Ways To Avoid Micro-Managing People

Workplaces have evolved, and micromanagement is a thing of the past. So how can you avoid micromanaging people to boost your team’s productivity, engagement and development?

Businesses are known to be one of the most important pillars of the economy and are ‘managed’ through different styles.

One of the business styles is ‘micromanagement’, where managers erroneously stick to the etymology of the word ‘manage’ and go to rack and ruin.

The word ‘manage’ comes from the Italian word maneggiare, which means to ‘handle’ or ‘train horses’.

The meaning of the word has evolved, but some of us (sometimes with positive intent) continue to treat our team like horses, controlling them at every step of the way. When that happens, it’s time to call it and stop micromanaging people.

“The ‘result’ of micromanagement is perhaps tangible in the short run, but more often causes damage for the long term.”

– Pearl Zhu

What is micromanagement?

Micromanagement is a term used to define one of the many management styles.

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When you ‘micromanage’, you tend to excessively control how people you manage work leading to low workplace productivity and breeding a toxic work environment.

It is dubbed as a ‘bad management style’, especially when its long-term impact is assessed.

How do you know you’re micromanaging people?

If you focus on minor details too much, don’t let your team make their own decisions, suffer from a superiority complex or provide uber-complex instructions that are difficult to follow, raise the red flag and change course – you might be a micromanager!

To take an example, the CEO of Tesla Motors Inc, Elon Musk, has often been criticised for being a micromanager. Some even call him a ‘nano manager’ and elaborate in detail how that has proven detrimental to his organisation.

Let’s look at some examples of micromanagement.

Singular decision-making:

When the manager decides everything on their own, without considering what the team has to say.

Over-involvement and non-delegation:

When the manager has to be present during every meeting, call or discussion, overseeing everything. They don’t delegate their tasks.

Too much attention to detail and reporting:

Excessive focus on unnecessary details and too much documentation for a team is another sign of micromanagement.

Why should you avoid micromanaging people?

Before understanding how to avoid micromanaging people, you need to understand why to take impactful action. Here are a few ways in which micromanagement can have a negative impact on the people around you:

  • They may lose motivation and morale, thinking you lack faith in them.
  • They may think they are doing something wrong, and that may promote self-doubt.
  • It can create stress that may lead to a decline in productivity and overall happiness.
  • Micromanagement can stifle creativity and problem-solving skills because it indicates that there is only ‘one’ way of doing things.
  • It can lead to low employee satisfaction and burnout, ultimately leading your employees to quit their jobs. In fact, it’s one of the top three reasons why employees resign.
  • You may lose the bigger picture with micromanagement.

10 effective tips to avoid micromanaging people

Stop being afraid of failure

Be fail-forward.

Obsessing over perfectionism is often how micromanagement begins. But the best learnings happen through failures.

Letting your team learn that way will build a lot of autonomy within your organisation. Mistakes are okay; they are the stepping stones to success.

Don’t reassign a task because your team made mistakes. As a manager, you can also practice letting go and starting afresh. Don’t hold grudges; understand your team is human.

Minimise your presence

Physically and digitally.

Many micromanagers may continuously monitor progress by being present in a meeting that another team member presides over or physically checking the progress of a report by looking at a person’s screen, among other things.

You need to ensure you’re not ‘looming over’ your team when the task is being done. Ideally, you should physically and digitally distance yourself to ensure you’re not micromanaging.

Minimising your presence will also ensure your team feels that you have faith in them to handle their tasks and inspire them to do better.

Knowing that others too can do a job as well as you can do it goes a long way. Make delegation a part of the process like a routine.

Trust and delegate

Take the leap.

Define your role and the roles of the people you work with. Refrain from doing everything on your own. It’s critical that you focus on delegating tasks to other people and even more critical that you trust them to follow through.

Through delegation, you will be able to focus on managing outcomes than managing people.

People who don’t micromanage also know that every person’s skills can be different, and the manager is not the master of all those skills, so they can’t do everything independently.

Have a conversation with your team

Ask and listen.

Gone are the days when the work culture was like a factory with line workers, where a manager screamed at their teams, and the team hurriedly did what they were told.

The work culture has evolved and is much more progressive today. Every team member has a say, and asking them how they want to be managed will go a long way in increasing productivity.

Seek input and incorporate it. Ask questions like “How often would you like to have check-ins on the progress?” or “How involved do you want me to be in this task?” and so on. Get into oral agreements with your team.

Build a broader picture

What’s the bigger picture?

