So you want to be a manager? Or, the dangers of micromanagement

by | Apr 14, 2016 | Business

“Management” – a word often used and a skill rarely taught. In so many organizations, management positions are doled out to those that perform well in their company or department’s specialty. A sales team is led by the best salesman, a litigation department is run by the best courtroom attorney, and the R&D department is led by the most brilliant scientist. This does not necessarily mean that these high performers are good managers. In fact, many of them have received little to no formal training in managing people. Often it’s assumed that people that excel in their field will excel managing other people in their own field.  But this is a baseless assumption.  There is no reason that doing something well enables you to motivate others to do it well.

So maybe you’ve been newly promoted to a managerial position. Or maybe your small business has grown and  you’ve decided to take on some employees. It pays to do some thinking about how you will supervise and motivate those individuals, even if the attitude in your organization seems to be that you’ll pick this up as you go.

The Dangers of Micromanagement
Many professionals are great at what they do because they are perfectionists. They are hard on themselves and obsessive about getting even the smallest details of their job right. If this is you, don’t shy away from those traits – they’re part of what got you to where you are in the first place.

But once you’ve acknowledged these traits, accept that you will need to control your sometimes obsessive impulses when you manage others. Why? Because if you rely on these instincts in management, you will not allow your subordinates to assume responsibility, which inherently means giving them the freedom to makes mistakes. Instead, you will seek to aggregate as much responsibility as possible to yourself, assuming greater responsibility for an ever-increasing workload.

Micromanaging damages the manager-employee relationship and prevents workers from finding or utilizing constructive, innovative solutions to problems.

  1. Micromanaging reduces employee motivation. Workers who are constantly told what to do and how to perform will stop doing anything that is not explicitly dictated to them. They will no longer go the extra mile or solve problems on their own. Employees become dependent on their manager and will constantly turn to him or her for the guidance they’ve been conditioned to think they need.
  2. Micromanaging wastes your time. By micromanaging, you are effectively trying to do your job and your employee’s job at the same time. The time you spend doing your employee’s work is time that could have been spent doing the work only youare qualified to do.
  3. Micromanaging inhibits growth. Being detail-oriented is one thing, but if you are consistently caught up in the microscopic details of your employee’s jobs, you are leaving yourself no room to see the bigger picture. It limits your ability to focus on what’s truly important.
  4. Micromanaging kills employee trust. Employees will not trust someone who burdens them with never-ending scrutiny. This lack of trust leads to lower productivity and higher turnover rates. Micromanaged employees also lose confidence in their own abilities to perform well on the job.

Expect Results, But Give Space

Micromanagement represents one end of a spectrum – the desire to exert maximum control over those under you. Naturally, the other end of the spectrum – complete autonomy – is not desirable either. You need to set expectations for performance or else you won’t get results. Here are some suggestions for achieving a balance between these two extremes:

  1. Accept that on-the-job training is neither instantaneous nor mistake-free. To delegate work, you need to come to terms with the fact that training your subordinates is not free. It will likely take longer for them to do what you do and your subordinate is likely to make mistakes at first. But these efforts should not be thought of as costs, but rather as investments needed to successfully delegate responsibilities. Delegation can reap substantial benefits; it saves you time,allows the same work to be done at lower costs, makes your organization more resilient to turnover, and improves morale. Come to terms with the fact that there will be mistakes and slip ups. Don’t deep six your efforts to delegate at the first sign of trouble.
  2. Set measurable, incremental goals over a predetermined period of time. When you delegate a project, be clear about what you expect and when. To determine the measurable aspect of goals, there should be objective ways for you to discern whether your subordinate has done a good job. Distinguish between what is necessary and what is a matter of preference. To determine the incremental aspect of goals, break up a project into manageable chunks. Once the subordinate has successfully completed one step, they should then move on to the next one. When setting goals, determine milestones for an employee to reach. Explicitly consider what the learning curve of a project should be, and decide what output needs to be delivered and when.
  3. Provide feedback. Recent studies have shown that employees want more feedback, including negative feedback as long as it is delivered in an appropriate manner. If an employee has made mistakes, don’t just take back the job and finish it yourself. Take the time to explain what the employee did wrong and give him or her the opportunity to correct the error. By providing feedback in a constructive manner, you can encourage workers to improve instead of discouraging them.

Becoming a good manager isn’t easy; it takes patience and dedication. But thinking about management as a separate skill is the first step to developing into a leader. Many important-looking men and women in corner offices have never made it that far.

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