The Advantages & Disadvantages of Micromanaging Employees

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Image of a business manager.
Image of a business manager. (Image: .shock/iStock/Getty Images)

Micromanagement is a style of running a company that involves direct supervision, even of routine employee tasks. For the most part, micromanagement is not an effective leadership style because it does not give employees room to grow and places unnecessary burdens on managers, who must watch every move their employees make. Micromanagement is most consistent with some employers' comfort levels, however, especially owners who do not trust their employees.

Direct Control and Performance Management

If you keep a close eye on your employees and how they work, they are more likely to perform tasks precisely the way you want. Micromanaging is a profoundly hands-on leadership style that gives you direct control over tasks that employees might do on their own. This can be the most effective management style when working with employees who consistently underperform or who need additional help: by watching and directing them throughout the day, you are more likely to achieve the results you desire.

Influencing Business Critical Tasks

There may be times when it makes sense for you to be closely involved with tasks and processes. For example, if your employee is working on a presentation or proposal that could win an important contract, or lose a vital customer, you may want to micromanage them to ensure that things go according to plan. You may have a history with a client or experience that your employee doesn't have -- it makes sense, therefore, that you use this knowledge to maximize your chances of success. There are times when you cannot afford to allow inexperienced employees to make mistakes on their own.

Time Costs of Micromanagement

Micromanaging can be time-consuming for a manager. If a manager feels that he must watch every move that his employees make, then he is using time that could be put to more productive use, such as developing systems and facilitating processes. It would often take a manager less time to perform a task himself than to hover while his employees perform it. Successful management uses a manager's time effectively by developing an overview and orchestrating worker tasks. Micromanaging weighs down a manager with details that his employees are usually perfectly capable of addressing.

Reduced Job Satisfaction

Micromanaging is stressful for both employers and employees. Employees who feel that their managers are micromanaging experience less job satisfaction because they do not feel empowered and trusted. Employers who micromanage often feel frustrated when employees do not perform tasks precisely to the manager's specifications, even though the results may be perfectly satisfactory. The stress that both employers and employees experience because of micromanagement can evolve into a self-perpetuating cycle, with employees performing poorly because they are on edge and managers becoming increasingly frustrated with their employees' poor performance.

Stifling Creativity and Efficiency

Employers who micromanage tend to have very specific ideas about how employees should perform a task. Employees who perform a task day after day often develop ways of working that are efficient and create superior outcomes in ways that their employers do not understand because they are not as intimately involved in the process. Developing these types of innovations can make a repetitive job more satisfying for an employee. An employer who micromanages denies her employee the added sense of accomplishment of finding better ways to work and the improved efficiencies that come with these discoveries.

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