Why Micromanagement Kills Productivity

accountability building trust micromanagement performance management productivity Mar 12, 2024
Jody Holland Training & Speaking | Leadership
Why Micromanagement Kills Productivity

Many managers believe that micromanaging their employees is how to keep them on track for success when in fact, it often discourages them from taking any risks or giving extra discretionary effort. They feel as though their manager does not trust them to do the thing that they were hired to do, so they never want to stand out. Many micromanagers reward employees who work hard with more work, so people often don’t even want to be praised.

There’s this thing called the Hawthorne Effect, and it refers to the phenomenon of people modifying their behavior because they are being observed. Some people may feel uncomfortable and will only do the bare minimum, while others will work harder under a watchful eye than they normally would. Because of this effect, micromanagers often do not get the full picture of what their employees are capable of doing. They think they are being helpful by watching their every move, but controlling others too much can diminish their work quality and their overall productivity.

I cannot think of a single person who has ever said that they would love to be micromanaged at work. Most people do not want full autonomy either though. They want to be able to do their work, make basic decisions on their own, and take initiative at times, but still they want someone else to have the final say. They want someone else to be responsible for the day-to-day operations without telling them what they should be doing every second.

I recommend having weekly or daily meetings with your team to outline what needs to be done and by when. Establishing clear expectations up front eliminates the need to manage their every move. You can still walk around periodically to ensure that people are on track, but that does not mean you should go out looking for problems or standing and staring for the whole day. You want to catch people doing things right and then recognize them for it, but that can be done without micromanaging them. Trust your team to do their jobs, and they will trust you more too. Once there is a solid foundation of trust, commitment, and understanding, people will start to produce more on their own.

If you feel as though there are employees who do not get anything done without a micromanager, there are a few things you can do. First, assign them someone to work with that is at the same level as them. They may just need some extra training and encouragement. If that does not work, sit down and have an open conversation with them. Listen to them explain what’s holding them back because they could have something going on at home that you may not know about, and showing that you care can go a long way. They might also have a conflict with another employee that needs to be addressed.

If that is still not the answer for their lack of productivity, ensure that you establish checks of accountability. If you have clearly explained your expectations and they still do not meet them, write them up. And if you say you’re going to do something, such as writing them up, you have to follow through.

You want to create a culture of success without micromanaging anyone. If you are in a management position, ask yourself if you are giving your employees the independence to do their job and fostering the confidence for them to do it well.


-Meghan Slaughter

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