It is very tempting to micromanage projects you oversee. How else will you make sure everything happens according to plan? But to micromanage a project is to micromanage people, and it destroys productivity and ingenuity in them.
People put in charge of a project often joke about ‘just delegating’ it, implying that they’ll get the job done without doing much work themselves. But delegating isn’t as simple as telling people what to do and walking away. Great delegation, like great leadership, takes skill.
Delegation means giving up control over operations, no longer having direct knowledge of every detail and metric, and not being able to bring everyone working on the project up to speed all the time.
It is scary! Things could go wrong, and you won’t be there to prevent it from happening.
But the alternative – being a micromanager – could be more damaging to your people, project and organisation in the long run.
Micromanagement might ensure that certain tasks are performed in the exact manner you prefer it to be done. But is that always the most productive or effective way?
Let’s consider some of the damaging effects of micromanagement:
1. Establishes a culture of distrust
Micromanagement continually communicates to those you manage that they are not fully trusted to make good decisions or effectively execute procedures. The intense need to micromanage is already rooted in some degree of distrust, but continually micromanaging others establishes a culture of distrust.
2. Lowers morale, discourages autonomy
The experience of being consistently distrusted is demotivating and breaks down the trust employees have in themselves, and perhaps in one another.
Employees will be hesitant to or even disinterested in acting autonomously, as they lack confidence in their own contributions.
3. Breeds dependence, restricts innovation
Micromanaged employees will continue to depend on their manager to make the next move or give the next instruction. There is little room for the type of growth that comes with risking taking a decision and potentially getting it wrong.
Every decision is made and every task is taken on from the manager’s perspective, which radically reduces the chance of innovation that happens when ideas engage around a table.
4. Decreases productivity
Things only happen as fast as the manager can do them. Apart from the lower drive that already exists among employees because of points 1-3, the manager becomes the bottleneck which holds everything up.
Apart from holding up your whole team because you must double-check everything, you’re not getting around to your own work either. The whole process is slowed down.
5. Increases staff turnover
Simply put, being micromanaged is not comfortable and will ultimately negatively affect all that your employees do. While they will typically appreciate your guidance and advice, operating under constant micromanagement is not a sustainable environment for employees to function in.
Your most talented and forward-thinking employees will be the first ones to quit and move on in search of a place where they are given the needed space to grow.
6. Leads to burnout in managers and teams alike
Micromanagement is exhausting. You constantly have to think for multiple people and be concerned about things that are not yours to be concerned about and tend to work an unhealthy number of hours every week to get through it all. In the long run, you are preparing yourself for mental and physical burnout, reducing yourself to being of very little value to the team you’re trying to manage.
7. Managers losing sight of big picture
Becoming overly involved in everyday matters means the ship no longer has a captain to steer it. It is much better to have the freedom to move around the deck and make sure every is coping alright and being available to them should they need your assistance.
Micromanagers have no freedom of movement. You become so involved with certain departments in your company, that you’re no longer available to everyone.
The need to micromanage is sometimes driven by legitimate concerns, such as losing control over important projects which you initiated, wanting to be there when employees need expert advice, or staying on top of everything happening under your watch.
However, creating a transparent environment in which employees can act autonomously and where regular communication between management and their employees is the norm, will help trust grow and micromanagement will no longer be the norm.
What can be done to create transparency and grow trust among managers and employees? This is what it takes to delegate better.