Employee Surveys

How to deal with a micromanager, and why to do it urgently

Lydia Watson

Ever worked in an office where there was one particularly sought-after desk? In a corner, backing onto a wall, where no peering eyes can see you check the cricket score…

If that sounds familiar, it’s not because everyone’s a slacker. It’s down to the fact that many of us feel the need to look like we’re working at all times – regardless of output or accomplishments. And that stems from bad management, and one of its most common forms: micromanagement. 

Examples of micromanagement

Looking over someone’s shoulder is one way micromanagement in the workplace manifests, but it goes deeper than that. The extreme end can involve video surveillance and mouse-monitoring software – something most people find alarming – but there are more insidious forms too.

Constant check-ins, demands for progress updates, too many ‘helpful’ suggestions about how to improve their work – these are all the behaviours of a manager that needs to learn to let go. 

Disadvantages of micromanagement

  • It can lower morale: micromanaging says “I don’t trust you” – and whether that lack of trust is focused on ethics or performance capability, it makes for an unhappy, disengaged team.
  • It can turn into bullying: this management style is controlling, to the point of employees feeling bullied – an experiencing the ill health associated with it
  • It can lower productivity: although it may feel like a means to an end, 71% say being micromanaged actually lowered their performance, making the exercise pointless
  • It can lead to resignations: with retention issues across the board, the real risk of micromanagement is that your employees will just leave for good

Remote work and micromanagement

Remote work is the micromanager’s nightmare. There’s no opportunity to wander past employee’s desks, see what they’re working on, time their loo breaks… but the real challenge is that it’s made otherwise well-adjusted managers adopt some of these negative behaviours.

A study saw 41% of managers dealing with newly remote workers were “skeptical” about their ability to stay motivated, likely leading to reportedly high levels of monitoring. 

This also saw a large proportion of employees feeling pressured to be online and responsive around the clock, and 49% of those being highly monitored feeling anxious. Bad for their health, bad for morale, bad for business.

Recommended survey: our Empowerment deep dive

Training people not to micromanage, especially in remote settings, is the challenge – but it starts with identifying the telltale behaviours. Our Empowerment Deep Dive covers four key areas to tell you if employees feel enabled and trusted to do their job:

1. Autonomy

Micromanagement behaviour: constant ‘check-in’ meetings

These questions focus on the freedom to make decisions, and the balance between working independently and getting any necessary support. This can help you identify if managers are going overboard with check-ins, to the point employees feel they spend more time on progress reports than actually making progress.

2. Goals

Micromanagement behaviour: not focusing on outcomes

These questions look at the expectations of employees in their day-to-day role, and how they contribute to the organisation’s overall goals. This helps you understand if managers are focusing on outcomes, or if they focus too much on what employees are doing at any one time i.e. how hard they perceive them to be working, or how late they work. 

3. Boundaries

Micromanagement behaviour: requiring sign-off for everything

These questions are all about making decisions, and whether employees know what they can and can’t sign-off themselves. This helps you see if you’re striking the right balance – giving employees ownership according to their individual expertise, and trusting them to make the right choices, and only requesting oversight where necessary.

4. Ownership

Micromanagement behaviour: not trusting people to do what’s right

These questions are focused on employees being accountable for themselves and others, taking ownership of problems they face. Micromanagement involves a general lack of trust, so this dimension sheds light on whether you’re creating an environment where it’s understood that people do what’s right.

Qlearsite Employee Feedback Platform: find the behaviours that need changing

  • Ready-made question sets: research-based surveys, on a wide range of topics you need answers about. Just pick your deep dive, and you’re good to go
  • 15-minute survey set-up: after you’ve chosen the question set, add your branding, add your recipient list, and you’ll be well on your way to finding your people power
  • Instant insights: there’s no wasted time waiting for data to be evaluated and reviewed, just an immediate view of your biggest challenges and opportunities
  • Context from language analysis: our Platform auto-analyses your employees’ comments, so you get the “why?” and “what next?” behind your scores

It’s time to start the conversation

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