The term “micromanaging” is often used in the most unsavory manner. It mostly tries to depict a management style where the boss uses most of his/her time closely supervising subordinates. The general fear is that this management style may stifle creativity, dampen staff morale, and generally reduce optimal use of productive work hours.
Investopedia describes a micromanager as a “boss or manager who gives excessive supervision to employees. A micromanager, rather than telling an employee what task needs to be accomplished and by when—will watch the employee’s actions closely and provide frequent criticism of the employee’s work and processes.”
Now as to the question of whether this may be good or bad for your business is what we want to address.
Why you should avoid micromanaging
Micromanaging comes off as bad, immediately you talk about it. In fact, no one (including micromanagers themselves), want to be described with the term. Some of the disadvantages of micromanaging include;
- A weak business structure. If you directly involve yourself with, and supervise every tiny detail, you are likely to weaken the business structure. In trying to get direct updates from everyone about everything, you water down the reporting structure, and before long, you will end up with a business that grinds to a halt just because you are not around to ensure that things get done.
- No room for employee growth. At its worse, micromanaging does not allow employees use their creativity. Delegating not only what needs to be done, but how it should be done, leaving no room for the team to take their own initiative. In this way, they never get a chance to grow into the job or beyond. And, research has shown that this is one key reason why employees leave their jobs.
- Loss of Trust & Confidence. One of the reasons to avoid micromanaging is that your employees will perceive that you do not trust their competency, and subsequently lose faith in their own capabilities. So even though you believe you can do it better, there should be room to let others try their skills out.
- Burnout. When you occupy yourself with work already assigned to others, you end up taking on more work than you can handle. The obvious result is a burnout.
- Frail relationships with employees. Research shows that people have a strong negative emotional and psychological reaction to micromanaging in all forms, and that it can reduce the chances of building interpersonal relationships. Even the U.S. Army general George S. Patton, a leader in one of the most traditional command-and-control groups in the world, understood the danger of micromanaging: He famously said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
When can you micromanage?
That said, some micromanagers have built successful businesses too. While they may not fall into the extreme category of micromanagers, it could mean that there are times when micromanaging could be useful. Here’s five instances where you need to be a micromanager
When you hire new hands.
Micromanaging can be really necessary when you hire new employees and are trying to get them onboarded on what you do and how you do it. At this point, it is not practical to just tell them the expected output and leave them to figure out the how. For the first few weeks, you may need to tell them how to do the task, probably even show them, and keep hourly tabs on them till they get it right.
The trick though is to not do this for too long. After this few weeks, it is okay to let the employee bring his ingenuity to play. Once he has a good grasp of what and how you do what you do, he could improve on the how. This will help the employee improve, and also improve your processes over time.
When an employee continues to do it wrong despite repeated corrections
While we often want a situation where you explain the How to your employee once, and they get it, this may not always be the case. You might find yourself in a situation where an employee continues to do things the ‘wrong’ way despite being shown how to do it right. In this context, wrong may not mean morally or legally wrong.
If you have an electronic way of recording sales and keeping inventory, and yet you have this employee who prefers to do it the old-fashioned way – with a book and pen – it may be time to put on the micromanager hat. This is not the time to step back and say that you are giving the employee room to use his creativity, especially when his actions have implications for your business records. You may need to keep a close watch on such a staff, and ensure that he does it right, whether his intentions be malicious or simply naïve.
When there is something ‘hooge’ at stake
Imagine that you finally close that million-dollar deal you have been looking for. Would it be the right time to step back and let your employees use their ingenuity? NOT EXACTLY. Instead, it could be a better time to close in on the gap, work with your team and deliver the best quality possible. Even if the team is experienced in doing such jobs, you may want to keep a close watch especially if this is the highest deal they have ever had to execute.
In such cases, there is a lot at stake. Don’t lie low. Some of the best parts of work life are the chances you get to sit on a round table with your team, brainstorm, make decision and solve a problem together. Use this opportunity to create such experiences for your team, so that your regular checks and updates becomes a bonding opportunity.
- Allow employees a good measure of independence, and room to explore creative options.
- Set reasonable deadlines and request updates when milestones are reached.
- Have an open-door policy that allows them to meet you for further guidance whenever the need arises.