Why Micromanaging is Killing Your Business (and Your Employees)

Why micromanaging is killing your business

The dreaded micromanager.

If you have ever worked in a professional environment (or have worked anywhere, for that matter), then you’ve probably encountered a micromanager. If you haven’t, then you’re either very lucky or you may very well be one yourself.

Think we’re being hyperbolic? We’re not. According to a survey published in My Way or the Highway: The Micromanagement Survival Guide as reported by CareerAddict:

“A shocking 79% of respondents revealed that they had or were currently experiencing micromanagement in the workplace while 69% had considered changing jobs. However, the most frightening statistic of all is that a staggering 85% of respondents said that their morale was impacted negatively by being micromanaged.”

So not only are micromanagers incredibly common but, despite that, they’re incredibly harmful to workplace morale. To really drive the point home, curated research by HubSpot shows that:

Ok, so we can clearly see by now that micromanagers are bad for business (Note: that doesn’t mean we’re anywhere close to being done proving that yet), but what does a micromanager even look like?

What a Micromanager Looks Like

A micromanager could look just like you or me, that’s what makes them so terrifying!

Just kidding. Well, sort of.

A micromanager could, in theory, be anyone (or at least anyone in a managerial role). But this section is obviously not about the physical characteristics of what a micromanager looks like, but rather how they behave and what they say to and demand of those they oversee at your company. And we’re going to tell you why they behave the way they do.

Investopedia defines 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.”

The operative words here are “excessive,” “frequent,” and “criticism.” An example of a micromanager would be someone who nit-picks specifics in an email (such as font size) rather than being concerned with the overall message and big picture of the email campaign as a whole.

Or they are constantly stopping by your desk to remind you about that memo regarding the new cover sheet that’s supposed to go on all the TPS reports (which we’re going to need you to go ahead and come in on Saturday to finish up because we sort of need to play catch up).

Another example would be someone who takes credit for the successes of their subordinates but at the same time blames them for their failures.

Naturally, this level of scrutiny might present the micromanager with opportunities to improve and streamline processes, omit shortcuts being taken that undermine quality, and implement shortcuts that increase efficiency. However, that’s typically not what compels a micromanager to scrutinize every small task being made by their teammates.

What compels them, at the very core of it, is control. Certainly, some degree of control is necessary for someone in a managerial role. But, as this Entrepreneur article suggests, “control is not the backbone of a successful, long-term management strategy.” And we couldn’t agree more.

This same notion is reiterated in a Harvard Business Review article, which recommends that you evaluate your micromanager’s behavior to better understand their controlling nature, stating that:

“One on end of the spectrum you have managers who have very high standards who like some degree of control […] at the other end of the spectrum are people [described] as pathological micromanagers who need to make it clear to themselves and others that they are in charge.”

But why are they so controlling? Is it merely a power trip or is this need to control deep-seated in something else?

According to Forbes, “the fear most responsible for causing bosses to micromanage is that 48% of bosses like to be seen as experts and authority figures.” And, usually, by the time you’re in a managerial role, you probably view yourself as a relatively successful person (rightfully so). But the trouble with that is that many successful people think they can do their jobs better than others, which may or may not be true. But, as that same Forbes article reveals, “It’s one of the great ironies of having managerial authority; your title gets bigger but your personal control gets smaller.”

As managers begin to delegate tasks to their subordinates, they have less personal control over exactly how those tasks are being executed. If that manager also thinks that they are the only one knowledgeable and capable enough to execute said tasks successfully, then naturally they’re going to be anxious and fearful over whether or not each task gets completed correctly. So, if (and when) their subordinates inevitably don’t live up to their own self-prescribed standards, then the micromanager believes this failure is a direct reflection of their own success (or perceived lack thereof).

So, in short, what does this all mean? Micromanaging is more about your boss’s own need for control and internal anxiety rather than anything about you and your performance.

The Costs of Micromanaging

A quick recap on what we’ve learned so far: micromanagers are incredibly common albeit incredibly harmful to workplace morale; micromanagers excessively supervise and frequently criticize; micromanagers behave this way because they need a sense of control.

Now that we know what a micromanager is and how they behave, let’s evaluate the effects they have on their employees as well as on the business as a whole.

Effects on Employees

The first people to experience the displeasure of serving under a micromanager will, naturally, be the people they are micromanaging. This, in turn, has a direct effect on those employees, which we can further break down into three distinct categories: (a) satisfaction, (b) productivity, and (c) personal health.

 

Satisfaction

Productivity

Health

Effects on the Business

A Business Insider article maintains the idea that micromanaging violates at least three important principles of business: (a) comparative advantage, (b) opportunity costs, and (c) authority and responsibility. This, in turn, tends to have the following damaging effects on a business: (a) hinders employee growth, (b) obliterates synergy, and (c) destroys morale.

We’ve already shared staggering stats of how micromanaging directly affects employee morale. And, unsurprisingly, when employees are dissatisfied, disengaged, and unproductive at work (and are putting their health at risk), the company will suffer. And we’ve once again got the stats to prove it:

What to Do If You’re Being Micromanaged

So rather than becoming an unproductive, disengaged employee (which will only negatively affect the company and your health), there a few things you can do to alleviate the stress on you as well as the micromanager. Harvard Business Review suggests that you:

What to Do If You’re a Micromanager

If you’ve read this far and have since realized that you’re a micromanager (or if you knew well before you read this and just happened upon this article in your search for how to be a better boss), then we’ve reached the point where we provide you with the tools you need to get more out of your employees without being overbearing (no offense).

First, you need to know what your employees want and expect from you, just as they know exactly what you expect from them. According to curated data and research by HubSpot:

The American Psychological Association also found that when employees felt valued by their employers, 92% felt satisfied in their roles and 91% said they were motivated to do their best.

So, to summarize, your employees value open communication, fairness, patience, respect, and trust most in their relationship with you as their boss. And if you, as their boss, value those things as well, then they are exponentially more likely to be more satisfied, productive, happy, and healthy.

Regardless if you are a micromanager or the one being micromanaged, it’s important to remember that this need for control is really just a manifestation of anxiety over the success and performance of the team and the company. You each want the same thing; you want the business to succeed. So as long as there is mutual trust, respect, and open communication about expectations, goals, and the progress, then bosses and employees alike will micromanage just fine.