Managing a team takes a lot of work. And being a great leader is a learning process that every manager has to go through to discover how to inspire their team. The good news is, you've found yourself reading this article because you want to improve how you lead your team -- so you're on the right track!
Micromanagement is a common challenge that managers run into at some point in their career. In fact, a whopping 79% of employees report feeling micromanaged at work.
The biggest problem is managers don't realize they're micromanaging, and are actually doing so with good intentions, but are baffled when it leads to low morale, reduced productivity, and even resentful employees. Fortunately, there are simple ways to avoid micromanaging at work.
Whether you've independently realized your micromanagement tendencies, or received some constructive feedback from your direct reports -- this blog post will help you understand what micromanagement looks like, its negative effects, and 5 best practices to become a better leader for your team.
What is micromanagement?
Most of us know being called a "micromanager" isn't a compliment -- but what exactly is micromanagement? A micromanager is a superior that's excessively involved or controlling over their employees. In contrast, the management style on the opposite end of the spectrum is called macromanagement, which is a totally hands off approach to leadership. Like with many things, experts suggest the best approach between micromanagement vs. macromanagement is somewhere in the middle.
So why do some managers micromanage? A micromanagement style often stems from a personal standard of perfectionism on the manager's part. Unfortunately, micromanagement often has a negative effect because this kind of helicopter supervision can make employees feel insecure and not trusted to do their jobs. There are many examples of how micromanagement can look like in the workplace.
Common micromanagement examples
- Asking to be CC'd on every email employees send.
- Excessively monitoring employees on day-to-day tasks.
- Demanding constant status updates, even before deadlines.
- Overly-criticizing employees' work or performance.
- Always unsatisfied with employee deliverables.
- Not allowing employees to independently manage their time.
- Struggling to delegate tasks because they can do it better themselves.
This corporate management style has built a bad rap over the years, and for several reasons.
Micromanagement not only fosters a poor relationship with the team, who can end up feeling undervalued and mistrusted -- it also puts a lot of pressure on the manager themselves, who might take on more than they can handle because they feel they're the only person who can successfully complete the task.
5 negative micromanagement effects on employees:
- Compromised productivity due to lack of independence and trust in their position.
- Reduced job satisfaction caused by feeling undervalued by management.
- Imposter syndrome when employees feel they aren't good enough at their job.
- Feelings of resentment due to excessive supervision and/or criticism.
- Quiet quitting as employees stop trying to meet unrealistic expectations.
5 negative micromanagement effects on (micro)managers:
- Time scarcity from taking on too much work and lack of time for their own tasks.
- Falling short of goals because they're busy with work that could be delegated.
- Increased stress from closely supervising many employees and their responsibilities.
- Unrealistic expectations for themselves and their team, leading to disappointment.
- Poor team relationships and morale that cause friction in the workplace.
Improving your management style can boost both your own, and your team's, productivity. Let's take a look at 5 best practices to avoid the consequences of micromanagement for everyone on the team.
5 ways to stop micromanaging
1. Learn to trust your team
The first step in avoiding being a micromanager is learning to trust your team. This can be difficult when you're a perfectionist, are stuck in one way of doing things, or struggle to delegate because you're worried your employees won't successfully complete a task.
As a manager, you have experience and skills that qualify you to lead the team. But your employees are also there because they have their own unique set of skills that the company needs. And while you may think life would be easier if you could manage clones of yourself, you'd be greatly depriving your organization from the different perspectives and experiences that others can offer to find new and better ways to grow and evolve the business.
So while you can't expect your employees to perform their job exactly as you would -- this doesn't mean they're not capable of successfully accomplishing tasks in their own (and maybe better) way. So instead of fearing a new approach, give your team the opportunity to experiment and find new solutions for their tasks. By loosening the reins a little, your team actually has an opportunity to take ownership and demonstrate what they can do.
2. Be realistic about your own capacity
Today's work culture has long pushed the idea that perfectionism and 'busyness' are a virtue. Unfortunately, workplace stress and burnout statistics are revealing a darker side to that narrative -- especially for managers.
