Micromanaging Erodes Employee Trust & Culture

Posted by Kristin Baird

There is nothing more deflating than working for a micromanager – someone who thinks he or she must oversee and control each and every detail of operations. The worst part is having a micromanager who has absolutely no clue that they are micromanaging.

A typical micromanagement move is to give an assignment to an individual or team, then basically tell them that their product is unacceptable and redoing it to their liking.

What Does a Micromanager Look Like?

In her November 11, 2014 Harvard Business Review article, author Muriel Maignan Wilkins wrote:

“If you’re like most micromanagers, you probably don’t even know that you’re doing it. Yet the signs are clear. You:

  • Are never quite satisfied with deliverables.
  • Are often frustrated because you would’ve gone about the task differently.
  • Laser in on the details and take great pride and /or pain in making corrections.
  • Constantly want to know where all your team members are and what they’re working on.
  • Ask for frequent updates on where things stand.
  • Prefer to be cc’d on emails.

How To Avoid Micromanaging

Wilkins stresses that, in order to get over your propensity toward micromanaging you must learn to let go.

Letting go is painful for micromanagers. Why? Because they are confident that they have the best ideas, the best solutions and will never really be happy with anyone else’s work. The result is employee who are deflated and disengaged. Micromanagers must actively decide if something is good enough as is and then keep their mouths shut if their input doesn’t add real value.

I’ve always been a proponent of taking a grassroots approach in supporting culture change. Let the front line give input about what needs to change and how to change it. Engage them in finding solutions and get out of their way!

In my experience, when coaching micromanagers, I stress that getting into the weeds and constantly trying to control every aspect of a project or daily operations is exhausting for both them and their team members. Associates resent it, become disengaged and often leave when under the influence of a micromanager.

I have seen countless examples of micromanaging over the years. One of the classics is leaders giving an assignment to a team and then changing every aspect of their deliverable to the point where the team’s work is unrecognizable.  This sends a strong message that the only people capable of this task (whatever it is) is us, not you.  It erodes trust, builds suspicion and give a clear path for disengagement.

Are you micromanaging? Do a self-assessment and see if you have the classic characteristics listed above. Then take action to change.  Otherwise you can micromanage at your own risk.

  1. Gossip Erodes Culture
  2. Coaching Culture Improves Employee Engagement and Patient Experience
  3. Great Place to Work
  4. Words that Stick for Life
  5. Nice or Competent. How about both?
Tags: , , ,

Subscribe to our Articles and stay up to date on leadership practices, employee engagement, retention, and service excellence.

Submit your information below to start receiving our Baird Group articles.