Killing Productivity: How to End Micromanagement; an Employees Perspective

Big White Collar vs Littel White CollarAn article in Forbes recounts the story of “Katie,” who worked at an events planning company helping her boss design and execute major parties. She was baffled by her bosses insistence on hovering over every move she made, demanding the exact minutes of every action she took, and requiring lists of work that doubled the time it took Katie to finish her tasks. “When she texted me at midnight,” said Katie, “she wanted to know why I didn’t text her back for seven hours. And when I’d tell her it was because I was sleeping, she seemed suspicious, and annoyed!” This case of micromanagement sounds a lot like stalking. And, there’s another.

“Molly,” a Washington politician’s press office assistant, was given a daily, three to four page long list describing in great detail every minute aspect of her daily routine, with a requirement to check in at each point along the way. “It must have taken him at least an hour to create. But the worst was the excessive detail about how to get it all done. He simply refused to let me do my job on my terms,” said Molly. She began to feel so suffocated under the indomitable pressure that she eventually dreaded coming in to work. She was a reasonable person feeling fear.

But according to a study cited in the Forbes article, “employees singled out micromanagement as the most significant barrier to productivity,” which was confirmed by another study proving that “people who believe they are being watched perform at a lower level. Unfortunately, many instances of stalking end in tragedy; likewise, micromanagement can kill productivity.

As an employee, you can’t call the police about a micromanaging boss, but there are some things you can try to do alleviate their micromanaging tendencies:

Do your job well.

It could be that your performance slipped a little, and your manager is doing the only thing they know how to boost your productivity. It’s reasonable to think that obsessively holding someone accountable will improve their performance, so show your boss that you really can do the job without them skulking over your shoulder. Get to work on time. Meet or exceed deadlines. Show them that you can be trustworthy and productive all on your own.

Ask how you’re doing.

Be upfront and speak to—not confront—your boss. Frame the conversation in a way that makes it clear you want to improve, yet is not a critique of their managerial effectiveness. Ask what they expect of you, and reassure them that you can do the job.

Effectively communicate.

Don’t wait for your boss to check in, but instead, keep them in the loop. Let them know that everything is under control. Put their mind at ease.

Help your manager delegate.

Prompt your boss to give you all the information needed to complete a task upfront, so you’re not constantly getting directive letters throughout the task. Take on additional projects if possible, and set up check-in meetings. When a project is done well, discuss the process and ask for their suggestions on how to do things even better next time. Ideally, they will remember the success of their hands-off approach, and continue allowing you to complete tasks without constant input.

As a manager, you may feel the urge to micromanage because of a variety of different employee behaviors, even though this is not your typical managing style. An article in outlines some possible reasons for this, and offers solutions:

Lack of inclusion.

For example, an employee may wait to tell you that they’ve made a change of plans when it’s too late to do anything about it. Their rationale for changing the plan may be logical, but the timing is terrible. Now you’re forced to accept the employee’s decision and, in the future, you’ll most likely be hyper-vigilant with this employee’s projects. Encourage your employees to speak up if they have a good idea, but not to wait until it’s too late for necessary input. Perhaps consider having an “all is final” meeting in which employees can voice their suggestions before a project really takes off.

Lack of follow-through.

Sometimes, employees miss deadlines. Sure, everyone forgets something once in a while, but if it becomes habitual, it’s easy to want to micromanage. The employee is probably either completely overwhelmed, dealing with a temporary personal matter, suffering from a neurological issue, using passive-aggressive methodologies, or has bad organizational skills. Consider working out a reminder system or organizational routine that the employee can follow autonomously. Of course, there is no excuse for not doing one’s work.

Lack of acknowledgement.

Not responding to direct requests or inquiries is sure to push anyone over the micromanaging edge. It’s certainly possible that an employee didn’t see or receive your email or memo, that they thought it was a rhetorical question, or they did not feel comfortable answering before they collected sufficient information. Whatever the case may be, it’s easy to start believing that if they’re ignoring your communiques, they’re ignoring other aspects of their job. Tell your employees to respond to all emails they receive, even if the answer is “I don’t know” or “Give me time to work on that.”

Lack of adoption.

Everyone, for the most part, thinks they do things the right way—otherwise they’d do things differently. For example, using the Oxford comma. I prefer it, others don’t. Both are correct, but if I’m tasked with editing an article, for example, I will insert the Oxford comma and think the writer is incorrect. As a manager, you may have idiosyncrasies that make sense to you, but may not make sense to your employees. Encourage employees to ask about the way you prefer things, and explain your thought process (like, “the Oxford comma provides more clarity”).If you explain the “method behind your madness”; employees will at least respect your approach, and be more likely to adopt your way of doing things.

Nobody—manager or employee—likes micromanagement. Although you may try to justify it, but it still hurts productivity and kills morale for everyone involved. Both manager and employee need to work together to be the most productive. Employees, prove that you can work autonomously and provide successful results. Managers, be as transparent as possible and make sure your employees know what’s expected of them.

If that doesn’t work, call Advanced Business Coaching at 262.293.3166 a we’ll help you develop a plan that will work for all involved.