People leave managers, not companies.
Managers account for 70% of variance in employee engagement (Gallup). Great managers help employees reach their full potential; bad managers hold their employees back.
One of the most common complaints employees have of managers (and there are a lot) is being micromanaged. Instead of trusting an employee to do a job, a micromanager tries to control every moment of their employee’s day by constantly offering “feedback” on how they can improve.
And though it’s a common complaint, you won’t meet many managers admitting to being micromanagers. The reason is simple—what employees see as micromanagement, micromanagers see as diligence, excellence or even just being supportive. Someone needs to make sure things get done right, they might argue. For them, it’s not micromanagement—it’s just management.
The Pros and Cons of Micromanagement
Pro: At Least They Care
While working under a micromanager can be frustrating, consider the opposite scenario: a manager who offers no direction, support or feedback. A hands-off manager can be equally tough to deal with, if not worse. With a micromanager, at least you know that they will be there whenever you have a problem and that they do care about the work.
Pro: The Freedom to Make Mistakes
It feels great to be trusted with a big project and given the freedom to do your best work. In the best case scenario, we rise to the challenge. However, knowing that there’s nobody looking over your shoulder can lead to a conservative, error-avoidance approach. In some ways, a micromanager may give employees more freedom to experiment and be creative.
Pro: Peace of Mind
From a manager’s perspective, micromanaging provides a kind of security, reassurance that work is getting done. It’s this need for security that prompts people to micromanage in the first place.
Cons: Wasted Time
At its worst, micromanaging means two people doing one job. For a manager, their time could be spent leading rather than supervising. But it also wastes time for an employee—rather than focusing on their job, they’re forced to constantly explain and re-explain themselves and their work. This hurts productivity, eating into a company’s profit margins.
Cons: Employee Resentment
Being micromanaged doesn’t just waste time—it’s also stressful, irritating and an all-round killer for employee engagement. Without trust and a feeling of ownership over one’s work, it’s impossible for an employee to truly thrive and develop. While a little micromanagement may be normal or necessary during an employee’s onboarding process, if it carries on too long, it’s a one way ticket to frustration and dissatisfaction.
Cons: Increased Staff Turnover
Employee dissatisfaction caused by micromanagement will inevitably lead to higher staff turnover which—especially in this historically tight labor market—is a hassle (and expense) you really don’t need. Consider that it costs $4,291 to replace a $10 per hour retail employee, according to Paycor research, and way more for high-skilled positions. Micromanagement isn’t just an irritation—it hurts companies’ bottom lines.
Cons: Unhealthy Anxiety
At the end of the day, a micromanager is likely someone who finds it difficult to trust their employees. Their anxiety about relinquishing control hurts the success of their company—but it’s also just not healthy. To worry about every move an employee makes is not only stressful, it’s unsustainable. A far better approach is to invest in employees’ learning and development, to ensure they are qualified and suited for whatever tasks they are required to complete, no matter how challenging.
How to Overcome Micromanagement
Nobody said management was easy. It comes naturally to only around 1 in 10 of us, according the Gallup research—everyone else has something to learn. Trusting employees can be hard for anybody, and part of overcoming micromanagement means being willing to accept occasional mistakes—without the freedom to fail, employees will never develop. Of course, the challenge is to allow this while also being wary of going too far in the other direction, leaving employees isolated and without support thanks to ‘under-management’.
At the end of the day, a hands-on management style can be incredibly effective, but micromanagement is never healthy. If an employee needs to be micromanaged, they probably aren’t right for your company.
If you have micromanagers at your company, you may want to challenge them to become leaders. Paycor can help: read our expert advice on transforming managers into leaders.