How to avoid micromanaging
Micromanaging is one of the most common management problems within businesses both large and small and can have unforeseen consequences on not just staff but the success of a business.
The effects of micromanagement can be indirect but significant.
Think of a small café: the effects of a micromanager on an employee can impact that employee’s ability to perform their work confidently. This then creates a working environment where both productivity suffers (mistakes are made due to a lack of confidence) and either as a result or alongside this the presentation of the business to customers suffers. Essentially, the ‘mood’ of the café becomes noticeably negative for new and regular customers.
This can make or break a small business and all it comes down to is a manager being unable to separate themselves from the many individual tasks that come under their management but are not their direct responsibility (that’s why they have employees).
Common reasons why managers slip into these habits
- Investment in a business
A manager or owner’s investment in a business is both financial and emotional. For an owner, they have put everything on the line, including their time, their finances, their hopes and expectations for themselves, onto the success of their business. For a manager, they have a plan for progression within their career and need to prove their ability to get results for their own boss. The financial and emotional investment in a business can be so powerful a force that it clouds a manager’s ability to step back from many facets of the business, while creating systems that dissuade growth in their employees and constrict room for innovation.
- Previous experience
Managers often come to their roles from the area in which they manage, so have developed strategies and approaches to the work that they either want to pass on or feel are the only way to achieve outcomes. This can inhibit an employee’s ability to find solutions to problems or better ways to do their job.
- Being burnt in the past
Small business owners often have their own stories about bad employees. Unfortunately, it is just part of the business. However, treating every subsequent employee with mistrust or kiddy gloves can be a result of being burnt by previous employees.
- It is a human trait
Micromanaging is natural and is not the bogey monster. Most people will not recognise that they do it themselves. Even those not in a management position will demonstrate the occasional tendency to micromanage because it is simply a mechanism for control, which is a natural desire. Acknowledging that we all succumb to a desire to control our circumstances can help us see our own contribution to micromanagement.
- A fear of being disconnected from the business.
The creation of middle management positions places stress on these people to prove their worth in a business where the necessary tasks of a business are performed by someone else. At the same time, a business owner who has spent their resources (emotional and financial) on developing a business may simply find it hard to disconnect from certain aspects of a business, as they are often aspects that bring the most satisfaction (i.e. in customer-facing businesses).
How to avoid micromanaging
The best way to address your micromanagement is head-on. Acknowledging your weaknesses to staff can be an effective way to develop empathy in your employees, which will incentivise them to help you find solutions to your management problems.
One option is to develop an anonymous survey for staff to fill out but this does not address the idea of developing empathy within your employees. If they understand that you want to improve your management than they will be more receptive to your changes, notice when you slip into bad habits and be more understanding and forgiving of them. This is why talking with staff about ways you can improve can repair and improve your working relationships and humanise you as a manager/boss.
If you have a manager or supervisor that micromanages themselves, addressing it in this frank but understanding way is key to maintaining relationships. Rather than framing a conversation about how to address the ‘issue’ of their micromanaging, consider framing the conversation as a leadership workshop for the two of you, where you both get to work on each other’s management styles.