Micro-management. It's a business cliche that gets tossed around offices across the world and sends shivers down employees' spines. No one wants to be called a micro-manager as it generates a strong negative connotation. At some point, we have all displayed micro-manager characteristics in our lifetime either inside or outside of the office, myself included. Don't believe me? Have you ever called your pharmacy to follow-up on when your prescription will be ready? Have you ever hovered over a family member in the kitchen, offering up a better way to cook a meal? Or maybe you took that toy away from your 3 year-old nephew to put the batteries in it before he asked. Accept it.
The term micro-management is largely defined as too closely watching others perform work or too closely controlling their actions. Micro-management in an office setting becomes more evident through manager to subordinate relationships. All-in-all, sometimes micro-management is necessary to get things done and to keep customers happy. However, if you micro-manage too much, it will have a negative effect on your employees.
"Let me correct this for you Amy, there is no hyphen in micro-management."
Here are 4 dangers of micro-managing employees and how each will impede progress:
Danger 1: Lack of task ownership
An employee with a micro-manager as a boss ultimately believes that his/her daily tasks are not owned personally but rather their owned by their boss. If everything (and I mean everything) must run through your bosses inbox before it is delivered to a client, you may begin to generate a lack of self-worth in your work. This results in more errors as in "if I make a mistake, my boss will catch it for me anyway." Ambitious companies are a sum of personally ambitious employees that take ownership in their tasks and run with them.
Recommendation: Let your employees grow responsibility and learn from mistakes. Create a long-term employee development focus instead of a frequent short-term project fix focus.
Danger 2: Extended time-frames
In relation to my point above, the more micro-managers you have in an organization, the more ladder steps must be climbed to get to the finish. The more steps, the longer it takes to finalize a task and deliver it to a satisfied client.
Recommendation: Communicate with your employees and set expectations up front. Help them understand what items you correct most often and provide them with direction on tasks.
Danger 3: Lessened motivation
With constant disapproval and continual corrections on documents, it's human nature to be a little disheartened. If this happens continually, it will be a constant drain on employee morale.
Recommendation: Instead of making mundane corrections on documents, offer suggestions, recommendations, or offer an idea for them to think-through rather than doing it for them.
Danger 4: Decreased efficiency and productivity
I read a book a few years back titled Work the System written by Sam Carpenter. I always remember one piece of the book that discussed America's fascination with business meetings. He argued a one hour meeting with 10 people isn't an hour of time spent but rather 10 hours of time spent for all involved. Imagine what else could get done in that timeframe with 10 hours of time freed up. Carpenter doesn't argue meetings are not necessary but he does argue that time spent in meetings should be well-spent discussing "what will happen and how to better prepare" rather than "what did happen."
Recommendation: Make sure you spend time with your team or staff talking about how to improve in the future rather than focusing on what didn't work in the past.
Many may argue there is a fine-line between micro-management and value-added which is a fair point. There are many managers who are detailed-oriented, can make strong recommendations to improve documents, and put in extra time to abide by timelines which can limit the dangers associated with micro-management. As a manager, just be self-aware how much is too much with your employees and know when it is time to step on the micro-management pedal and step on the micro-management breaks.