There are a number of reasons that leaders might resort to micromanagement. According to the Harvard Business Review, one of the key factors driving this behaviour is a feeling of isolation or disconnect from the rest of the team. Other explanations include managers feeling the need to maintain their control, a lack of trust in employees and the fear of being held accountable for the mistakes of others.
For those with a tendency to micromanage, the coronavirus pandemic has created a perfect storm. As offices around the country remain shut, many managers have found themselves separated from their teams and forced to work remotely, making it difficult for them to know exactly what their team members are up to.
While exerting greater control and surveillance on employees might feel like the best way to drive productivity, the opposite is actually true. Micromanagers waste everyone’s time, including their own, create bottlenecks (because they insist on reviewing everything) and end up pushing their team away, increasing employee turnover.
Here are four micromanagement behaviours managers should be avoiding at all costs.
1. You “check-in” with your team multiple times a day
The number one sign of remote micromanaging is a manager that “checks in” on their team multiple times throughout the day. Not only is this behaviour an indication of a severe lack of trust, but it’s also incredibly distracting for employees who are trying to be productive. At this time, managers should be available to support their colleagues when necessary, not trying to catch them out.
2. You ask employees to account for their output for every working hour
A good leader focuses on output and not the number of hours their employees spend at their desks. As long as team members consistently deliver high-quality work and adhere to important deadlines, it shouldn’t matter how they do it. Managers should be communicative and clear about expectations but only resort to invasive management techniques if/when it becomes clear someone’s performance is slipping.
3. You expect your team to adhere to a strict working schedule
Micromanagers will expect their team to create a work schedule and stick to it – preferring all employees to work the same 9-5 hours, which makes it easier for them to monitor everyone.
But it shouldn’t matter whether an employee starts work at 7am or 3pm. During these unusual times, employees will be adopting various strategies to maintain good mental and physical health, juggle their professional and family life, and stay productive at work. This might mean working flexible hours, taking longer breaks than usual or taking slightly longer than usual to complete work. To ensure collaboration continues within the team, a single daily call (at a time that works for everyone) will suffice. Managers must trust that their team will follow up with one another when there are issues to resolve.
4. You insist on being copied in on every email and approving every piece of work
Now more than ever, it’s important for employees to have some autonomy to make decisions and the opportunity to be creative at work. It’s counterproductive to allow perfectionism to stifle innovation within a team. Managers can fight the urge to oversee everything their employees do by actively delegating tasks and encouraging employees to work independently. The best thing a manager can do is be approachable and supportive – this will ensure employees will come to them when they need help or are feeling out of their depth.