The negative impacts of micromanagement

Micromanagement is not good for business. It’s not good for employees.  And it’s not good for the manager. So why is it so prevalent in today’s workforce? 

There’s an old quote from Charles-Guillaume Étienne: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”  Although that sounds really great, and some – especially those frustrated by the mistakes people make – may consider it profound.  However, it also leads to a type of behavior that is anything BUT right… Micromanagement.

Wikipedia defines micromanagement as a management style, one where the supervisor very closely observes and controls the work of their subordinates. But I don’t even agree with it being classified as a management “style” as – to me – that gives it far too much credibility.

We should, instead, refer to it as what it is… Micromanagement is a management mistake.

Why micromanagement is bad for business…

1. Micromanagement Leads to Inefficiencies

First of all, it’s a very inefficient way to run a business. Instead of having one person doing one job (the job they were hired to do), you have two people performing one task.  The employee and the micromanager.

Micromanagement - hovering over shoulders

Micromanagers often have difficulty letting go of even the most mundane tasks, so they insist on monitoring and controlling their employees’ behavioral patterns and routine duties.  Although this type of behavior is common during training periods, the point of training is to give the employee the knowledge, skills, and tools to create autonomy and do their job on their own.

Some managers refer to this as being “Hands-on” — and many even believe that it is a good thing… a way to make sure work is getting done that that people aren’t slacking off.

Dilbert Micromanagement Cartoon

By behaving this way, they are overstepping the bounds of management and becoming far too entrenched in the minute details of the work their employees are paid to do.  A typical micromanager will assign tasks to employees, but instead of giving them guidance, direction, and being available for questions and clarification if needed, they hover over the employee until the work is completed.

This leads us to the second reason why micromanagement is bad for business.

2. Micromanagement reduces engagement and can harm employee morale

The negative effects of micromanagement are so palpable that it has considered to be among the top three reasons employees resign. Very few (and I mean very, very few) employees appreciate micromanagement.  Those who do have likely been trained into it by having type of behavior ingrained into their work style by previous micromanagers who:

  • Would never truly delegate work to them
  • Even when they did, they would constantly check-in for granular details on the project’s progress
  • Took back projects before they were finished if they saw a tiny hint of a mistake or misdirection
  • Discouraged any decision making without consulting them first.

Micromanagement negatively impacts performance

Unfortunately, micromanagement can become a viscous cycle, as it makes your employees believe that they can not longer handle the work without your constant guidance and approval.

Let’s be brutally honest for a moment…
this kind of behavior really frustrates the kind of employees you want in your company!

A strong, smart, motivated employee can easily be discouraged by this kind behavior. Over time, micromanagement can lead to low engagement and work satisfaction levels.  These, in turn, reduce motivation, initiative, and overall productivity. The employee suffers. The company suppers.  Eventually these employees will likely seek other opportunities, ones where they are encouraged to capitalize on their knowledge and skills.

Micromanagement leads to high churn

My Way or the Highway author Harry Chambers published a survey conducted by Trinity Solutions that showed how shockingly widespread micromanagement has, and the damaging effects in can have on a business:

  • 79% of respondents had experienced micromanagement at some point in their career
  • Nearly 70% said they would consider changing jobs because of micromanagement
  • 36% responded that they had actually changed jobs in the past because of micromanagement practices
  • Of those asked if micromanaged interfered with their job performance, 71% said it had
  • 85% said their morale was negatively impacted by micromanagement.

Micromanagement - just tell us everything

3. Micromanagement leads to waste and mistakes

One of the other problems with micromanagement is that the one doing the micromanaging don’t necessarily have the most up-to-date skills. If someone is going to make the mistake of attempting to oversee the step-by-step work of the people who have been tasked with performing certain duties, it’s critically important to understand the current best practices of those steps. They may have been an expert in their field years ago, before they become a manager, but technology and processes change.  A micromanager who does not keep up with changes in the industry is – possibly – the worst offender in this realm, as not only are they reducing their employees productivity by constantly supervising their efforts, they are providing granular direction that is often wrong our outdated.

Micromanagement - know the job you're managing

If your leaders micromanage too much, your employees’ skills, talents, initiative, and insights can start to dwindle, leaving the business stuck with a team that only knows how to do what it’s told. And if the micromanager themselves is unsure or unclear on the requirements, and is not able to establish clear directions, the results can suffer greatly.

“Micromanagers expect employees to be able to read their minds and that leads to employees feeling like failures because they’re not mind readers.”

– Harry Chambers, Author: My Way or the Highway

4. Micromanagement leads to manager burnout

We’ve discussed how micromanagement isn’t good for the business nor the employee, but there’s another obvious, yet often overlooked, casualty of of micromanagement – the micromanager themselves.  Let’s face it, micromanaging people is downright exhausting. It’s hard enough doing the job of managing part of the business, doing that job AND making sure that everybody under your supervision is also doing their jobs (to your exacting specifications) is a Herculean task.  And they’re expending a lot of time and energy on something that is driving little, if no, value to the company.

Helping to reduce micromanagement helps everyone involved.  It helps the company. It helps the employee.  It helps the manager.

Everybody wins.

Never tell someone how to do something. Just tell them what needs to be done and they will amaze you with their ingenuity. – General George S. Patton

Looking for some motivation to help your business grow? Check out our compilation of 97 Of The Best Motivational Business Quotes & Memes >>


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