The biggest picture at any organisation is the work culture. You could focus on fostering a work culture that supports your employees instead of focusing on what your employees are doing.

Employees who think their work culture is positive are 3.8 times more likely to be engaged at work. It’s one of the best ways to boost employee engagement.

Explain what the broader picture is to your team – your beliefs, vision, core values etc. Once they understand that, they will automatically tune in and align.

Facilitate and guide

Don’t control.

Act as a coach and a guide for your team, and avoid hand-holding. Instead, encourage an open, transparent atmosphere where your team can approach you for advice or help with problem-solving. Let them know.

As entrepreneur Claire Smith said to Forbes, “Play the role of a facilitator than a taskmaster.”

You can also better guide your team by knowing what everyone is good at and what they are not. Don’t monitor people; you can monitor their performances. This is great for employee motivation, too.

Encourage intrapreneurship

Create entrepreneurs within the team.

Intrapreneurs are people who act like entrepreneurs within an organisation. The idea is to let your team do more than just complete tasks.

Let them increase their skill set, lead a project or improve their creativity. Give them that runway to be a part of the broader picture you have set with the team.

Promoting entrepreneurship will automatically negate micromanagement and make your team feel that their work is important, boosting morale.

Understand that it’s not about you

It’s about the team.

Another reason why micromanagement happens is making it all about ‘you’. Micromanagers often project their personal needs and issues on the team. It could be your fear of failure, the need to win, control, or anything else.

Having a clear understanding of teamwork and taking baby steps to step out of your comfort zone is an antidote to micromanagement.

It’s never about you; it’s about the people you work with and the goals you set.

Be realistic

Get rid of unrealistic expectations.

Whether it’s about setting expectations or boundaries, be realistic. It begins with setting ground rules about what’s to be done and when it’s expected. After that, you can leave the ‘how’ for your team to decide.

Also, don’t over-expect. For example, don’t expect your team members to drop their commitments and work on a project even after working hours every day.

Even if it’s not the best conversation, set boundaries, ask them what’s okay and what’s not, and let them know if they feel that a boundary has been crossed. This will prevent a lot of misunderstandings at work.

When you expect something that’s not okay for your team, you’ll have to go through delays, errors and resentment. This could make you want to go back to micromanaging. Avoid that.

Have a growth mindset

Identify skill gaps and mentor.

You might feel the need to micromanage when you may feel that a team member does not have the skills required to complete a task. This does not mean that you do it for them.

It means that you need to fill the skill gaps by asking someone else to mentor them if not doing it yourself and motivate them to upskill.

This will also create a growth mindset within your team, where everyone will grow, creating a more efficient team.

Adopting alternative management styles

Some managers may feel lost once they stop micromanaging. But remember, not micromanaging also frees up your bandwidth by taking many things off your plate. This is when you can ponder what kind of a leader you want to be.

Many different management styles have been tried and tested. You can pick one that suits you or a combination of them to avoid micromanaging people.

Here are some management styles you can look at:

  • A democratic or collaborative management style, where everyone is a part of the process and where the manager gives feedback. This creates a collaborative environment.
  • A consultative style, similar to democratic, where everyone’s opinions matter.
  • A laissez-faire management method is where the manager has everyone’s back, but the team makes their own decisions.
  • A coaching style where your role is to teach and inspire.
  • A transformational management style where your focus is on employee growth and innovation within your team.

You can also learn some tips for better people management to know what to do when you stop micromanaging.

The bottom line: find the ‘why.’

One of the most effective ways to avoid micromanaging people is to become aware of what is causing you to behave that way.

Is it the fear of failure? Or is it stemming from trust issues you may have developed over time? It could also be the need for control or the obsession with power.

Finding out what’s leading to micromanagement and addressing that issue at the core, combined with the ten tips we have given you in this article, will guide you to finding a nurturing management style tailored to the growth mindset.

Knowledge and awareness are the first steps. You’re now on your way.

In Summary

Micromanaging people can lead to low employee morale, absenteeism, low productivity and stifled growth.

You can avoid micromanaging your team by opening lines of communication, becoming a facilitator, relinquishing control and the need for perfectionism and delegation.

Understanding why you feel the need to micromanage, along with encouraging entrepreneurship and filling up the skill gap, can also go a long way in creating an efficient team and weeding out micromanagement.


About the Author

Austin Davis is a skilled content writer with 5 years of experience specialising in creating digital marketing content. With a passion for storytelling, Austin has developed a reputation for crafting engaging and effective content that resonates with target audiences and drives business results.

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