Micromanagement is not a small matter. Besides lowering morale and increasing turnover, the absenteeism and employee disengagement that micromanagement causes can cost a 10,000-person company $600,000 annually in lost salary.
The motivation for micromanaging can come from insecurity in a new role, lack of faith in a team, or just an inability to relinquish control. At their core, these all point to broader problems in communication. And while the behaviors of individual managers may vary, the outcome is always the same: lost opportunities, derailed schedules, and under-performance as valuable managerial time gets wasted on tasks that shouldn't need high-level supervision.
Though this can be a problem of individual teams rather than a whole organization, it is also one where intervention from senior leadership can make a significant impact. Managers who are struggling due to breakdowns in communication can be supported with the right combination of data and tools to drive employee accountability while giving managers visibility and confidence.
The signs of a micromanager are well known: keeping high-level tasks to themselves; resistance to employee ideas; demanding approval over every decision; insisting on unnecessary meetings and updates. These are short-term solutions that create long-term problems. While micromanaging may temporarily allay the anxieties of a manager, or plug a gap that exists in staffing, this comes at the cost of employee development in problem-solving and decision-making skills.
What's not as well known are the strategies and tools that leaders need to put an end to this behavior. At the most basic level, when people are given better data, they'll have better communication. By providing access to centralized analytics and customized dashboards, executives can supply anxious managers with the deep insights into productivity and progress that they're craving, without alienating and frustrating employees.
Create better reporting through UDAPs
Some micromanagers demand step-by-baby-step status updates; they want insight (and the opportunity to weigh in) on every decision. This quickly demoralizes a team, and starts to feel like surveillance. Custom dashboards, shaped by the KPIs the C-suite wants prioritized, are one way of helping managers keep their eyes in the right place. Managerial time is precious, not to mention expensive; by articulating the OKRs and metrics worth watching, executives can guide managers toward the types of oversight they are expecting.
Additionally, by creating a centralized, synced source of data, leaders can give managers insights into employee progress that don't involve looking over anyone's shoulder. Data drawn from a UDAP means fewer reports and updates to get the same level of insight, and the accuracy and speed of that insight can help alleviate managers' anxiety about whether projects are still moving in the right direction.
Create a culture of communication
Sometimes, what a manger thinks is good communication feels like over-communication to their employees. One intervention senior leadership can make is modeling good communication practices among themselves and their teams. Whether it's stand-ups, as-needed status updates, or check-ins at regular intervals, executives can demonstrate their own use of appropriate tools and channels to maintain an investment in (and not a stranglehold over) the work of others.
Another place senior leadership can prove vital is in providing the right spaces and expectations for fostering communication and collaboration. Offering employees multiple channels is fantastic, but it's important that those channels not just become another place for micromanagers to monitor. By establishing guidelines about how different spaces should be used, and modeling useful updates at a reasonable frequency, top leaders can show micromanagers that staying in the loop doesn't have to mean being present for every conversation.
Create systems of accountability
One motivation behind micromanagement is a desire for more accountability. This is an area where tiny changes in company culture can create a big impact. By introducing standard practices around goal setting, project planning, and status updates, it's easy to build accountability into daily processes in ways that don't feel overbearing or critical. This will reduce friction among teams, even if a manager is hesitant to change. When the practice of checking in is formalized, it doesn't have to feel judgmental to employees. Instead, it just becomes another step in the workflow.
Providing audit tools that enable people to assess their own performance can also give managers more insight into their teams' day-to-day work. Apart from helping them better understand individuals' skill sets, the needs of specific roles, and employees' development on the job, it also helps identify skills gaps and allows managers to align work assignments in a way that fosters employee success. Perhaps most importantly, it provides a channel for two-way communication between managers and their reports, giving employees a concrete way to have their voices heard.
Staying on the right track
Breakdowns in communication between employees and managers can be the cause of micromanagement, or a response to it. The good news is that good communication is a practice, one that's made easier when enabled by the right technology and fostered within the larger company culture. Senior leadership can facilitate both of these elements, providing access to centralized sources of information while modeling the types of engagement that are beneficial to organizational alignment.
Regardless of its cause, poor management always creates the risk of lost productivity, lower morale, and higher turnover. Great management, enabled by the right tech and the right leadership, creates the opposite: more employee growth and autonomy; higher employee satisfaction and productivity; better collaboration and faster results.