Striking a Balance Between Leading and Micromanaging

By Nigel Hapuarachchi, Director of Business Development

Let’s face it – no one wants to work for a bad boss. Yet not surprisingly, everyone seems to have had experience with one in the past. Whether you’ve dealt with a boss who is “too busy,” self-centered, or always looking over your shoulder, the negative aftereffects that can come from this type of leader can leave lasting marks on an employee’s on-the-job performance.

Arguably the worst kind of workplace boss is the micromanager. While some bosses get too involved in the day-to-day activities of their teams and ultimately delay the completion of projects, the twenty-first-century micromanager is one who fails to provide enough guidance and support to their employees. This overall lack of direction tends to significantly hinder workplace performance.

As the future of work has transitioned to a primarily virtual setting, managers need to prepare themselves for what lies ahead. According to a study conducted by Global Workplace Analytics, approximately 56% of the U.S. workforce holds a job that is compatible with remote work, while about 30% of all employees will be working from home multiple days a week by the conclusion of 2021. As such, bosses must be more cognizant than ever before of their leadership styles and virtual interactions with their teams.

To avoid micromanaging in the workplace, leaders must first recognize their negative tendencies before they become reoccurring habits. Here are some of the most common signs of the micromanager:

The need for executive sign-off

If you require leadership approval before a project can be marked “complete” or a decision can be finalized, this is a prime example of micromanaging. While some initiatives may truly need to be “OK’d” by executives, most can do without this restriction.

Organizational bottlenecks

Excessive meetings and virtual conference calls can significantly elongate the lifecycle of a project and leave employees with little time to complete their work. Don’t clog your team’s schedule with frequent touchpoints and mandatory conversations; rather, be sure to provide ample time for work to be completed during the day.

Minimal creative freedom

Prohibiting the use of creativity can be detrimental to an employee’s workplace success. Don’t always be quick to reign in team members who like to think outside-the-box – let their imaginations run free!

Lack of opinion sharing from team members

If you notice that your employees are hesitant to speak up and provide their thoughts and opinions about a topic, there may be a problem at hand. Ultimately, most workplace conversations should be facilitated in a manner that promotes an open forum of discussion. If your meetings are filled with silence, it’s time to reevaluate and reassess your approach.

High turnover rates

A large portion of employee satisfaction is contingent on a successful relationship with his/her manager. If your organization experiences high turnover rates, it could be a sign of poor leadership.

In order for a workplace relationship to be sustainable, mutual trust needs to exist between a manager and his/her team members. If leaders cannot rely on their employees to properly execute on projects or important initiatives, the lack of teamwork that exists will become an apparent issue. This problem has been exacerbated during the remote work push. Some leaders have been reluctant to fully confide in their workers to stay focused while working from home. Without the ability to constantly supervise the actions of their employees in a physical office setting, micromanagers have ceded an important degree of control, one they did not want to lose.

So how can managers maintain their leadership positions during this virtual environment without face-to-face supervision? It’s easy – make yourself available! It may come as a shock to some workplace leaders, but employees in the twenty-first century crave feedback from their superiors, even if this commentary is negative. According to a recent survey conducted by Gallup, 47% of employees said that they received feedback from their manager “a few times a year” or less. What’s more, Gallup reported in the same study that only 34% of employees strongly agree that their manager knows what projects or tasks they are working on.

Leaders need to do their part to solve this universal workplace communication problem. It has been proven that consistent forms of communication between a manager and his/her team ultimately keeps employees engaged and motivated in the workplace. Taking this information into account, managers should try to schedule structured check-ins with their team members multiple times per week, if not daily. Arranging a virtual videoconference to discuss project timelines, deliverables, and other important matters is an easy solution that will allow leaders to stay actively involved in their employees’ work lives. Moreover, these regular touchpoint meetings will provide an opportunity for workers to strengthen their professional and personal relationships with their superiors.

At the end of the day, managers need to remember the “golden rule”: treat others how you want to be treated. Leaders should be content with taking an occasional back-seat and allowing their teams to go about their business. Not only will this approach help to establish a workplace that is conducive to success, but it will create an organizational culture that prioritizes open communication, flexibility, autonomy, and creativity.

Interested in asking Nigel a follow-up question? Connect with him on LinkedIn or email him at hapuarachchin@acarasolutions.com.

For more tips on how to effectively guide your workplace team to success, follow our Acara blog.

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