People Hate Micromanagers. Here Are 3 Tips to Not Being One

July 13, 2016

When you micromanage your employees, researchers from Southern Illinois University have concluded that you accomplish three things:

  • You signal to your people that you don’t trust them, which kills their morale and increases the chance they’ll look for a job elsewhere.
  • Your team underperforms, because you are stomping out their full potential, particularly all their innovation and ingenuity.
  • You’ll likely burn yourself out staying on top of everyone else’s work.

Other than that, it’s an amazing strategy (sarcasm intended).

Despite those bad outcomes, micromanaging remains common. A survey found that 79 percent of employees have had micromanagers, and 69 percent of employees said they considered changing jobs because they were micromanaged.

So how do you, as a manager, ensure you aren’t micromanaging your people? In other words, how do you lead in a way that ensures people stay on track, but still feel empowered?

Leadership coach Todd Dewett, in his “Management Tips” Lynda course, dedicated a section to that exact issue. Specifically, Dewett pointed out three rules that ensure you are leading effectively, without micromanaging:

1. Be clear with instructions and expectations up front.

Whenever you assign an employee a project, give them a clear explanation of what needs to happen, when it needs to happen and why, Dewett said. Ask the employee questions in that meeting about the project, to ensure they have a clear understanding of the goals of the project, he said.

Explaining the project clearly upfront will drastically reduce consternation on both sides, according to Dewett.

2. Don’t check in until 60 to 70 percent of the project’s timeline has elapsed.

After you’ve detailed to the employee what you want, here’s the critical part – don’t check in right away. Dewett suggested waiting for 60 to 70 percent of the project’s timeline to elapse before checking in to see how it’s going.

Of course, the employee can always ask you questions before that. But, by giving them freedom to do work unimpeded, you are signaling to the employee that you trust their judgment.

3. Change the tone of your check-ins, from evaluative to helpful.

When you do check-in with an employee, you need to be mindful of the tone of how you check-in. Specifically, instead of saying something like “can I see your work,” seek to be helpful to the employee, Dewett said.

For example, you can ask questions like, “Are you good?” or, “Is there anything I can help you with?”, according to Dewett. That will make it seem less like you are questioning the ability of the employee, but instead are working with them to achieve the best possible outcome.

Tying it all together

The reason many managers – particularly new managers – micromanage is because they were often outstanding individual contributors, which led to them being promoted to manager in the first place. That can be a negative, as they get frustrated when work isn’t done the way they successfully did it, and want to ensure everything comes out great.

As a manager, you need to fight against those instincts and trust your people. Following these three rules should help, and create a more positive, more productive and more innovative team culture.

Information from this article was sourced from Dewett’s course, Management Tips, which you can watch here. Courses you might also be interested in are:

Image by Death to the Stock Photo

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