How Not to Micromanage Employees

Bosses often fight the urge to micromanage employees, but unfortunately, many don’t even recognize they are doing it. If you’re grappling with retention, it could be because you or one of your supervisors is micromanaging employees and driving them away.

Worse yet, micromanagement can hinder the growth of creativity within the organization. “Innovation is stifled because mistakes, which are a necessary part of learning and growing, aren’t tolerated,” notes Inc. Also, when supervisors are essentially doing someone else’s job, “they aren’t doing their own as well as they could be.”

Here are tips on how to let go of the micromanaging impulse and give your team members greater latitude to do their jobs:

Start by trusting your employees.

No workplace can function for very long without a foundation of trust. Presumably, your employees are individuals who have demonstrated they possess the skills and/or experience to handle their job responsibilities. By assuming an attitude of trust, you help them gain the confidence needed to work out problems or challenges. This may not happen right out of the gate–even veteran employees coming from other businesses need time to acclimate to your company culture. But trusting them to succeed helps achieve the desired goal.

Let employees know what you expect.

Some micromanagement occurs because employees don’t understand the directions they’re given. Or, they have to guess at what their boss wants. A more effective approach involves outlining expectations at the start of a project or assignment. Let your team members know what “success” will look like.  Better yet, share examples of past initiatives that are similar in nature.  And remember to provide them with the resources needed to get the task done.

Admit you can’t do everything yourself.

Many business owners started out as entrepreneurs who had to do everything themselves. When you need to hire others in order to grow the business, it’s sometimes difficult to “acknowledge that others can do some tasks better than you” and “even harder to accept that others will do the same task differently”–but until you let go of these stubborn preconceptions, your employees won’t be as productive as they could be.

Delegate more.

If you’re hesitant about how much you can delegate to the team, try assigning a small or short-term task to individuals and let them “run” with it. The outcome of that assignment will determine your next step: (1) continue giving the individual more substantial projects; or (2) take some time to counsel the individual on how to improve their process and be more successful.

Always Communicate.

Providing feedback isn’t the same thing as trying to micromanage employees. As individuals assume more responsibility, check in with them from time to time.  Be sure to offer general comments on how well they’re proceeding. If progress is slow, provide constructive feedback that spurs them to take a different approach. If they come to you with an idea about trying something new, be open to suggestions and encourage more creative work habits. Employees gain confidence when the boss displays an attitude of tolerance and support.

Effective managers schedule regular check-ins with employees, at least once a month. “Once you get in a groove, accountability conversations help your team members to make adjustments in the moment and ward off major catastrophes,” Forbes notes.

Micromanagement can be a sneaky thing, and supervisors may not even realize they’re doing it. But by paying attention to red flags–such as a visible dip in workplace morale or an exodus of valued employees–business owners can work to minimize the urge to micromanage and do more to foster creativity and independence.

Not only will this approach generate greater confidence and innovation among your team members, it can significantly improve your retention efforts. Employees are far less inclined to seek work elsewhere if they feel valued for their efforts within your organization.


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