewhere for career opportunities. Moving from one position to another disrupts an employee’s career track. 3
What follows are some signs that you might have a micromanager on your hands?
In general, micromanagers:
- resist delegating,
- immerse themselves in overseeing the projects of others,
- start by correcting tiny details instead of looking at the big picture,
- take back delegated work before it is finished if they find a mistake in it, and
- discourage others from making decisions without consulting them.4
Why it is important to manage a micromanaging employee
Micro-managers exist and flourish because many employers assume that employees do not work if you don’t make them by being constantly on their case. Unfortunately this is true in enough cases to prove the point. It is also self-fulfilling prophecy because a good, self-motivated, results-oriented employee will not stay around under such a manager for very long. The employees that are prepared to stay in this sort of environment, long term, need to have someone looking over their shoulders. Therefore, the micro-manager has no motivation to change. Retaining good calibre staff is just one example of why it is important that micromanagers are, themselves, coached or trained out of their tendency to be over-involved in their employees’ work.
Micromanaging violates at least three important principles of business:
- Comparative advantage.
Even if micromanagers are better at the jobs of their subordinates, doing those jobs themselves will take time away from the more important and valuable work for which they are responsible.
- Opportunity costs.
By taking time away from higher-level jobs to do lower level jobs, the micromanager is foregoing opportunities that could better help the business.
- Authority and responsibility are tied together.
Micromanagers violate the rule that authority and responsibility must go together. That is, if managers hold subordinates responsible for doing a job, they must also give subordinates the authority to do the job the way they see fit. If managers retain the authority, they must also retain the responsibility.5
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