What is micromanagement?
By definition, micromanagement is a management style where a manager closely observes or controls the work of subordinates or employees. Micromanagement generally has a negative connotation. In reality, most of us see it as management’s attempt at digging its fingers deep into the pie of those actually doing the work.
So why do people micromanage? Micromanaging is a way for management to ensure that tasks are performed in a very precise manner—in other words, management’s way. Problem is, it isn’t always the right or most productive way of doing things. And, that’s just one of the dangers of micromanagement. Let’s take a look at some of the other dangers that come along with this style of management and why you should avoid it.
7 Dangers of Micromanagement
Danger 1: Loss of control
When you micromanage your staff, you limit yourself by which management tools you have at your disposal until the only tool you have in reach is control. And, the funny thing about control is that when it’s your only means of management, you usually end up losing it. Rather than gaining control over your team and product, you lose control and time in trying to micromanage your team. It’s important to realize that there are many valid management styles and every staff member reacts differently to each.
Takeaway: When you drastically limit your style you also limit your ability to communicate and, in the end, your ability to manage.
Danger 2: Loss of trust
Micromanagement will eventually lead to a massive breakdown of trust between you and your staff. Your staff will no longer see you as a manager, but a despot whose only desire is to wall up its staff. This crushing act breaks what little trust already exists between employee and manager. When trust is gone, two things can happen: a serious loss of productivity and loss of employees. Yes, the latter is a worst-case scenario, but it happens.
Takeaway: Remember, trust is a two-way street. Your staff must be able to trust you as much as you trust them. Micromanagement destroys trust.
Danger 3: Dependent employees
After being micromanaged, your staff will begin to depend on you, rather than having the confidence to perform tasks on their own. Micromanagement makes your team feel like they must have your constant guidance. Dependent employees take more time and effort to manage, which can take a toll on your schedule and energy. You have to remember that those employees were initially hired because they brought something to the table: skills, talents, and insights all unique to each and every staff member. When your employees aren’t dependent upon you, they’ll continue to think on their own—and when employees have the freedom to think on their own, great things can happen.
Takeaway: If you micromanage too much, your employees’ skills, talents, and insights can fall to the wayside, leaving you with a team that only knows how to do what it's told. You must allow your employees the freedom to think and act on their own.
Danger 4: Manager burnout
Micromanaging is downright exhausting. Looking over so many shoulders every day will very quickly burn you out. Eventually, you’ll grow to hate your job, straight down to the very company that employs you. If you hate it enough, you may even end up leaving it, and possibly never wanting to revisit a management role again.
Sure, burnout is always a danger in any job, but the energy burned while micromanaging will ignite that wick faster than anything. This feeling of burnout can affect not only your work life but can stretch into your home life and cause anxiety and depression. And don’t forget, that burnout can infect those beneath you. Managers are not the only victims of burnout; as you flame out, you will very likely take your staff with you.
Takeaway: Micromanagement is not only bad for your employees, but it can take a terrible toll on your physical and mental health. Take time to step back, breathe, and realize that your team can handle its tasks without you constantly hovering over shoulders.
Danger 5: High turnover of staff
Simply put, most people don’t take well to being micromanaged. When employees are micromanaged, they often do one thing—quit. Considering the reasons why managers micromanage (ego, insecurity, inexperience, perfectionism, arrogance), it’s simply not worth the high turnover rate. Having to constantly train and retrain staff not only robs your department of momentum, it makes your company lose the skilled and effective employees it once had for second runner ups and under-qualified people, which then affects the company’s bottom line and destroys morale. Friendships are made and destroyed, and eventually, this will crush the spirit of your staff.
Takeaway: Micromanagement leads to employees quitting.
Danger 6: Lack of autonomy
When you micromanage, your employees begin to feel like they’re losing their autonomy. When this happens, they’ll slowly lose the desire to do anything but that which you demand, and little more. No one will step outside the proverbial box or go the extra mile for a task. You hand those same people a certain level of autonomy and they will take pride in what they do and how they do it.
Takeaway: A lack of autonomy will squelch growth in your employees. One of the goals of management should be to see staff members rise in the ranks.
Danger 7: Lack of innovation
One of the biggest dangers of micromanaging is crushing your employees’ creative spirit. Your team is on the front lines of your project and they know what is happening better than anyone else, including you. While some innovations that they bring to the table might not always be winners, crushing innovation and creativity destroys all chances of the good ideas coming out and being shared. By refusing to take risks in innovation, you’re also refusing the potential for progress.
Takeaway: Innovation is the key to progress. Micromanaging your team ruins any chance of growth or progression.
If you find yourself micromanaging, you can fix it. You have to have trust and faith in the people that you work with, and believe that they can get the job done even without your constant oversight. With more freedom, they will surprise you with an increase in creativity, innovation, and productivity.
Contributor: Jack Wallen
Jack Wallen is an award winning writer of technical content and fiction. He has been covering Linux and open source since the late '90s and just about every conceivable topic since. His fiction breaks ground in the post apocalyptic genre as well as horror, thriller, and science fiction. For more information on Jack, check out his site, Get Jack'd at getjackd.net.