How to help micromanagers be better leaders: 7 tips

Micromanagers can hurt morale and productivity and contribute to high turnover rates. Learn ways to help a micromanager and, ultimately, improve the entire team's well-being and performance.

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Image: iStockphoto/fizkes

Within any size business or industry, leaders are responsible for motivating employees and providing them with ways to improve their productivity. Unfortunately, leaders often develop bad habits and forget their leadership role, lapsing into a state of micromanaging. 

These bad habits affect the performance of employees, as well as the overall vision and objectives of the business. The destructive habits of a micromanager can drive employees to seek other jobs in other departments or with other employers. 

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Four ways micromanagers can affect your company

There are psychological and physical implications of having a micromanager in your company, including employee disengagement, decreased productivity and buy-in, and eventually high turnover. The need to micromanage only serves to make other employees feel insignificant, devalued, and insecure. This can create significant issues for your company, including these four:

Decreased morale and productivity 

Micromanagers are more apt to try to exert excessive and unnecessary control over others, inside and outside of their teams, and tend to change the rules as they see fit to help increase their control over situations. 

They express micromanaging-type behaviors, thinking it demonstrates that they possess exceptional leadership abilities and competence. To the contrary, it accomplishes the opposite and actually harms the health of the company and its employees. 

When employees feel that they are being closely monitored and over-managed, it negatively impacts their morale and productivity, resulting in:

  • Increased absenteeism
  • A lack of interest in participating in activities and discussions
  • A decreased sense of confidence in their abilities
  • Reduced accountability 
  • Unwillingness to take on new responsibilities
  • Disinterest in taking part in team events
  • Increased gossip about feelings of discontentment
  • Outward hostility towards the manager

Employee disengagement

When a working environment becomes toxic, employees may feel disrespected. High-performing employees can turn into highly disengaged workers as a consequence of micromanagement. In this situation, often the best employees will lose faith and leave.

Unnecessarily high turnover rates 

One of the biggest reasons that employees jump ship is due to the micromanaging and discouraging behaviors of their company leadership team. 

Missed objectives

The reason companies hire leaders is to guide and support teams in the processes toward goal attainment. If your leaders fall short of this, goals will be missed, and those missed goals will eventually become very costly errors. 

Many companies are alarmed to discover, often too late in the game, that the leaders they hired were responsible for playing a role in employee health problems, work disruption, missed objectives, low morale, erroneous terminations, and the unnecessary departures of some employees. 

The trouble is, companies often record these occurrences, but fail to put mechanisms in place to address the issues going forward.

Behavioral comparisons to explore: Micromanagers vs. effective leaders

A micromanager often wants to be included in every conversation and decision; in this way, he or she falls prey to micromanaging behavior and forgets his or her actual leadership value. Effective leaders should be focused on improving their team performance and value by motivating and supporting each employee instead of focusing on being seen the most or having the loudest voice. 

  • Micromanagers tend to become overwhelmed by even low priority activities, while leaders can remain focused on company-wide goals, making it easier to prioritize tasks and projects. 
  • A micromanager is often incapable of accountability and instead seeks to blame others when things go wrong. Leaders accept responsibility and look for ways to improve how they evaluate situations and make decisions.
  • Micromanagers are primarily obsessed with their opinions only, yet frequently change their decisions due to lack of clarity. Leaders seek the views of other subject matter experts and then measure their options carefully before making decisions.
  • Micromanagers are often dissatisfied with the performance of their employees, and when satisfied, they seldom share praise out of insecurity. Leaders recognize that sharing accolades helps employees to feel empowered to push for greater excellence. 

Steps your company can take to address micromanaging

  • Identify and document all of the issues that have been noticed or brought to light by others. 
  • Conduct an unbiased investigation into complaints or issues. 
  • Meet with the manager to discuss the concerns and the impact on the company and give them a chance to respond as it's possible they aren't aware they are micromanaging. 
  • Consider sending the manager on courses or training to help them become a better leader. 
  • Set clear and measurable goals for the manager that will demonstrate whether they have improved. 
  • Clearly communicate your expectations and potential repercussions of non-performance.
  • Document all discussions, expectations, performance metrics, and results. 
  • Close the loop and communicate the results with all involved parties in a timely manner. This helps to ensure that concerns are fully addressed. 

It is only a last resort to terminate employment. Your goal is to help someone who is micromanaging to become a better leader, capable of respecting and trusting the strengths of his/her team in fulfilling their role. 

Capable and supportive leadership is a critical factor in higher morale, low turnover rates, and increased business agility. Look for servant leaders who are less focused on themselves and inspired to improve the psychological and physical well-being of your employees to achieve optimal long-term performance.

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