Man­age­ment: How mi­cro-man­age­ment im­pacts on busi­ness

Al­though there are cer­tain in­stances where mi­cro-man­age­ment is re­quired, it has to be with a short-term per­spec­tive in mind. Oth­er­wise it can sti­fle a team and hin­der per­for­mance in the long run.

Finweek English Edition - - Contents - By Amanda Visser

the hov­er­ing hu­man he­li­copter, bet­ter known as the of­fice mi­cro-man­ager. They hover over ev­ery­one, stay­ing in­volved in all day-to-day ac­tiv­i­ties. Al­though there are cer­tain in­stances where mi­cro­man­age­ment is re­quired, it has to be with a short-term per­spec­tive in mind. If it be­comes long term, it can have dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences for the busi­ness, and par­tic­u­larly for the em­ploy­ees who are sub­jected to it.

We have all heard man­agers say they are “hand­son” when the rest of their teams ex­pe­ri­ence it as mi­cro-man­age­ment. How­ever, the real hands-on man­ager re­alises the need to del­e­gate, and trains their staff con­tin­u­ously to em­power them to work ef­fi­ciently and in­de­pen­dently, says Mar­let Tromp, ex­ec­u­tive and busi­ness coach.

“A hands-on man­ager gives mean­ing­ful feed­back, takes time to un­der­stand his staff, del­e­gates ac­cord­ingly and al­lows in­no­va­tion within cer­tain frame­works,” Tromp says.

On the other hand, the he­li­copter man­ager wants to con­trol ev­ery­thing the staff does, closely ob­serves ev­ery step, gives no free­dom or room to be in­no­va­tive and tends to give neg­a­tive feed­back.

“Mi­cro-man­agers tend to have un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions of their staff, which they have not nec­es­sar­ily com­mu­ni­cated. These man­agers bat­tle to let go, want to con­trol ev­ery­thing and bat­tle to trust their staff. Their staff does not grow and be­comes stag­nant and un­re­spon­sive.”

When it’s good to hover

In some lim­ited cir­cum­stances, es­pe­cially af­ter hir­ing a young em­ployee who may need tem­po­rary mi­cro-man­age­ment un­til they set­tle in and be­come fa­mil­iarised with their role, it could ac­tu­ally help to build morale, says Holly Ivy, dig­i­tal plat­forms and mar­ket­ing man­ager at Sys­tems2. The goal must be to help em­ploy­ees be­come in­de­pen­dent, she writes in an ar­ti­cle pub­lished on LinkedIn.

Tromp says when a team bat­tles to self-mo­ti­vate, or there are cer­tain wor­ries within the team they can­not ad­dress them­selves, then a hands-on man­ager will in­ter­vene. He will ad­dress the wor­ries of the em­ploy­ees for them un­til they can con­tinue their work in­de­pen­dently.

When there is a new project, or new team mem­bers, a man­ager also needs to mi­cro-man­age for some time. “In this in­stance the mi­cro-man­ag­ing is to train the staff and em­power them un­til they know how to do the work and feel com­fort­able to carry on in­de­pen­dently.”

When a cri­sis oc­curs, a man­ager will of­ten in­ter­vene be­cause of his ex­per­tise and ex­pe­ri­ence. There might be no time for train­ing and em­pow­er­ment within the cri­sis. How­ever, a hands-on man­ager will go back to the team when the cri­sis has been averted to train them to deal with this kind of cri­sis.

But some con­tinue hov­er­ing . . .

Tromp says mi­cro-man­agers are of­ten per­fec­tion­ists, self-re­liant and do not want to part with the power their po­si­tion gives them. They want ac­knowl­edge­ment for work well done and do not want to share it with their sub­or­di­nates.

“Their fo­cus is on them­selves and not on de­vel­op­ing their staff,” she says. There can also be un­der­ly­ing anx­i­ety, which makes it dif­fi­cult to trust the staff and re­lin­quish their con­trol. Their fear is that they might look bad.

Some are also more task-ori­ented than peo­ple-fo­cused. This in­hibits self-mo­ti­va­tion. The in­abil­ity to link the cor­rect per­son with the cor­rect job and to over­see the process is one of the rea­sons man­agers do not want to let go. They fall into the mi­cro-man­ag­ing trap.

“In this in­stance the mi­cro­manag­ing is to train the staff and em­power them un­til they know how to do the work and feel com­fort­able to carry on in­de­pen­dently.”

The ef­fect of mi­cro-man­age­ment

Ivy says many man­agers who are guilty of long-term “de­bil­i­tat­ing mi­cro-man­age­ment” are obliv­i­ous to the de­struc­tive ef­fects they are hav­ing on an en­tire or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“At its best, mi­cro-man­age­ment im­pedes evo­lu­tion. At its worst, it causes the en­tire or­gan­i­sa­tion to de­cay from the in­side out.”

Top of the list of the harm­ful side-ef­fects of mi­cro­man­age­ment, how­ever, is sti­fling in­no­va­tion. “Sadly, un­der the rule of a mi­cro-man­ager, em­ploy­ees quickly be­come stag­nant when they can­not come up with new ideas or pro­ce­dures of their own.”

An­other de­struc­tive ef­fect of mi­cro-man­age­ment is the hin­drance of work­flow. It cre­ates a “wait-to-be­told” cul­ture. Em­ploy­ees be­gin ask­ing them­selves why they should work ahead of time if the mi­cro-man­ager is

go­ing to change ev­ery­thing in any event.

“What you are re­ally say­ing to your staff when you mi­cro-man­age is that you do not trust them. This in turn will mean they do not trust you . . . lead­ing to less and less feed­back and fewer shared ideas,” writes Ivy.

Ques­tions man­agers should ask them­selves:

Are you un­able to del­e­gate?

Is your staff turnover high?

Have you been told you are a mi­cro-man­ager? Do you be­lieve you are smarter, faster and more skilled than those who work for you?

How to deal with the mi­cro-man­ager

Tromp says it is nec­es­sary to be hon­est with one­self and one’s own per­for­mance. It also helps to un­der­stand the way the boss oper­ates and what they need. It is cru­cial to re­main fac­tual and ob­jec­tive in your deal­ings with the boss, and when you made a mis­take, own up to it and sug­gest so­lu­tions to fix it. It re­ally helps to keep one’s emo­tions in check and not to as­sume you know what a mi­cro-man­ager wants. Rather do a fact check and try to be one step ahead.

“Al­ways, pro­tect your own cred­i­bil­ity,” says Tromp. And for those who have the he­li­copter hov­er­ing over them – try not to shoot them down. Re­mem­ber to tread lightly.

Holly Ivy Dig­i­tal plat­forms and mar­ket­ing man­ager at Sys­tems2

Mar­let Tromp Ex­ec­u­tive and busi­ness coach

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