A controlling management style that leans over into micromanagement can cause severe problems. In the worst cases, it’s not just the direct reports that suffer, but the whole business.
If there’s just one bad apple, that can be bad enough for a company. However, if this style comes from the top down and isn’t dealt with promptly, it can affect morale, lower productivity, and even impact the bottom line.
“When managers overdo micromanaging of others, they probably hired the wrong people or failed to give them a clear idea of what each one is to accomplish. I prefer to train employees to be self-managers, just as in an orchestra each performer knows his or her role without being micromanaged.” – Philip Kotler
What is micromanagement?
Micromanagement is a poor management style where the manager constantly hovers over their team. You may also have heard it referred to as helicopter management, which references the helicopter parenting style.
Toxic micromanagement doesn’t just affect the immediate team below a micromanager. It can also have a knock-on effect in other areas of the business, slowing down projects, lowering morale, and more.
In his book, My Way or the Highway, Harry Chambers included a survey on micromanagement, run by Trinity Solutions. Here are just some of the results:
Around 69% of employees considered changing jobs due to micromanagement.
71% said micromanagement interfered with job performance.
36% of staff did change their job because of a micromanaging boss.
85% of staff surveyed said that their morale was negatively affected by micromanagement.
None of these are numbers that any company can afford. Micromanagement is a serious issue that urgently needs tackling before it creates real problems in business.
Below, I’m sharing twelve examples of micromanagement at work. If you recognize any of these in your business, it may be time to take a hard look at your current management styles.
12 Examples Of Micromanagement At Work
1. Employees have to ask permission for everything
Micromanagers feel like they need to control everything. Instead of letting their team manage their own workload, they instead train their team to ask them what to do. This can create a situation where employees are constantly queueing to speak to their manager, rather than getting on with work.
This is an unhealthy situation, where employees feel like they need to justify everything they want to do to their manager. It can also cause delays if the manager is on holiday, or in a meeting, and hold up work until they return.
2. Negative feedback rules
Micromanagers sometimes genuinely do think they are helping their staff by looking for how they can improve. However, constantly looking for what’s wrong with someone’s work doesn’t encourage improvement at all. In the end, it’s more likely to cause someone to give up because they feel they can’t do anything right.
Not only that, but if you constantly look for mistakes, you are likely to find them. Nitpicking doesn’t help anyone. People are human and they do make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good at their job.
Focusing on the negative can mean that all the positives and good ideas are overlooked. This can create a negative atmosphere where staff are actively afraid of their manager.
3. Poor morale
If staff feel that they can’t do anything right and they can’t relax at work, morale is likely to plummet. Constant nitpicking and looking for problems can have staff feeling inadequate even when they are experts in their role. A micromanager can make even highly competent staff feel that nothing they do is good enough.
Being micromanaged is stressful. Staff feel that they have someone hovering over their shoulder and checking everything they do. They feel that their manager isn’t looking for the good in what they do, but always looking for errors and failure.
This isn’t healthy for any member of staff. Long-term micromanagement can have a severe impact on morale.
Read More: How To Motivate Peers At Work: 10 Effective Ways
4. Creativity suffers
Micromanagement doesn’t allow for any input from employees.
Micromanagers like to dictate how everything is to be done, and there is only their way to do it. They don’t want people to think outside the box or be creative. They want them to do what they’re told.
In such an atmosphere, employees can’t contribute. They can only do as their manager tells them to do. Creativity is more than just stifled, it’s actively discouraged.
“None of us should wait to be told what to do, or how to do it. Micromanagement kills initiative, judgment, and creativity.” – David H. Maister
5. Employees don’t control their own work
In a thriving, well-managed team, employees can use their initiative and manage their own workload. They can decide when to do each task and assign it in order of priority. They can also take advantage of their own natural body rhythms. This allows them to do higher concentration tasks at the time of day they know they have the most focus.
In a micromanaged team, no one has any say in when they do each task or even how they do it. A micromanager will stand over their team and watch them to ensure they’re doing as instructed. They will also interrupt team members to ask them what they’re working on and make sure it’s what they asked for.
6. Constant reporting
Many micromanagers insist that their teams report to them far more often than is really necessary. Employees can find themselves filling in endless spreadsheets and writing twice-daily email reports. All of this is designed to make the micromanager feel in control and be seen to be in control.
Overreporting is not only stifling and stressful, but it also gets in the way of work that needs to be done.
“Micromanagement is the destroyer of momentum.” – Miles Anthony Smith
7. The manager hoards knowledge
Micromanagers tend to be all about control and one way to do this is to hoard knowledge. If they are the only one that can operate a piece of software, they control it and everyone else who needs it.
Micromanagement often occurs due to fears of turning in poor work or of being let go from their job. Micromanagers want to feel that they are indispensable to feel secure.
“It’s the people who are more insecure who feel the need to control and micromanage.” – Sarah Gadon
Read More: 10 Benefits Of Knowledge Sharing In Organizations All Managers Should Know
8. Management is poor at delegating
Following on from the last point, for the same reasons, micromanagers tend to hate delegating. They want to do everything themselves as they think no one else can do it as well.
When they do delegate, they are poor at letting go and allowing others to complete the task. They watch over every aspect of the work and constantly nitpick over how everything is done. In truth, they have hardly delegated at all as they still feel the need to be involved.
9. Poor communication
Micromanagers only hand out information on a ‘need to know’ basis. This is, again, about control and knowledge hoarding. If they don’t tell anyone what is happening, they control everything that happens.
They can also then feel that they have to manage everything as no one else can.
Employees can find themselves in frustrating circumstances, where the manager has already decided to cancel a project, but hasn’t communicated that. They can waste hours of time doing what they were told, only to find it wasn’t necessary.
Again, this is extremely demoralizing.
“Invariably, micromanaging results in four problems: deceit, disloyalty, conflict, and communication problems.” – John Rosemond
10. Employees don’t feel able to provide feedback
Trusted employees under a good manager feel confident in coming up with ideas and offering feedback. They make suggestions for how to improve processes and procedures. They produce quality solutions to problems.
Trusted employees are happy to contribute. They actively enjoy it and it makes them feel valued.
In a micromanagement situation, on the other hand, employees feel stifled. They know their feedback and ideas are unwelcome.
Micromanagers can be highly sensitive to criticism and may well react badly, especially if an employee is questioning their way of doing things.
11. Management bottlenecks
With so much dependent on the micromanager, bottlenecks can easily develop.
If staff have to overreport and constantly ask permission for things, then work can be delayed and deadlines missed. If no one feels able to pick up and run with work unless the manager says so, it’s easy to see why bottlenecks happen.
Waiting on decisions can cost a company time and money, and even result in unhappy clients when deadlines are missed.
“A boss who micromanages is like a coach who wants to get in the game. Leaders guide and support and then sit back to cheer from the sidelines.” – Simon Sinek
12. High staff turnover
With falling morale and stifled creativity, no wonder employees want to leave. Many staff do put up with a micromanager, even though they aren’t happy, but some employees will quit.
Companies can lose their best, most engaged staff in this way. And they take all their knowledge and expertise with them.
Then there’s the high cost of replacing a member of staff. Businesses have to spend money to go through the recruitment process. They also lose precious time and money when training someone new.
Micromanagement really can be costly to any business.Let’s share it!
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Founder of Eggcellentwork.com. With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.