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The Micromanaging Loop

Let’s talk micromanaging. Most people say they hate it, and yet it happens all the time. We both have seen experiences of this in the last few weeks. During COVID when everyone was working virtually, the manager for one team we work with had a task sheet for every 30 minutes of the day!

So, what is it? What impact does it have on employees?

Micromanaging is the constant looking over your employees’ shoulders and telling them how to do their work on a daily or even minute-by-minute basis. There are times when managers need to train their employees – onboarding new employees, communicating new policies or regulations that the team must follow, or explaining your segment of a project. There are other times when training or telling people how to do their jobs is not appropriate – delegating tasks and then doing it yourself anyway, discussing minutia of project tasks that have no real significance, or checking-in with team members so much that they haven’t had time to really accomplish much of the tasks given to them.

While many managers mean well, their constant interference or extreme focus on minute details can increase individual dissatisfaction, reduce efficiency of goal attainment, and derail the team’s success.

Why does it happen? What can we do about it?

There are many drivers of micromanaging:

  • Newly promoted managers can find it hard to let go of work they are used to doing;

  • Some managers don’t trust their team members to do their job;

  • Many managers find it hard to watch their team members accomplish goals in different ways than they would.

Most managers want their teams to succeed. Here are a few key tips to help get out of the micromanagement loop:

  • Agree to expectations for standard of work at the start of a project;

  • Review your team’s individual strengths and skills, and match tasks accordingly to set them up for success;

  • Set interim review points so you can monitor their progress without checking in with them incessantly;

  • Establish communication routines to keep you informed without worrying about their progress;

  • Learn each team member’s managerial needs and preferences to identify the best means of engaging them.

Sometimes managers need an objective point of view to break out of the micromanaging loop.

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