How micro-management impacts on business | Fin24

How micro-management impacts on business

Nov 01 2018 09:40
Amanda Visser

The hovering human helicopter, better known as the office micro-manager. 

They hover over everyone, staying involved in all day-to-day activities.

Although there are certain instances where micro-management is required, it has to be with a short-term perspective in mind. 

If it becomes long term, it can have devastating consequences for the business, and particularly for the employees who are subjected to it. 

We have all heard managers say they are “hands-on” when the rest of their teams experience it as micro-management. 

However, the real hands-on manager realises the need to delegate, and trains their staff continuously to empower them to work efficiently and independently, says Marlet Tromp, executive and business coach.

“A hands-on manager gives meaningful feedback, takes time to understand his staff, delegates accordingly and allows innovation within certain frameworks,” Tromp says.

On the other hand, the helicopter manager wants to control everything the staff does, closely observes every step, gives no freedom or room to be innovative and tends to give negative feedback. 

“Micro-managers tend to have unrealistic expectations of their staff, which they have not necessarily communicated. These managers battle to let go, want to control everything and battle to trust their staff. Their staff does not grow and becomes stagnant and unresponsive.”

When it’s good to hover
In some limited circumstances, especially after hiring a young employee who may need temporary micro-management until they settle in and become familiarised with their role, it could actually help to build morale, says Holly Ivy, digital platforms and marketing manager at Systems2. 

The goal must be to help employees become independent, she writes in an article published on LinkedIn.

Tromp says when a team battles to self-motivate, or there are certain worries within the team they cannot address themselves, then a hands-on manager will intervene. 

He will address the worries of the employees for them until they can continue their work independently.

When there is a new project, or new team members, a manager also needs to micro-manage for some time. 

“In this instance the micro-managing is to train the staff and empower them until they know how to do the work and feel comfortable to carry on independently.”

When a crisis occurs, a manager will often intervene because of his expertise and experience. 

There might be no time for training and empowerment within the crisis. 

However, a hands-on manager will go back to the team when the crisis has been averted to train them to deal with this kind of crisis.

But some continue hovering . . . 

Tromp says micro-managers are often perfectionists, self-reliant and do not want to part with the power their position gives them. 

They want acknowledgement for work well done and do not want to share it with their subordinates.  

“Their focus is on themselves and not on developing their staff,” she says. 

There can also be underlying anxiety, which makes it difficult to trust the staff and relinquish their control. 

Their fear is that they might look bad.

Some are also more task-oriented than people-focused. 

This inhibits self-motivation. The inability to link the correct person with the correct job and to oversee the process is one of the reasons managers do not want to let go. 

They fall into the micro-managing trap.

The effect of micro-management

Ivy says many managers who are guilty of long-term “debilitating micro-management” are oblivious to the destructive effects they are having on an entire organisation. 

“At its best, micro-management impedes evolution. At its worst, it causes the entire organisation to decay from the inside out.”

Top of the list of the harmful side-effects of micro-management, however, is stifling innovation. 

“Sadly, under the rule of a micro-manager, employees quickly become stagnant when they cannot come up with new ideas or procedures of their own.”

Another destructive effect of micro-management is the hindrance of workflow. It creates a “wait-to-be-told” culture. 

Employees begin asking themselves why they should work ahead of time if the micro-manager is going to change everything in any event.

“What you are really saying to your staff when you micro-manage is that you do not trust them. This in turn will mean they do not trust you . . . leading to less and less feedback and fewer shared ideas,” writes Ivy.

Questions managers should ask themselves:

  • Are you unable to delegate?
  • Is your staff turnover high?
  • Have you been told you are a micro-manager?
  • Do you believe you are smarter, faster and more skilled than those who work for you?

How to deal with the micro-manager

Tromp says it is necessary to be honest with oneself and one’s own performance. 

It also helps to understand the way the boss operates and what they need. It is crucial to remain factual and objective in your dealings with the boss, and when you made a mistake, own up to it and suggest solutions to fix it. 

It really helps to keep one’s emotions in check and not to assume you know what a micro-manager wants. 

Rather do a fact check and try to be one step ahead.

“Always, protect your own credibility,” says Tromp. 

And for those who have the helicopter hovering over them – try not to shoot them down. Remember to tread lightly.   

This article originally appeared in the 8 November edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here or subscribe to our newsletter here.