While it’s true that micromanagement can yield better results in the short-term, consistently micromanaging your team will lead to a hostile work environment. No one likes someone breathing down their neck—qualified adults least of all.
In this post, we discuss the downsides of micromanagement, the upsides of macromanagement, and how you can become a more effective leader.
Micromanaging is when someone in a position of authority hovers over their employees and constantly criticizes and corrects their work instead of providing clear instructions at the outset. Rather than leave their employees to complete tasks on their own, micromanagers peer over their shoulders and nitpick along the way.
Beyond frustrating and annoying their employees, micromanagers also make it obvious to everyone on their team that they don’t trust them to get the job done. Even if this is unintentional and the manager is simply trying to help, this lack of trust will eventually breed resentment and diminish any positive rapport the manager has established with their employees.
“If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.”
Is this your mantra? Because if it is, it’s a telltale sign you’re a micromanager.
There are a few clear signs you may be micromanaging your team. For starters, do you trust the people on your team to make decisions on their own? Or does everything need to be approved by you first? Do you take tasks away from your employees to complete yourself and criticize their performance without providing constructive criticism? Do you let your employees know when they’re doing a good job, or do you only bring up their performance if you’re unsatisfied with it? Do you trust your team to work from home?
Micromanaging isn’t limited to teams that share a physical office space; micromanaging affects virtual teams too. You can breathe down someone’s neck figuratively by constantly requesting updates over Slack or expecting your employees to reply to your emails right away. Does each passing moment the employee doesn’t respond make you feel like they’re not being productive?
If you don’t trust your employees to complete their work without your supervision, you’re a babysitter, not a manager.
🤔 Curious to know if you’re a micromanager? These are 9 signs of micromanagement behavior.
Now, there are some professions that require a little micromanagement. If you manage the kitchen staff at an upscale restaurant where each meal needs to be cooked and plated exactly the same way, you need to make sure that quality is being maintained every time. But even in this scenario, eventually, you need to trust that the professional chefs under your supervision were hired for a reason—they know how to cook!
Micromanagers may also provide some comfort to the less confident members of their team. For some employees, it’s reassuring to know that any potential mistakes they make will be caught. But even in these situations, it’s up to the leader of the team to build that employee’s confidence with consistent encouragement and positive feedback.
It’s a natural impulse to want to be in control of your team’s outcomes, but micromanagement stifles creativity and growth. Plus, no matter how phenomenal you are at your job, you can’t do everything yourself.
The negative impacts of micromanagement far outweigh the positives. Constant criticism will make your team members question their abilities. They may begin to feel as though they’re incapable of completing a task on their own, which will diminish team morale and cause resentment to fester.
Micromanaging your team also stalls productivity and wastes resources. How can you hope to meet a deadline if every task and project needs your approval first, and how can you get your own work done if you’re always doing everyone else's?
Plus, it’s just plain annoying. If you constantly bug your team members, no one is going to be excited to see your face pop up in the Zoom meeting. While you may believe it’s not important that your team like you as long as they respect your authority, you may want to reconsider how medieval your approach is. Do you really want to work with a team of people who dislike you? How does that affect your own morale?
Macromanagers give their teams autonomy. They have a hands-off approach that allows their team members to complete their work in the way that works best for them. But don’t get the impression macromanagers are never around. Macromanagers are always available to provide guidance—but only when that guidance is requested or when the employee has never completed the task before.
Macromanagers trust their team to get the job done. They lead with enthusiasm and encouragement because they understand it’s better to influence an outcome than it is to control it. Macromanagers create an environment that cultivates trust and welcomes creativity by inspiring their team through their own dedication, innovation, enthusiasm, and transformational leadership.
📚 Learn more about transformational leadership and how you can become a transformational leader.
Delegate tasks and take the time to coach your employees at the outset. It takes a lot more time to do everything yourself than it takes to show an employee how to perform a task efficiently. Provide your employees with the tools they need and then allow them the time and space to complete the task themselves.
Everyone works differently. Some people prefer to work in the evening, whereas others are most productive in the morning. Provide your employees with the space to work when and how they work best. Giving your employees more freedom makes them more productive, and it boosts morale too. Asynchronous communication is a vital part of macromanagement. It allows your team to manage their own schedule while keeping the lines of communication open.
📚 Learn more about asynchronous communication and how to use it effectively.
Be selective about the information you want your employees to share with you. You don’t need to know every little detail and waste time on minutiae. Focus on what’s most important. Your team can handle the details. Train your team to deliver information concisely and only follow up on areas of consequence.
If everything was up to you, you’d be the only person working at the company. Encourage your employees to express their ideas and take ownership of them. Instead of taking their idea and running with it, allow them to implement it themselves. This builds an employee’s confidence and makes them feel like a valued member of the organization. Creativity, communication, and collaboration produce the best work.
If you consistently take over your employees’ tasks, then you’re the only person accountable for a success or failure. Over time, this leads to employee disengagement and low team morale. No one wants to feel useless.
Accountability is essential to your team’s success because it inspires your employees to take ownership over both successes and failures. With accountability, no one shirks their responsibilities, no one shifts the blame to someone else, and everyone understands what is expected of them.
📚 Learn how to build a culture of accountability in the workplace.
Establishing consistent routines means your team never has to guess what happens next, what they’re accountable for, or whether or not they’re in trouble. The team knows what to expect without having to think about it. If you only sporadically request one on one meetings with your employees, they’ll inevitably assume they’ve done something wrong. This never happens. Why would they want to meet with me? 😬
When one on one meetings and all hands meetings are a regular thing, they’re nothing to be feared—they’re just part of the routine. Help your employees know what to expect so that they don’t waste their brain space playing guessing games.
Allow team members to set priorities and work on their own time, but establish regular times to check in on their progress and ask for updates. Your team should feel like they’re in control of their own work, but they shouldn’t feel like they’re all alone. You are there to facilitate their productivity. Follow up with your employees at regular intervals to find out if they need you and to ensure everyone stays on track.
Regularly providing your team members with feedback will improve the quality of your feedback and condition your employees to expect it. When feedback is sporadic, it’s something to be feared. When feedback is continuous, it’s just a regular part of the workday. Open communication helps build rapport and strengthen the employee/manager relationship.
When employees and managers trust each other, there’s no need to micromanage anyone or anything.
📚 Read our Guide to Giving Constructive Feedback.
WorkPatterns provides One on Ones, Team Collaboration, Feedback, Recognition & Goals—all in one place. With WorkPatterns, there’s no need for micromanagement—every single person on the team is able to contribute, collaborate, and stay accountable.