Why you shouldn’t micromanage? On building trust, trustworthiness and other behavioral preferences that make your work environment more productive.
What is Micromanagement?
Micromanagement is an overly controlling management style. While micromanagers believe that they are improving the quality and efficiency of their teams' work, they often decrease productivity and creativity of their teams. Paradoxically, micromanagers' desire for control to make sure everything goes according to their own plan can demotivate their subordinates.
How to Uncover a Micromanager? A typical manager assigns jobs to different team members, asking if they need anything to proceed with the tasks at hand and stating deadlines when the jobs are needed, and then leaves them to complete the tasks. Conversely, a micromanager would either closely watch his/her team and demand progress updates more often than is necessary. He/she would likely make negative comments for the slightest mistake in carrying out a task differently than they would have done it.
Micromanagers don't delegate as they hate decisions being made without them. Also, they focus is on the little details rather than the big picture as most of their time is spent overseeing others and not on designing a forward looking strategy. Correspondingly, they frequently request for updates regardless if the tasks are important or urgent. Further, they ignore the opinion and experience of their subordinates whose deliverables they often find unsatisfactory.
Is Micromanagement Always Bad? Although micromanagement is often counterproductive, there are some cases when some degree of micromanagement is necessary. For example, this style of management is useful within a small team, giving the manager greater control over a company's operations and faster onboarding of new team members.
The micromanager makes all the team reporting back to him/her with frequent progress updates, making sure that everything is done to the highest standards. As long as the team's tasks are not highly complex resulting in overburdening the manager, micromanagement can be a valid approach. While micromanaging can be beneficial for onboarding new team members, once these newbies have been trained, they should be given more autonomy in executing projects in their own way.
While micromanaging is sometimes useful, it usually results in the manager losing track of the larger picture and irritating the team by being overly controlling. Especially, when a company grows its managers can no longer effectively keep up with every detail of their teams' tasks. This is why micromanaging isn’t a scalable approach when a team is growing. There is a tipping point, when micromanagers themselves can’t keep up with everything, leading to unwanted and unnecessary mistakes due to oversight or burnout. Particularly, micromanaging damages employee trust and can lead to burnout in managers and teams alike.
Make Positive Assumptions About Your Team Members - Build the Culture of Trust When managers are micromanaging they are effectively telling their subordinates that they don't trust them. This was proven in Falk and Kosfeld's (2006) study "The hidden cost of control" about principal-agent relations, where the researchers analysed how the agents perceived the principals' decisions to control and how this affected the agents' behavior. Interestingly, most agents indicated that they perceived the decision to control, a proxy for micromanaging, as "a signal of distrust and a limitation of their choice autonomy". Falk and Kosfeld (2006) argued that "principals earn more if they trust their agents than if they control".
Trust is a tendency to believe that a person will act appropriately in a certain situation" (Behave4, 2019).
In work life, managers are bound to encounter people who take advantage of them, and these painful experiences can make them cynical. This cynicism can manifest as a presumption that their subordinates are incapable of self-managing, lack work ethics, or simply are lazy. In fact, according to the Edelman "Trust Barometer" from 2017, every third person doesn’t trust their employer. The "Trust Barometer" also shows that trust decreases from top positions to the lowest. For example, 64% of executives trust their organizations, while only 51% of managers and 48% of other staff stated they trust their organizations.
Employees remarked that they trust their peers more than the CEO and upper-level executives of their company. In its 2016 global CEO survey, PwC reported that 55% of CEOs think that a lack of trust is a threat to their organization’s growth. That means the higher up you climb on a career ladder, the more critical it is for you to build trust with those beneath you.
At the same time, having a higher degree of autonomy is a big motivator for employees, e.g. a 2014 Citigroup and LinkedIn survey found that nearly half of employees would give up a 20% raise for greater control over how they work. However, an employee's trustworthiness should not be taken for granted and this is best to be tested e.g. by running behavioral assessments. For example, assessing how people behave under less vs. more controlling management style, to decrease the risk of some employees tend to take advantage of the trust that others place on them.
Micromanagers are the ones who hold these negative assumptions, so they "strategically" withhold important information and create unnecessary procedures to have better oversight of the work in progress. This can escalate to become a giant bottleneck crippling the talent management within a company, with even the best employees burning out. Contrary, to make positive assumptions about a team, shows that a manager rejects micromanaging and trust his/her team. In fact, entrusting someone with a task, or delegating, is a crucial part of building a trust-based relationship between managers and employees.
This can manifest in a manager delegating challenging tasks to team members trusting that his/her expectations will be met. Under a trust-giving manager, employees tend to be more engaged and productive when they have a voice. Order an Assessment Demo of Your Team's Social Management and See How Strong Your Organizational Culture is on Trust and Trustworthiness.
Sources: Azmi, H. (2019, September 16). 9 Surefire Ways to Demotivate Your Employees. Retrieved from https://www.sogosurvey.com/blog/9-surefire-ways-to-demotivate-your-employees/ Bingham, S. (2017, May 3). If Employees Don't Trust You, It's Up to You to Fix It. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/01/if-employees-dont-trust-you-its-up-to-you-to-fix-it Bortz, D. (2019). How to build trust at work. Retrieved from https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/6-steps-to-building-trust-in-the-workplace-hot-jobs Edelman. (2017, January 21). Trust Barometer. Retrieved from https://www.edelman.com/research/2017-edelman-trust-barometer Falk, A., & Kosfeld, M. (2006). The Hidden Costs of Control. American Economic Review, 96(5), 1611-1630. Hughes, J. (2019, September 17). How to Avoid Micromanaging (for Bosses and Employees). Retrieved from https://www.elegantthemes.com/blog/business/micromanaging Lavoie, A. (2014, July 15). 6 Alternatives to Micromanaging Employees. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/235173 Manning, B. A. (2018, October 18). 5 Steps for Building Trust in the Workplace. Retrieved from https://www.td.org/insights/5-steps-for-building-trust-in-the-workplace Mulholland, B. (2018, July 20). Don't Micromanage: How It Destroys Your Team and How to Avoid It. Retrieved from https://www.process.st/micromanage/