Do your staff like you? Not if you micromanage…

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Written by Alice Withers on 3 December 2014

No one likes to be micromanaged, and there are good reasons why it should be avoided in the workplace. Micromanagement can prevent you from developing and training your team effectively and can have serious implications for succession planning. Your team are unlikely to be getting the on-the-job experience they need as a big part of learning is being allowed to make occasional mistakes and deal with the consequences.

Micromanagement can also lead to retention issues, as ultimately it leads to unhappy employees. A sense of autonomy and feeling trusted by your boss to carry out your work independently are key components of employee engagement and are linked strongly to increases in motivation and decreases in absenteeism and mental distress (Bond, 2010). Not only that, but micromanagement is likely to reduce the levels of creative thinking among staff (Soane et al., 2013). And without even taking into account all these factors, if you are micromanaging your team it’s likely to have a negative effect on your own time and workload, and ultimately your stress levels.

So, the question is how do you find out if micromanagement is occurring within your organisation? There are a number of different ways you can investigate. The first step is likely to be an employee engagement survey, which can very quickly highlight if there is a widespread problem within your organisation. For example, the following measures can be used to quickly assess any issues:

  • ‘I have a choice in deciding how I manage my workload and what I do each day at work’
  • ‘My manager trusts me to carry out my responsibilities with minimal supervision’

A robust employee engagement survey will also break these results down, so that you can see if there are any differences by particular departments or locations and really narrow down on where they may be a problem.

Another more localised way to identify any issues is to use 360 degree reviews for each of your managers. A good 360 will provide extensive feedback on a number of areas, which will reflect not only micromanagement but also general management skills. The results can then be used to guide and coach your managers and develop their skills.

So, what’s next? Once you’ve identified there’s a problem it’s important to find a way to overcome it. The key thing here is to put the time into training and developing your staff, and raising their awareness of any bad habits they may have fallen into. It may be that they aren’t aware they are being a micromanager, in which case raising their awareness may provide a solution. It may be that they know they fall into bad habits when they are under pressure and slide back into micromanagement, in which case stress management may be the solution or they may need guidance on how to put processes in place that allow for them to be aware of what their team is up to without their staff feeling as though someone is peering over their shoulder.

If the issues are arising from a manager’s lack of confidence in their staff then it may be that a general upskilling is needed across their team. A training needs assessment can be used to identify where staff have development needs, and can increase employees’ confidence in being able to take on more tasks from their managers.

By tackling any cases of micromanagement you are likely to see increases in staff motivation, engagement and therefore productivity. You are also likely to see reductions in staff turnover, as like the saying goes: ‘people don’t leave their jobs, they leave their managers’.

Bond, F. W. (2010) ‘How can job design improve worker well-being and workplace performance?’ Institute for Employment Studies, 40th Anniversary Conference.

Soane, E., Shantz, A., Alfes, K., Truss, C., Rees, C. and Gatenby, M. (2013) ‘The Association of Meaningfulness, Wellbeing and Engagement with Absenteeism: A Moderated Mediation Model’. Human Resource Management.


About the author
Alice Withers is a researcher at People 1st. She can be contacted at

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