The Pitfalls of Micromanagement

You've been in your role now for some time, and you have been extremely successful as a high performing individual contributor. Your manager approaches you about a promotion opportunity to move into a management role in a recent 1:1 meeting. During the meeting you let your manager know you need some time to think about it. You go home that evening thinking about the opportunity. You wonder to yourself, "Am I ready for such responsibility? How will my peers take me as their manager? Is this really what I want right now?" You do like the sound of more money, and frankly you can use it based on some personal things you want to take care of. After weighing the pro's and the con's, you decide you are interested in the opportunity.


The next day you schedule a meeting with your manager, and tell her your decision. She's estactic you are interested and can't wait to see you shine in this new role. Over the next 2 weeks, both of you work through the transition plans of your current work, and the Human Resource (HR) processes to make this promotion a reality. You put the ink to paper, and you are ready to go. Now, you are excited and can't wait to start.


3 week later

It's 3 weeks into your new role and realize this is somewhat harder than you thought (😳). It was easy being a high performing individual contributor. You didn't have to worry about anyone, but yourself. You realize your management style is rubbing people the wrong way, and instead of having allies, you are making enemies. You realize it is very hard for you to get out of the day to day work, and focus on leading your team. Mainly, because you miss the day to day work, and didn't realize how much you would miss it when you took on this new role. Your team feels as though you don't trust them because you second guess everything they do, and you are continually correcting their work, or providing advice they did not ask for. To your defensive though, you were placed in this position with no real training or onboarding. Since you have taken this role, your manager barely has meetings with you, but has all the faith you will figure it out. She knows this was the next logical move for you and that you will organically get into rhythm. You think to yourself, "this was the next logical move for me, right? (🤔) Well, this may be right, or wrong. Just because you are a high performing individual contributor does not mean you will be a great manager. This is a common mistake many managers, and organizations make.


Just like there are skills you need to have for your individual contributor role, there are skills you need to have to be an effective manager/leader. If you do not have those skills it is not only detrimental to you, but to the company as a whole. If you have a desire to be in management, and lack some of the critical skills to be effective, there is always opportunity to obtain training on skills. However, what tends to happen is high performing individual contributors are promoted into management positions without sufficient training, and/or, onboarding. Due to lack of either training, or onboarding, you can get into the mode of micromanaging, because you are not able to separate your past role from you current role. What's even worse? You may not even realize you are micromanaging. You may actually feel you are doing a great job.

Micromanagement has more negative impact than positive. Take it from someone who has worked in many different industries, and have experienced micromanagement quite a bit in my career. Let's take a moment to talk about the pitfalls of micromanagement, as well as, ways to acknowledge, and change behaviors if you are micromanaging.


Pitfalls

  • Decrease in team morale - the majority of human beings do not like to be micro-managed at work. They want to believe that if you hired them for the job, you trust they can do the job. When you micromanage employees they start to feel as though they are being watched to be critiqued, opposed to recognized for the value they bring to the table. These feeling will decrease the team morale, and the employees will start to feel as though they are not enough for the position. They will feel you don't trust they can do their job. Imagine how you would feel if your boss believes you can't do your job? I'm quite sure you wouldn't feel good about it, so think about how you would feel being in their shoes.

  • Decreased productivity - when employees feel undervalued, it can result in a "I don't care" attitude. When you get to that attitude, or many other negative feelings, productivity will go down. Employees will not feel like coming to work, and when they get to work they won't feel like actually doing the work. For them, it's just the motions to get a paycheck, not to add value. Once productivity goes down, that will become a direct reflection on you, and your ability to lead others. How your team performs is a direct reflection on you as a manager. You should be motivating and driving your team to high performance, not driving them into an abyss of feeling devalued, or even worse yet, a failure.

  • Attrition - When you start to see a decrease in team morale, productivity, and worth, there is a great chance employees will change jobs. Most people want to make a difference at work. Most employees want to feel the hours spent at work are worth something. If they feel taken for granted they will move on. They may stay for a while, but they will move on eventually. You don't want to lose your high performing employees due to the environment you created. Think about how much it will take to replace all of that great knowledge walking out the door due to the environment. If employees leave, you want them to leave for a better opportunity that you had a part in developing them for, not because of an environment you created that makes them feel worthless.

  • Lack of trust - employees will either feel like (1) you don't trust them, like we talked about above, or (2) they will start not trusting you because they cannot understand why you feel you need to micromanage them. Employees may also feel both of those scenarios. This is all due to your behaviors, and actions. Once that trust is lost, it is really hard to gain it back.

