Every company wants high-performing employees. They dream of teams of empowered-decision makers. High engagement and low turnover are HR utopia.
And yet the vast majority of organizations are still riddled with micromanagers who undermine any efforts to arrive at the workforce promised land. It’s curious that companies have still not found a way of weeding out this peculiar species of ‘do-not-go-getters.’ Especially as few elements of the business have proven to be as detrimental to employee and company success as the micromanager.
Four out of five employees claim that they’re currently micromanaged, or have been in the past. Worryingly commonplace, yes, but not wholly catastrophic. Now consider that 85% of those working for a micromanager thought that management style was negatively impacting overall morale, with 69% going as far as to look for a new job.
Imagine all the incredible internal communications, learning and development programs, company culture events, and employee benefits that are being undermined by the poor management style of a few people.
Educated, well-trained employees are shown to work better, harder, and more when given autonomy. You could easily make the argument that, for many teams, having no manager at all would be better than having a micromanager. Plus, think of the cost savings!
Organization psychologists talk about the five step process that great leaders take with employees:
Managers need to understand that the ability to delegate is the most critical tool of a leader. Looking at a goal, accepting that there are multiple ways of getting there, and then actively and consciously passing the responsibility for doing so over to their employees in a way that helps them develop is what defines a great leader. The best question a manager can ever ask is: “What do you need from me?”
If a manager becomes too operational and fails to move from the first step, no matter how senior their employees, this leads to micromanagement.
It’s easy to vilify the egocentric micromanager. In truth, most managers don’t set out to become a dominating presence despised by their employees. They are often a product of their under-trained, under-supported circumstances.
After all, there’s a fine line between an excellent operational, hands-on manager, and an overbearing micromanager. If you’re a high achiever who lived by the “When you want something done right, do it yourself” idiom while climbing the career ladder, it can be hard to change that mindset once you reach a leadership position.
Let’s also remember that micromanagement can be extremely effective in the short-term. A micromanager provides project management-like oversight of all projects and operations; they get to grips with intricate details, metrics, and reporting; they simplify the decision-making process; they can get everyone pulling in the same direction and even speed up the onboarding of new employees – an onboarding they’re likely to do themselves.
However, these temporary gains tend to make way for excessive reporting, disenfranchised employees who question their value, lower productivity, and slower progress as all decisions hit a bottleneck, a diminished sense of teamwork and morale and, ultimately, increased employee turnover.
There’s evidence to suggest that being micromanaged has a significant impact on employees’ stress levels. It can impact not only their mental health but their physical health also. Little wonder they start looking for a new job.
If you’re fortunate enough to be part of a fledgling company or one that acknowledges the need for a major organizational shake-up, then opting for a flatter, less hierarchical structure could lead to some significant benefits – maybe including the eradication of micromanagers. Although flatter seems to be preferable to completely flat for a lot of companies, so there are still a few cracks for micromanagement weeds to grow. Many companies have moved to new goal-setting methodologies, such as Objectives and Key Results (OKR), in an attempt to tackle tasks and progress in a less manager-centric way.
However, many companies have more traditional organizational and reporting structures that they’re not ready, willing, or equipped to transform. How can such companies attempt to cure the micromanagement virus?
If your business or organization is suffering from micromanagementitis book an appointment (with us, not the doctor) and see how coaching can help achieve real and lasting behavioral change among your managers and senior leaders.