Workforce management is a big part of the responsibilities of any business leader or manager. There are many different ways managers can interact with their teams and manage workflows. There is not a standardized approach to managing teams or individual workers; as such, most business hierarchies focus on productivity and leave workforce management to the manager.

While certain styles may align with internal policies, they still impair team and/or business performance. Micromanagement is usually one of the best examples. Keep reading for more information on what it is and how it could be harming your business.

Before diving into the many negative outcomes of micromanagement, it may be helpful to first examine what really constitutes micromanagement. Of course, the term is self-explanatory when it comes to micromanagement definitions. At its core, it often implies managers breathing down their team’s necks and following all aspects of the protocol in minute detail.

There can be several types of management approaches that do involve overseeing certain aspects of work, but managers apportioning a large part of their day to employee oversight is rarely a workable approach. Understanding micromanagement can help businesses identify such behavior early on and take remedial action in time.

Visible Signs of Micromanagement

It may not always be easy to identify micromanagers in the workforce. It is still crucial that businesses make efforts to do so, however. Without a doubt, certain variables will always come into play. For example, the type of business, the learning curve involved, and the dependability/trust forming the foundation of a professional relationship.

However, when workforce managers know what to look for, spotting certain common signs of micromanagement may be easier. The following is not an exclusive or definitive list of such signs, but they are fairly common in micromanagement cultures:

  • Friction or hostility among team members.
  • A trust deficit between workers and managers.
  • Little to no space for independent work or innovation.
  • Little to no appreciation for out-of-the-box solutions.
  • Very low job satisfaction levels.
  • Workers consistently offer poor manager feedback.
  • A rising rate of attrition among particular teams.
  • A slowdown in professional growth and learning experience.

Frequent Examples of Micromanagement in Workplaces

Micromanagement in the workplace can take many varied forms. In many cases, workplace culture, business models, and industry types add their own layered complexity. However, at its core, the characteristics of such instances are very similar across industries, firms, and teams. The most commonly seen examples of micromanagement typically include:

  • Managers resisting or refusing to delegate work.
  • Line managers take excessive interest in their team’s work.
  • Managers refusing inclusive decision-making.
  • Leaders discouraging innovative or off-script work.
  • Reporting managers demanding unnecessarily detailed reports.
  • Line managers insist on being included in all internal communication.

How Micromanagement Impairs Business Functions

At first, glance, micromanaging behavior may seem far more appealing than disinterested or hands-off management styles. After all, all businesses want key management roles occupied by professionals that buy into the firm’s goals and business vision. On the other hand, the personality traits of a micromanager may make it far less appealing to the teams and workers that interact with him.

In many cases, prolonged micromanagement can begin to impair how a team performs, as well as the cohesion that makes teams run as a unit. For a business to function productively, team dynamics like trust, competence, inclusiveness and innovative space are critical ingredients. Here’s how teams and businesses suffer from the negative effects of micromanagement:

  • Unnecessarily detailed oversight adds more pressure on teams, which can often lead to mistakes that would otherwise not appear.
  • An overly-watchful approach can create stress among teams and managers, which may lead to hostility and even insubordination.
  • A trust deficit begins appearing between workers and managers, reciprocated by both parties to amplify an already stressful situation.
  • A business may acquire a reputation for micromanagement, impairing its ability to source new talent internally.
  • Third-party recruitment services like mortgage staffing agencies may find it harder to find candidates willing to work under micromanagement.
  • A sharp decline in team productivity is always a possibility, especially when micromanagement disrupts workflows and eats into productive hours.
  • Too many hurdles created by micromanaging business leaders can reduce workforce efficiency and lower the output for a regular working day.
  • Persistent complaints arising from micromanagement may be followed by a higher attrition rate and increased difficulty in implementing talent acquisition strategies.

Addressing and Eliminating Micromanagement in Business

By now, it should be very apparent that micromanagement is bad for workforces, managers, and the overall business. How should a business leader or workforce manager address these issues? As with any workplace conflict, dealing with a micromanager can require delicate feedback and guidance. But it may also require a firmer directive.

Of course, micromanagement pales in comparison to other undesirables, such as a culture that tacitly supports bullying, harassment, or hiring bias. Therefore, it may not always merit a serious official response like an HR investigation.

Remember, micromanagers are often just trying to get the job done correctly. Their intentions are in-line with business goals. It is usually their approach that is the problem. Moreover, an improperly handled solution could backfire, causing businesses to lose specialized and dedicated managers or supervisors.

This can be a huge loss, especially if the role is technical or specialized. Replacing these roles requires longer timelines and specialized recruiting experience, like in cybersecurity staffing.

However, unless a business does not value employee motivation, productivity, or satisfaction, micromanagement cannot be allowed to persist. Instead, business leaders can choose to address such instances. The following approach may not work every time, but it may be adapted to fit a particular instance:

  • Communicate transparently and frankly with micromanagers.
  • Encourage managers to reflect on such behavior.
  • Offer sensitivity training and workforce management support.
  • Increase the number of confidential feedback channels.
  • Encourage managers to limit themselves to prioritizing tasks.
  • Offer more opportunities for teams and managers to develop trust.

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