Micromanaging: signs, cons and advices

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Nowadays, micromanaging is one of the top complaints people have about their managers. And if we take into account that according to Daniel Pink, lasting motivation in the 21st century is fueled by autonomy, mastery and purpose, then we should definitely discuss this issue. So, in today’s article, we will look at what “micromanaging” means, what are the reasons of doing it, main cons of micromanaging and valuable advice on how to improve the efficiency of your team.

Micromanaging? What does it mean?

Micromanagement is a management style whereby a manager closely observes and controls the work of his or her employees with excessive attention to minor details.

In most of the cases, micromanaging is generally considered to have a negative effect, but it is still commonly observed as an accepted management style worldwide, especially when it comes to managing new arrivals. There is time to do this! In most workplaces, managers are responsible for training new recruits and this is the ideal time to micromanage. As new employees still don’t really know the culture of the company, the values, the processes, the key proven processes, micromanagement here would be a good option to actually teach them how the things are done in a company. So, micromanagers guide them through the process of the job and motivate, teach them on a “micro” level. So, in this case, you can work closely with your new team members for a while and close supervision may be needed until a person is established and is high performing, normally it is necessary only during the probation period.

But, if you start micromanaging with experienced worker and start asking questions like “what are you working on right now”, you actually demotivate them and show lack of trust in what and how they are doing it. If you give a job to people, then they capable of doing tasks, don’t kill their autonomy, creativity, and proactivity.

Although micromanaging is often easily recognized by employees, micromanagers rarely view themselves as such. They normally give a competing characterization of their management style, for example: “structured”, “organized”, or “perfectionistic”.

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Let’s look at why actually people start micromanaging and what are the key signs of it:

The signs of micromanaging & main reasons for doing it

The most frequent motivations for micromanaging are the detail-orientedness, emotional insecurity, and doubts regarding employees’ competence. Also, it can be related to the personality of the manager. So, micromanagers want to ensure that everything is being conducted as it should be and that things are always done the way they expect it.
Also, especially if we are talking about the software industry, these micromanagers want to be able to accurately estimate the time taken to deliver a project in order to do an effective cost-value analysis and to give the client an accurate forecast of delivery. And here is the problem! Most of these micromanagers just don’t work with agile methodology and scrum method, where everything is very well planned and divided into sprints ( normally 2 weeks), with a clear roadmap and user stories. With Agile you have transparency, you have a daily meeting and sprint retrospectives. Well, actually everything that micromanagers want. And there is no need to ask “ what are you doing” question every hour because you have tools like Jira, which show you the progress graph and “in process” activity.

Key signs to identify micromanagers

  • Resist delegating work
  • Immerse themselves in the work assigned to others
  • Look at the detail instead of the big picture
  • Discourage others from making decisions
  • Expect regular detailed reports
  • Have a demotivated team
  • Rarely satisfied with deliverables.
  • Want to know where all team members are and what they’re working on.
  • Ask for frequent updates on where things stand
  • Prefer to be cc’d on emails.
  • Tell team exactly how he or she wants things done and leave team no room to take initiative.
  • Take on project manager roles, even when there already is a project manager.
  • A team has an unreasonably high turnover.
  • Feel that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
  • Usually feel irritated when a subordinate makes decisions without consulting them, even if the decisions are within the subordinate’s level of authority.
  • Propose unachievable deadlines.
  • Introduce “priority” tasks.
  • Routinely ask people to stop working on whatever they’re doing right now to take care of urgent emergency work.
  • Require things for “now”.
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Main disadvantages of micromanaging

Micromanaging is a form of leadership that may produce results in the short-term, but hurt employee and company morale over time. Usually, micromanaging has a negative impact on the team because an employee may feel that a micromanager is being condescending towards them, due to a perceived lack of faith in the employee’s competency. Also, a manager who implements this management style creates an environment where his team develops insecurity and lack of confidence in its work. Sometimes, micromanagement can completely eliminate trust, stifle opportunities for learning and development of interpersonal skills, and even provoke anti-social behavior. Micromanagers are control-obsessed and feel driven to push everyone around them to success, doing this they risk disempowering their colleagues. And it is ruining team’s confidence, hurt their performance, and frustrate them to the point where they quit.

Moreover, micromanagers may feel that by acting as watchdogs they can ensure the outcomes they desire every time. However, consequences of micromanagement are likely to cause far more damage than a manager or business owner realizes. When all decisions have to go through a manager and every function an employee performs is controlled and critisized, this kills creativity and results in stagnation. Employees become unwilling to step forward with new ideas to improve processes, products or services that enhance productivity. Employees may even purposefully withhold ideas that can lead to innovation and positive change.
And since a micromanager does not allow initiative and inputs from other people in the team, the employees learn to leave all decision-making to the manager and become totally dependent on him or her. And micromanaging is not only bad for employees, but it can have a terrible effect on micromanager physical and mental health. What is important here is to take time to step back, breathe and realize that team can handle tasks without a micromanager constantly controlling them. And when employees are micromanaged, they often do one thing…quit. It affects the company’s morale, crushing the spirit of the team.

How to improve micromanaging problem?

“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.” – Ronald Reagan

  • Basically, micromanager can set a couple of metrics that define success for any given project and simply ignore every other detail that is not defined.
  • Focus more on “what” needs to be done and leave out the “how.”
  • Have an open-door policy for members of the team to use for coaching or further guidance if and when they want it.
  • Set a deadline for each stage of an assigned project, after which a meeting with a reasonable time limit should be conducted to receive updates on the work.
  • Include employees in the goal-setting and estimation. All people are different, don’t do your estimations, ask a team to do it. Also, when employees are involved with the goal-setting process, they can see a purpose in their work and when they do the estimations by themselves, they can’t say later on that deadlines are not realistic because they did it.
  • Foster a two-way conversation. One of the biggest issues with micromanaging is that it’s one-sided. Remember, there’s more than one way to do things. And employees might even know the best way. Instead of barking orders, ask employees for their ideas and opinions. Discuss how they work best and how they can work most efficiently.
  • Focus feedback on results. Great feedback allows employees to learn and grow. If a manager simply says, “You need to do things this way instead,” employees feel controlled. They’re not being guided; they’re being micromanaged. The better option is to focus on facts and results rather than the process.
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