Ask every single person whose job it is to manage other human beings and exactly none of them will self-report as a micromanager.
Why exactly, then, do they seem to be so prevalent in the working world?
No one ever wakes up one morning and says, “Ya know what? Today I’m going to decide to get all up in my team’s business and try to do their jobs for them.” It just sort of happens.
It often starts out with the flawed belief that because the buck stops with you, you need to ensure everything is OK all the time and that you have the ability to orchestrate those things actually being OK with just your talents and expertise.
- The problem is that’s not how an effective team works, and that’s not the hallmark of an effective leader. Effective leaders have something micromanagers don’t: Trust.
The fundamental reason otherwise fine people become micromanagers is because they don’t trust the people they have — and, in turn, their team doesn’t trust them. Why that lack of trust emerges on the part of the manager (who, incidentally, should never be confused with a leader) is often tied to shaky business performance, not shaky team or individual performance. If the buck stops with you, by God, you’re going to make sure that buck is well accounted for.
There’s just one problem. When you start inserting yourself into the work designed to be done by those hired to be a part of your team, you’re guaranteeing yourself worse outcomes than if you simply stayed in your role as leader and let the people you’ve hired do their jobs. The data proves that, and we’ll get to it in a moment.
If those people truly aren’t capable of doing their jobs, you still don’t need to be a micromanager. You need to find and hire better people, and that’s on you, not them.
And you better do it fast, because micromanagement is costly.
- The Harvard Business Review recently conducted a study to see the correlation between staff engagement and micromanagement. It found that absenteeism caused by disengagement costs a typical 10,000 person company $600,000 a year in salary for days where no work was performed and that “disengagement-driven turnover costs most sizable businesses millions every year.”
This is amplified now that we’re in The Great Reshuffling, as employees with skills are able to find greener pastures quite easily with leaders (not managers, mind you) who know what their own role is on the team and who trust their team to know theirs.
Disengagement is positively correlated to micromanagement. In fact, micromanagement is the starting point for a vicious cycle.
- The manager lacks trust in the team.
- The manager starts to exert more and more control over the team and its work.
- Productivity, shocking to no one, goes down.
- Team performance decreases.
- The team has fundamental distrust in leadership.
- The manager lacks trust in the team.
And off we go again on another trip around the cycle.
Except now you as a micromanager are on that trip with far few and/or far less talented people, because your top performers bolted to work with (not for) people who will allow them to actually do their jobs.
This is especially heightened with creative people who need space and freedom to work.
So what do you do if you’re working with a micromanager? The best tip is to find out what that person wants and needs to loosen up. Take a look at your performance objectively. Are you delivering results? If so, demonstrate them. If the micromanager still doesn’t let up, you’ve got your answer: It’s time to look for better employment.
Sure, you can go ahead and communicate your concerns, but again, no one self-identifies as a micromanager, The chance of you convincing anyone that that’s what they are, no matter how politely you try to put it or how much evidence you show that you don’t need their micromanagement, nothing is likely to change.
Besides, it’s not your responsibility to change them. It’s the micromanager’s job to change themselves.
- So managers, it’s time for some honest self-reflection. Are you too involved in the work that isn’t yours to do? Are you dictating things that aren’t necessary for the success of the team or the business? Are you managing outside your area of education, experience and expertise and not trusting those who have that education, experience and expertise?
If so, back off. You’re shooting yourself and the business for which you serve as a manager in the foot — or worse. Change. Become the leader your team deserves.
John Agliata is a marketing professional with more than 30 years of communications experience. Reach him at email@example.com or (352) 226-5852.
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