71.4% of managers report feeling stressed because they don't have enough time for everything on their plate, and 61.7% of managers feel completely burnt out (a 2.7% higher rate than individual contributors). The reality is, being busy is not the same thing as being productive. Managers spend only 3.6 hours/day on their own task work, even though they're working extra time at 47.1 hour weeks on average.
Focus your energy on the tasks that only you can do, and practice deprioritizing and delegating the tasks that can be accomplished by others. That way, you can streamline your time management to get more from your week, without running yourself into the ground trying to do it all. And take advantage of productivity apps designed to optimize a busy manager's workflow -- like task management platforms to lay out your project plans, smart calendar tools that boost your time efficiency, and apps that increase focus by reducing distractions.
3. Set clear team expectations
Many micromanagers end up becoming taskmasters vs. facilitators. Set your team up for success by sharing clear goals and expectations around projects so they have the understanding they need to accomplish their tasks. This helps build camaraderie and motivation among your team as you all work towards a shared goal.
Consider implementing a morning standup to go over individual tasks and responsibilities, check in on progress, and realign efforts with priorities if necessary. This can help the team stay on the same page (without feeling like you're breathing down their necks), and clear up the time you spent checking in the rest of the day for your own tasks.
This will also allow you to identify the moments when your employees actually do need a little more support so you can help them when they need it, and give them the space they need to work when they don't.
4. Schedule regular one-on-one time
Simply having an open line of communication with your team is so critical to morale, your manager-employee relationship, and overall productivity. And this doesn't mean dropping in every time you want an update -- it's important to schedule regular one-on-one meetings with each of your direct reports to connect, review, and work through the blockers that are weighing them down.
This is also the time and place to give positive and constructive feedback from your side, and ask effective check-in questions around their work. But one-on-one meetings always need to be a two-way street. Ask your employees what you can be doing to better support them in their role, what ideas they have for an upcoming project, or what resources they're lacking that's holding them back.
Unfortunately, managers have some of the busiest calendars, and one-on-one meetings unfortunately take the hit when time gets tight -- 42.2% of one-on-ones are rescheduled and 29.6% are canceled every week. Using an intelligent meeting scheduler like Reclaim.ai Smart 1:1s allows you to automatically find the best time for these meetings every week, and auto-reschedule if a conflict comes up so your employees always stay a priority on your calendar.
Remember, each employee is unique and often thrives under a different management style, so while one person may need a couple check-ins a week, another may be more productive working independently and only need to connect one-on-one a few times a month.
5. Be the mentor they need to grow
Establishing a collaborative and experienced team takes time! And while you've built the team you have based on the skills and experiences they bring to the table, employees aren't going to fall into a natural rhythm overnight -- this is where the best managers are able to help their team develop a productive workflow that compliments their own style and strengths.
As a manager, you play a lot of different roles, but your number one objective is for your team to succeed. And to do this, they need to understand the history, expectations, and objectives of the projects you put on their plate. But this doesn't mean they need you to outline every step they should take to get it done. Your team are the ones who are digging into the task, and require the flexibility to develop the solution to the project. Your job is to communicate the bigger picture, and be the mentor that sets the guidelines they need so they can find their own success.
And a lot of this boils down to communication. While you may think over-communicating is what got you into the micromanagement problem, your timing is probably just off. Over-communicate early in a project so they understand the scope of the task, but have the breathing room to see it through. Jumping into an employee's work halfway with criticisms is only going to increase stress and anxiety. Instead, let them come to you with questions so you can offer the support and mentorship they need to accomplish their goals.
It's also important to identify learning opportunities for your team. Try to facilitate training for new skills, offer room for new responsibilities and growth opportunities, or try exercises like stretch goals to provide new challenges and boost camaraderie. By allowing your team the freedom to be innovative, you can help them become more productive and successful in the long run. Which is a win for everyone!
Less micromanaging for more success 🙌
It's understandable why most employees don't appreciate being micromanaged. But beyond just causing friction in the workplace, this management style can ultimately jeopardize your own day-to-day productivity and trajectory in the long run.
By identifying the causes of micro-managerial tendencies, fostering open and positive communication, and learning to trust your team with the bigger picture -- you can help lead everyone to success, and create a more positive work environment at the same time.
Have you thought of yourself as a micromanager? Any strategies you'd add to the list? Get in on the conversation by tweeting us @reclaimai! 👋
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