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Why Micromanagement Is (Almost) Always A Bad Idea

3 Jun 2022

Micromanagement is a drag on performance, quality, and development. Read this blog post to see why it’s so harmful and if it has any redeeming qualities.

Our society has a near universal dislike for micromanagement. Employees avoid businesses that are associated with it and businesses themselves try to root out managers who practice it. 

For those lucky enough not to know about micromanagement, it is a management style characterized by close supervision and somewhat excessive control over employees. In practical terms, it’s when you feel your autonomy as an employee limited by constantly interfering and controlling management. 

While initially increased management interest and oversight may not seem like a bad thing, there are all sorts of negative side effects that weigh heavily on employee satisfaction and performance.

This blog post will be divided into three parts. First, we’ll look at why managers might have an urge to micromanage. Second, we’ll explore if there are any instances that might justify micromanagement. Finally, we’ll kick the dead horse that is micromanagement by pointing out why in most cases it should be kept at an arm’s length.

Why Do Managers Micromanage?

If everyone seems to agree that micromanagement is bad, why do managers still have the temptation to practice it? There are a number of reasons for the tendency to micromanage, most of which do not portray the manager in a particularly positive light. These may include: 

  • Lack of trust. Managers don’t trust their employees to do the job correctly and thus usually fear (without reason) being reproached by higher-ups for others’ mistakes.
  • Fear of losing control. Some managers like to be on top of things constantly. For them delegating is equal to losing control.
  • Inflated sense of their quality. Managers ended up getting the job for being good at what their subordinates are doing now. So in their mind it’s only logical to pass “the only right way of working” to their employees.
  • Desire to help. Their employees are struggling and it only seems right to help. However, some managers tend to forget that there comes a time when employees can start working on their own.
  • Mistakes cannot be tolerated. Some managers may convince themselves that whatever assignment their team has is so important that mistakes are not permissible. Obviously only they can save the day.

While not justifiable, these reasons are somewhat understandable. Especially if there are circumstances when micromanagement works. Yes, you heard me right! Let’s explore these situations in a bit more detail.

When Micromanagement Works

There are instances when an engaged management style can be a good thing. These situations are very specific and definitely applicable only for a limited time period. But all of them require using the one thing managers have in abundance – experience and knowledge of a particular field.

The areas in which this kind of micromanagement is acceptable are:

  • Assignments in which greater level of expertise and institutional memory is required. These may include major projects within a business or for an important client in which a high business standard has to be maintained throughout to maintain company image.
  • Projects that have gone off rails. Sometimes projects simply go sideways for whatever reason. Just like in the previous point, to maintain the company image, show commitment and resolve, as well as reach the best result, increased management involvement may be necessary.
  • Onboarding and training new employees. Rarely are new employees masters of their trade right from the outset. The best learning occurs while working on real projects. This involves plenty of trial and error. Managers can be more involved throughout this process to point out mistakes or inefficiencies both to keep the project running without much problem while also building their new employees’ skill sets.
  • Assignments in highly hierarchical structures. There may be clients or institutions that have vertical organizational structures and communication chains. Whether that is good or bad is not the issue here, but in such circumstances increased supervision may actually prevent unnecessary misunderstandings and varying interpretations.

Few people may regard these instances as typical micromanagement, but they fit the description and show that there can be upsides to it. However, these situations are few and far between. In normal conditions micromanagement does far more harm than good. Let’s now turn to analyzing the negatives! 

The Problems with Micromanagement

Practiced long enough and in the wrong circumstances, micromanagement damages practically every dimension of business or team performance. Even the few benefits that arise in the aforementioned situations, will wither and become a drag on any healthy institution. These are the main reasons why micromanagement is a bad strategy.

Loss of trust

While lack of trust or faith in employees may be one of the causes of micromanagement, every manager has to remember that trust goes both ways. Despite the manager’s intentions, micromanagement tends to be seen by staff as a despotic type of leadership with the sole purpose of maximum control over the employees.

Two things can happen when distrust and frustration festers. First, employees lose productivity as they are unwilling to take initiative. Second, employees may start leaving to find a job that encourages their independence and creativity, rather than stifles it.

No innovation

Just like outlined in the previous point, micromanagement crushes any creativity and initiative employees may have. Employees who are allowed to independently work on their projects and assignments have greater understanding of the details and circumstances than any micromanaging boss could ever have. 

Of course, not all of the innovative ideas will be bangers, but some will. These innovation successes are what drives top businesses. Plus, any failures that may arise make your employees smarter and more resilient in the future. With micromanagement, most of these benefits are lost.

Loss of control

While it seems paradoxical, the more managers micromanage, the less control over a business, project, or a team they have. If the only tool of management a leader has at her disposal is micromanagement, she is probably going to get bogged down in running every tiniest process. This takes valuable time and resources that could have been invested in long-term strategic planning.

In the end ,micromanaging bosses lose (1) the ability to effectively manage their teams and delegate tasks, (2) the sight of the bigger picture, and (3) the trust of their employees which is hardly effective management. In such situations, managers more often than not fail to achieve their goals which in turn leads to the ultimate loss of control – the loss of their managerial position.

Burnout

Managers who practice micromanagement are not always bad leaders. In fact, they are among the best and most innovative workers – after all they climbed the leadership ladder. Their skills and experience is essential for any project or business to succeed.

However, if they fall in the micromanagement trap, their resources are unproductively squandered on things that are not worth their time and effort. Juggling all the responsibilities and tasks may lead to a manager’s burnout which is good for no one.

Lower quality employees

The best employees, if stuck in a micromanaged hell, will leave sooner or later to restore their autonomy and pursue projects that encourage their creativity rather than suppress it. 

Those who stay in a micromanaged environment will start to excessively depend on the manager for simple tasks and lose confidence to do things on their own. And why wouldn’t they? Micromanagement by design implies that employees are perceived as not knowledgeable, skilled, or experienced enough to do their job well. 

All of this is a pity, because most employees bring their own unique skills and experiences which can greatly benefit a business or a project. Micromanagement dismisses these assets and forces all of them to become cookie-cutter workers without any distinguishing or redeeming qualities.

Final Thoughts

Micromanagement is good for no one. It stifles employee creativity and innovation, damages employee-management relationships, lowers job satisfaction, leads to increased turnover, and increases overall quality and performance of your team.

If after reading this article you understand that you may be guilty of some unhealthy micromanaging yourself, follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts, as in near future we will be publishing an article on what steps can be taken to stop micromanaging your employees.

Author: Lote Steina

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Life doesen't have a do-over.
Commit to it! BePrime!
Life doesen't have a do-over.
Commit to it! BePrime!