Good project management requires a manager to scrutinize teamwork. However, when they interfere too much, managers can jeopardize a team’s autonomy and productivity.
Spotting a Micromanager
When a project manager engages in excessive scrutiny regarding how the team carries out tasks, they are micromanaging. A micromanager closely controls the work of their employees. Rather than focusing on larger concerns, they will spend most of their time giving specific instructions on smaller tasks at every step of the project. This is also noticeable in the manager’s way of handling communications and work progress. Because they feel the need to be on top of everything, all communications must go through them. Sometimes, micromanagers will even jump in to complete tasks themselves, thinking they can do it faster.
Addressing micromanagement can be challenging whether you are an employee experiencing it or a project manager who finds they have adopted this style. Nevertheless, it is possible. An essential step to doing so is understanding the causes behind micromanagement. There are numerous reasons why a manager might resort to intensive oversight and control. While some relate to the manager’s past, others revolve around increased performance pressure:
- they feel unsure and self-doubting due to a recently attained position
- they fear underperforming and being fired
- a supervisor above exerts pressure on them
- due to experiences in their childhood, they developed a tendency to control everything.
No matter their micromanaging reasons, team leaders need to acknowledge the detrimental effects this style can have on a team’s productivity.
Sabotaging Trust and Teamwork
When a manager is breathing over employees’ shoulders and constantly checking on them, this results in considerable stress, frustration, and demotivation. This also leads to a perceived lack of trust: employees feel that they are not given enough autonomy or space to show they’re worth their salt. As such, they are more likely to perform with the lowest dedication and work in fear. Fear, frustration, depression, accidents, lack of productivity: micromanagement can cost a company its best and brightest minds, eventually causing them to leave.
Furthermore, micromanaging is not a scalable tactic. As long as the manager leads a relatively small team, they can repeatedly check their employees’ work. When the team expands, the micromanager cannot do so without risking burnout. With more employees, a micromanager will soon find themselves checking on too many people while allocating too little time to do their actual job: managing the project and the team. Not to mention that such behavior reduces the employee’s ability to work in autonomy as they are constantly guided by their manager.
How to Stop Micromanaging
Micromanagers rarely view themselves as such and tend to describe their style as “structured”, “organized”, or “perfectionistic”. A first step to escaping from micromanagement is acknowledging it and being willing to adjust one’s leadership style. Additionally, as explored earlier, this style of project management damages the employees’ trust towards their manager. Managers can follow various approaches to re-build this trust and reinforce team building:
- encourage initiatives and autonomy among team members
- clearly communicate what the expected goals are
- delegate and trust your team while being attentive to their needs through regular (not constant) check-ins
- openly share feedback regarding what employees could do to improve.
On the organizational level, a manager can replace micromanagement with a more efficient way of tracking objectives and their outcomes: Objectives and Key Results (OKR). Instead of micromanaging, the team leader can set, every quarter, some key objectives that are actionable, quantifiable, and have a deadline. Doing so will articulate teamwork around the key objectives and how to reach them. As far as the project manager is concerned, they can keep abreast of the work progress by holding regular meetings where every team member can present their progress. Those meetings can offer room for giving feedback on the OKRs and provide useful guidance.
What if Your Project Manager Is a Micromanager?
Being in such a position is all but easy. It is not always possible to bring the transformation you expect, but it is worth trying. Your first move should be to understand why your manager is interested in the task or project. Let’s face it, a micromanager, to some extent, is a person who is excessively interested in how tasks are done. This can be turned into an advantage if the motives of the manager are understood. Is it that they want the project to succeed so badly because they’re passionate about their job? Is it that they are afraid of losing it?
Figuring this out can help the employee develop a different work style that creates more autonomy and, at the same time, secures the manager’s goals. After figuring this out, share your concern with the manager cautiously. As mentioned earlier, micromanagers are generally unaware of the toxicity of their management. Consequently, denial may be their first reaction if this issue is not approached with tact. Therefore, when attempting to call your manager’s attention regarding the situation, make sure to choose an environment that’s not stressful; ideally, an informal occasion. Stress that you understand how much the project or work means to them. Starting with this, your manager is likely to be more attentive. Then, describe clearly what you can do to increase your leader’s confidence in you while improving your own performance. It is essential to demonstrate how providing you with more autonomy will translate into more productivity for your manager.
A toxic work environment leads to poor performance and lack of teamwork. Certainly, micromanagement can radically damage the work environment and develop an atmosphere of stress, fear, and frustration. Moreover, it erodes employee’s confidence and prevents the manager from leveraging their team’s full potential. In the long term, this project management style can cause your team’s burnout and chase away your valuable team members. Given the issues it may cause, micromanagement should be tackled and project management best practices should be implemented. It needs to be addressed with tact if you are an employee experiencing it. With honesty, if you happen to be a project manager who has been practicing it.
Have you ever experienced micromanagement? Write your experience below in the comments and share this article so it can help others!