This article was updated on June 12, 2018.
A micromanager can cost your organization in many ways — they can waste valuable resources of people and time, diminish individual motivation and morale, push your top talent out the door and burn themselves out.
What Causes Micromanagement?
You may have promoted a brilliant technician or sales person into a management role, but just because they excelled in their previous role, that success doesn't necessarily translate to success as a manager. Sometimes these high achievers become micromanagers, who know one way to do something well, but can't account for other styles or methods. Instead of becoming more strategic and assuming a more team-oriented approach, they want to help team members by being involved in every aspect of their jobs. They take responsibility and accountability out of people's hands, thus taking away initiative and creativity from the team.
Perhaps the manager is insecure in their role, fearing that if they allow a team member to make mistakes, it will ruin the team or hurt their reputation. Ironically, the very insecurity that manifests as micromanagement can lead to the destruction of a team. Whatever the reason for the manager's insecurity and lack of trust in others, the fears driving micromanagement can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When a manager takes responsibility and accountability away from team members, people have no chance to learn, grow and achieve as individuals.
How Micromanagement Costs an Organization
Micromanagement can negatively affect retention, engagement and morale. Micromanagement might get results in the short-term by staying on top of every detail, but employees will likely grow frustrated at being constantly controlled. Perhaps unsurprisingly, micromanagers also burn themselves out by obsessing over all the team responsibilities and critical details. As a leader, you want employees to collaborate and encourage one another.
Entrepreneur reports that empowering employees improves job satisfaction and morale. "Micromanagement, in contrast, chases away top talent and leaves a group of average workers who don't know how to challenge the standard or aren't motivated to improve their performance."
Identifying Problem Managers and Tracking Progress
As a finance leader working with your HR team, how can you spot a costly micromanager at your organization? Look for disengagement and retention problems by paying close attention to HCM analytics and employee engagement metrics.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), people who micromanage often have good intentions but they don't believe in themselves — and so they don't believe in others. With their own internal character development, there can be hope. "The micromanager must know that they're safe when they allow others to succeed. It doesn't diminish their value but actually enhances it," notes SHRM.
If you have a problem at your organization, offer the manager training and mentoring opportunities. Then, track progress by looking at their team and its engagement metrics. The change, if it comes, should be visible in better engagement and retention numbers as the manager learns to let go of the need to control.
It could be that micromanagers who refuse to change are simply too costly for an organization to keep around. Make sure you have confident leaders driving your organizational culture, so that talent retention and employee engagement remain high.