The great Steve Jobs once said:
“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
Comedienne Tina Fey has a similar opinion:
“In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.”
Both of these statements sound good in theory. However, if you’re a business owner, manager, supervisor, or team leader, you probably know that there are times when giving your team members autonomy is easier said than done.
In a commissioned survey for his book ‘My Way Or the Highway: The Micromanagement Survival Guide,’ Harry Chambers revealed 79% of employees have experienced or currently experiencing micromanagement. However, only 22% of the managers and business owners who were surveyed admitted that they are guilty of micromanaging their employees.
The same survey revealed alarming implications:
- 69% of employees who are micromanaged have sought other job opportunities
- Among them, 36% have actually resigned due to micromanagement
- More than 70% agree that micromanaging has a negative effect on the quality of their work
- 85% experience feel demoralized due to micromanagement
Many HR experts agree that there are some situations that would necessitate micromanagement. This includes periods of instability, employee training, repeated bad employee performance, the trial period of new systems and workflows, or when there’s a crisis. However, micromanagement should be limited within a short period of time.
The danger lies when micromanagement is prolonged and becomes your management style.
There is, however, something more dangerous than micromanagement — a micromanager who’s not aware that he’s micromanaging.
So, if you’ve been wondering whether you’re micromanaging your employees or curious whether you’re exhibiting any micromanaging behaviors, this guide will help you.
Here are 4 symptoms that you’re micromanaging your workforce, plus solutions on what you can do to fix each issue.
Symptom #1: Projects Are Moving Slower
According to HR management expert Ruth Mayhew, employees who feel micromanaged lose their ability to “exercise independent judgment.”
When this happens, your employees feel that your decisions are the only valid ones, especially if there were past instances in which they were criticized for executing something out of their own initiative. To avoid running into conflicts with you, they will resort to getting your input every step of the way instead of exercising their own judgment. At some point, you become overloaded and a productivity bottleneck that slows down the progress.
Symptom #2: Your Employees Are Getting Sick More Often
Are you really surprised to read this or is this something that you’ve been thinking of for a while?
If you answered the latter, then your hunch just got confirmed. A study involving 7,000 middle-aged healthy employees found that those who work in highly stressful work conditions, and who are not given sufficient autonomy by their bosses, are more likely to take prolonged sick leaves of 16 consecutive days or more.
Harvard Medical Instructor Jonathan Quick supports the results of the survey: “The evidence is clear that the leadership qualities of ‘bad’ bosses over time exert a heavy toll on employees’ health. The evidence is also clear that despite the rationalizations some leaders may use to defend their stress-inducing, unsupportive style, such behavior by leaders does not contribute to improved individual performance or organizational productivity.”
Symptom #3: Attrition Rate Increases
Let’s look back at one statistic that was mentioned at the beginning of this post:
36% of employees quit their job because of micromanagement
At some point, your employees will get fed up with a micromanaging boss — “enough is enough.” All it takes is one resignation to possibly trigger a chain reaction of multiple and successive resignations.
This spells bad news for your business. Data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) pegs the cost of replacing employees between 90% to 200% of their yearly salary, while research from Columbia University places it at 150%.
Either way, high employee attrition will eat a significant portion of your revenue if micromanagement is left unchecked.
Symptom #4: You Have a Nagging Need to Assess Your Authority
Fear is the biggest driving force behind micromanagement — fear of losing control, fear of substandard work done by the team being associated with it, etc.
However, the biggest fear among business owners that pushes them to micromanage is the fear of losing their authority. According to the results of the “Are You Motivated By Power Or Achievement?” quiz, 41% of leaders are power driven. They will micromanage to assert their authority.
It’s okay to have a healthy sense of ego. On the other hand, if it leads to micromanagement that creates a hostile work environment, it becomes problematic.
How to Stop Yourself from Micromanaging Your Employees
Micromanagers are not born, which also means that micromanagement is not permanent.
Using the information above, the first step is to acknowledge that you are exhibiting micromanagement behaviors. When you can admit this to yourself, you can take steps to transform from a business owner who controls your employees to a business owner who empowers his team.
Use the 95-95-95 Principle
Admit it or not, one of the main reasons that you’re micromanaging is because you don’t believe your employees are capable of doing the job as well as you can. Perfectionism is a classic micromanagement behavior.
As a solution, try adopting the 95-95-95 principle. Basically, you should be happy if your employees can deliver 95% in terms of work quality, 95% of the time. As a result, you will decrease your micromanagement by 95%.
Monitor Without Hovering
As a “recovering micromanager,” it would be difficult for you to suddenly relinquish all control over your employees. And you shouldn’t. At the end of the day, even the most empowering managers still need to monitor their employees to make sure projects are completed on time and on budget.
One of the best ways to do this is to adopt monitoring technologies such as automated time tracking software. Since an automated time tracking software works in the background, you’re able to keep an eye out on your employees’ productivity without being intrusive and imposing.
It gives you the best of both worlds. You can track how your employees are executing their tasks and provide timely coaching if necessary. At the same time, you are giving them enough autonomy to use their skills, exercise their judgment, and take advantage of their creativity in performing their tasks.
Remove Yourself Physically from the Process
Micromanagers who are trying to improve will try their best to delegate tasks. However, somewhere along the way, they will see something that they want to change and can’t help but interfere.
By physically removing yourself from the process, you are giving more room for your employees to do their jobs on their own, instead of always being around to influence the process. It’s more challenging if you’re running a remote team because you can’t physically remove yourself from the process. One idea is to inform your team that you won’t be available during certain hours of the day. This will encourage them to execute tasks on their own. You can also create projects that you can work on by yourself (i.e. coming up with new product ideas) and focus on these to lessen the temptation to check in on your team.
Of course, this will be difficult at first, but will eventually become better once it becomes a habit, and once you see the positive results that your employees can produce on their own.
Create Your Own Job Description
Your employees have their job descriptions in writing. Do you?
Writing your own job description as a business owner is a good exercise to help you focus on the priority objectives that will push your business agenda forward. Be specific and don’t include blanket concepts such as “make sure my team is delivering the best work possible.”
Really focus on you as a business owner. Take inspiration from business owners that inspire you. Ultimately, it will dawn on you that micromanaging the day-to-day tasks of your employees is not something expected of you as a business owner.
Transforming from a Micromanager to a True Leader
Relinquishing control is never easy, but it is necessary. With the right mindset coupled with non-intrusive monitoring technology, you can stop micromanaging, still track employee activities, and without a negative impact on employee morale and productivity.
Empowered employees are happy employees, and happy employees are more capable of propelling a business to success.
Dean Mathews is the founder and CEO of OnTheClock, an online employee time tracking app that helps over 8,000 companies all around the world track time.
Dean has over 20 years of experience designing and developing business apps. He views software development as a form of art. If the artist creates a masterpiece, many peoples lives are touched and changed for the better.
When he is not perfecting time tracking, Dean enjoys expanding his faith, spending time with family, friends and finding ways to make the world just a little better. You can find Dean on LinkedIn.