Do everyone a favour and don’t be a micromanager – it's bad for business

Joel Svensson

Like handing over a small child to a day-care worker, it can be hard to leave important business tasks to other people. But delegation is necessary for growth, and micromanagement can inhibit trust and sow resentment.

Here’s a few tips on how to recognise micromanagement and why it’s bad for business, as well as some strategies for letting go of this peculiar brand of separation anxiety.

What to look out for

It might be tempting to imagine micromanagers as high-strung egomaniacs, but they’re often simply ordinary people that have put themselves under a great amount of pressure. Micromanagement is not just about being on a power-trip; it’s often rooted in anxiety and a fear of failure.

This fear can manifest itself in several ways, such as a need to do everything yourself, to be cc’d in on every email, and spend inordinate time and energy fixing miniscule details. Micromanagers often have trouble letting others make even small decisions without their approval, and have a high tendency toward perfectionism.

There’s a high price to pay

Micromanaging reflects a lack of faith in your team. This can be an absolute killer for morale. Employees who aren’t allowed a certain measure of autonomy tend to feel less valued, have lower motivation levels and less organisational loyalty. Micromanaging restricts your team’s ability to learn and grow.

Such an environment will push away employees who are highly motivated and used to being allotted a certain amount of trust. As the more motivated players fall off, the resulting team will tend towards diffidence, dependence and lack of initiative.

Being a micromanager has a negative impact on the perpetrator, too. It will sap your energy and destroy your focus. Running around trying to do everyone’s job for them is an exhausting habit.

How to kick it

Learn to delegate; take baby steps: Try stepping back from a small project, and leave it the hands of one of your team for an allotted period. Check back in once that’s period is over, and chances are you’ll see that the universe has not, in fact, collapsed in on itself. Extend these periods little by little.

Ask yourself: “Do I need to be here?” If the answer is no, and if there is another person with the requisite time and skills to complete the task, hand it off. Just keep in mind that some tasks – especially ones with long-term effects – will absolutely require your attention.

Embrace the opportunities for growth: If completing a certain task will advance a person’s skills, then this task might also be good candidate for delegation. Make sure that person has the necessary knowledge to get by, and send them on their way.

Remember to give support: Micromanaging is one sin; abandoning subordinates is another. You don’t want to overcorrect and give your team so much space that they lose direction. Listen to your team, and make sure they feel they have the training they need to do their jobs well.

Understand your value: Some leaders feel obligated to be all things and do all things. Effective leaders recognise that they are human. They’re skilled at getting people to focus on where they can add the most value. Especially when it comes to themselves.

Joel Svensson

Joel Svensson is a Melbourne-based freelance writer specialising in politics and business.