Micromanagement can sometimes be an unhealthy management style in situations where relationships, deep focus, and creativity are important.
It’s a common misconception that micromanagement will lead to increased productivity; in reality, it does the opposite.
Harvard Business Review (Harvard University subsidiary) found that micromanaging was a major factor in triggering disengagement, which can be extremely costly.
According to Harvard University:
- 68% of people who have been micromanaged reported a decrease in morale
- 55% of people who have been micromanaged reported a significant loss of productivity
- 69% of people have left their jobs due to being micromanaged
Controlling every aspect of a relationship and requesting constant progress updates from your team won’t benefit you or them.
Micromanagers often create a culture of pressure that kills creativity, productivity and innovation. In the marketing world, these three outputs are vital for success and ROI.
For these reasons, micromanagement has been shown to lead to high turnover rates among employees/partners, low morale and decreased levels of productivity.
If you find yourself struggling with this issue, read on for some ways you can stop micromanaging your agency or staff (or encourage your clients to stop micromanaging your agency). This way, the agency can do what they do best: providing excellent service levels and delivering performance.
What is micromanagement?
Before determining how to deal with micromanagement, we have to define it correctly.
Micromanagement is when managers are too heavily involved in the day-to-day tasks of their employees. Micromanagers provide excessive direction and demand excessive or unrealistic feedback from their employees/partners with the goal of increasing productivity.
The truth is that micromanagement isn’t the answer to increased productivity; in fact, it does the opposite.
When micromanaging becomes a habit, either through choice or by accident, employees/partners may become afraid to make mistakes for fear of receiving negative feedback. They may also feel like they aren’t performing or their work isn't good enough. They often spend less time thinking about how best to perform or drive ROI and more time thinking about how they can tick boxes.
The Wikipedia definition of micromanagement does a great job of summarising it:
"In business management, micromanagement is a management style whereby a manager closely observes and/or controls and/or reminds the work of his or her subordinates or employees. Micromanagement is generally considered to have a negative connotation, mainly because it shows a lack of freedom in the workplace."
Why you should stop micromanaging your agency
One of the biggest challenges for managers is being too hands-on.
When you micromanage, you are telling the team that you don't trust them enough to work on their own and be responsible for the results of their work.
Micromanaging might sometimes be justified for an untrained employee or for more sensitive workflows, but there are better ways to teach team members the skills they need in order to do their job; micromanagement leads to people getting frustrated, which increases anxiety and damages the trust that an individual has in the relationship.
Unchecked micro-management also discourages any kind of independent thinking as well as decision-making within a team because no one will have confidence in your actions or choices.
What to do instead of micromanaging
It's easy to say that certain methods aren't effective, but what about an alternative?
1: Hire well
Hire people with the right skill sets in the first place. People who have a specialist skillset. Help them to understand what you expect from them and let them work independently with minimal oversight.
You may even want to do this as early as the interview process; hiring people who are too dependent on micromanagement could be a warning sign that it will continue even after they start working for you.
2: Let them lead
Once you have your team in place, the first thing you should do instead of micromanaging is to stop asking for updates too regularly.
If you need an update, ask your team when they believe it would be most beneficial to have conversations about progress. They are the specialists; they are the ones with the expertise to make things happen, hence why you employed or engaged with them in the first place.
3: Let them take ownership
Next, step back and give your team room to take ownership. If they know what’s expected of them and don’t feel like they have to send in daily updates or check-ins, they will be happier and more productive. They'll spend less time reporting and more time having an impact. They'll be happier and more effective.
4: Give them responsibility
Trust your team and let them know that you trust them by giving them the independence to work on tasks without always needing approval from you. When employees know that they are trusted, they become more motivated and productive.
Tips for letting go of the reins
Understanding why are you micromanaging is the start of trusting your team.
- Are you wanting to improve their output?
- Do you not trust them?
- Are they not performing?
- Do you feel like you aren't in control?
Check in with your team about what you think is causing your micromanagement problem. Have an honest conversation with them to understand the mechanisms behind the behaviour. This will give you a better idea of where to focus your efforts.
Next, find solutions that work for you and your team. It’s important to remember that there isn’t one solution that will work for everyone or every situation - but it’s worth trying out different approaches to see if any could be helpful for you and your team.
One tactic might be scheduling meetings at intervals that you both find comfortable so you can check up on how things are going without being too overbearing. You may also want to talk with a coach or mentor who can offer insight into effective ways to lead your team or agency without micromanaging.
Finally, be patient! It can take time before employees start feeling more comfortable with less oversight from their managers. Give them time to adjust by checking in regularly without being too overbearing and giving feedback that's appropriate for the situation at hand, not just general feedback on how they're doing overall. Be approachable and let them know they have your support if there's anything you can help with.
Let your team use their creativity
Creatives need to feel like they can take risks and make mistakes in order to be successful.
Micromanagers kill creativity and innovation because they make team members feel like they can’t make mistakes or that their work isn’t good enough. The marketing team will often use this thinking as an excuse not to try new things.
Lightbulb moments happen when the pressure is off.
They may also think that taking risks is the worst thing they could do to avoid conflict. When you over-manage your employees, it can lead them to become complacent with their current tasks because they no longer have the desire to learn or try something new, or through fear of the pressure on them.
It’s important for managers to allow team members some risk-taking opportunities, which will allow them to grow and develop into well-rounded members of the team. As a micromanager, you should encourage employees to take on new projects or experiment with different ideas. You shouldn’t punish them for making a mistake – instead, you should help them understand what went wrong and how it could be corrected next time.
You should also encourage your employees to use their creativity by giving them the opportunity to express themselves. Sometimes, micromanagers forget about how important it is for people, not just from a business perspective but from an emotional point of view as well, by providing opportunities for expression within the company. This has performance benefits, but also health and happiness benefits.
Micromanagement is counterproductive, not to mention inefficient and, ultimately, demoralising.
- It demotivates
- It stifles creativity
- It lowers productivity
- It decreases happiness
- It can cause health issues
- It ruins performance
You’re better off delegating the tasks to the people who know how to do them the best.
It’s an old cliche, but it’s true: nobody knows your business like you do, so it’s not easy letting go of the reins, but if you want your business to succeed, it’s necessary.