  • Burnout - micromanagement takes a lot of energy. Not only are you doing your job, but you're trying to do the job of everyone else as well. This is not healthy for you, or your team. It is said stress is a silent killer. How much stress are you putting on yourself because you have this need to micromanage a team you either acquired, or hired, that has the skill to do the job. Why put all that stress on yourself? You don't have to and you shouldn't.

As you can see above, there is barely anything positive about micromanagement. As I was crafting this blog post I was reminded of an article I read by Linda Barnes, that was published March 31, 2015. I found this particular part of her article quite interesting: "How widespread is micromanagement? A survey conducted by Trinity Solutions and published in author Harry Chambers’ book My Way or the Highway showed that 79 percent of respondents had experienced micromanagement. Approximately 69 percent said they considered changing jobs because of micromanagement and another 36 percent actually changed jobs. Seventy-one percent said being micromanaged interfered with their job performance while 85 percent said their morale was negatively impacted.


These are some very high and concerning number. The impact of micromanagement is way more negative than positive.

There are times where being micromanaged may be a necessity though. A couple of instances are:

  • Performance Issues - if you have an employee demonstrating patterns of issues with performance, this is a time where micromanagement will be needed. In this situation you are helping the employee improve performance, and you may need to do a little more hand holding than normal to gain insights on where the problem lies. This should be for a timeframe, and not forever. Once the employee meets the goals set before them to improve their performance you should not hold this over their head any longer. You need to let go, trust the process, and let the employee demonstrate the skill once again.

  • New Projects/Initiatives - if there are projects/initiatives your team is involved in, you may need to be heavily involved in some aspects of the project/initiative due to your role. It may require some micromanagement of tasks, but it's important you only micromanage when it is necessary, and not because you FEEL you need to be that involved.


Acknowledgment and Changing Behaviors

If you are someone who suffers with micromanagement there are some things you can do to change your behaviors so you are not negatively impacting your team, and burning yourself out.

  1. Acknowledge - recognize and admit you are a micromanager. There are many managers who will justify being a micromanager, because they feel need to be in the know of everything. My answer to that is: "you can still be in the know while letting go." Which takes me to my next point.

  2. Letting Go - you have a team that has the skill set to do the work, so LET THEM! Let them demonstrate their value as that will be a great reflection on you. You were hired to lead them, not do their job. Your focus should be strategy, vision, providing guidance, removing obstacles, inspiring, encouraging and motivating the team to name a few. Yes, you need to know what your team is working on, and depending on your role you need to know the business; but you should not be doing the work that is the responsibility of others.

  3. Communication - how you communicate with your team is extremely important. Don't be condescending to make an employee feel insignificant. Communicate clearly and with intention. Encourage, motivate and inspire your team to high performance. Provide recognition on a consistent basis and let the team know you value them.

  4. Actions - make sure your actions align with your words. You can't say one thing and do another. You will lose trust and credibility this way. People will judge you on your words and actions.

  5. Get Help - if you are struggling with micromanagement and you want to stop, but can't seem to, speak to your manager and ask for help. If you are in a culture where micromanagement is the main culture, you may need to reach out to individuals outside of you company, like a mentor to help you through it.

  6. Accountability - ask your team to hold you accountable. If they see you are micromanaging, ask them to call you out on it. When they call you out on it don't take it personal, nor retaliate. Take it as a way to better yourself, and allow the team to bring their value to the table.


What to do if you are in a micromanagement environment

  1. Leave - there is no easier way to say it. If you are in a position to be able to exit, then this may be your best course of action. No job is worth your health, NONE you hear me! So, do what's best for you unapologetically. Do not justify the stay, do not feel you need to be loyal. If the job is killing you, your loyalty will not last for long anyway. You have to do what is right for your mental health and well-being.

  2. Have outlets - if you do not have the liberty to leave due to personal obligations then make sure to find outlets to release the stress, and other feelings you may encounter. Try not to work ridiculous amounts of hours if you can. Take time to decompress, and enjoy life. Find something you enjoy to get your mind off of the work environment. It's hard I know, but you have to be able to keep your sanity through it.

  3. Influence - If you are in a position in the organization to influence a change in culture where you see micromanagement is prevalent, please SPEAK UP! As shown with the numbers above, the impacts can be detrimental. It's not worth the consequences for you, or the team.

I hope you have found this information helpful, and insightful. As stated above, I have worked in micromanaging environments, and I can't stand it (LOL). I work really hard as a leader to not create that environment for others as I know how it made me feel. I do not thrive in that environment, I merely survive. It's not about survival, it's about providing value.


So help your teams to THRIVE!!!!


Until next time, signing off,

The BA Martial Artist 🥋

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P.S. Sign-in and leave a comment, I would love to hear your comments.

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Footnotes:

Article Cite: Damaging Effects of Micromanagement

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