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From Empowerment to Entrapment: The Micromanagement Dilemma


Imagine a marketing team working on a crucial campaign for a product launch. The team is comprised of skilled professionals who have successfully executed similar projects in the past. And here's their new manager, Mark. Mark insists on being involved in every minute decision and detail of the campaign. He dictates the font size, color schemes, and even the wording of every email and social media post. Mark consistently checks on the team's progress multiple times a day, requesting constant updates and requiring each team member to report their activities in painstaking detail.


The team is feeling suffocated and undervalued and told him that he is micromanaging. Mark is quite shocked and says: “I’m not. I’m only trying to help. I’m sharing my experience and knowledge and I’m just trying to make it easier for you.”


Even Mark is not admitting the truth, he is micromanaging his team. Micromanagement is harmful because it reduces the trust between people and about own abilities. People also get used to being controlled and when they are free, they feel uncomfortable becoming self-sufficient. Besides, it kills innovation and creativity.


Why do people tend to micromanage?


People resort to micromanagement as a means to alleviate their concerns about organizational performance. By constantly directing and controlling the actions of others, they find a sense of comfort, rooted in their own emotional insecurities. This behavior allows micromanagers to believe they have control or are adding value. Additionally, a lack of trust in their colleagues' abilities is often a driving force behind micromanagement. Even when their colleagues assure them they can handle a task or responsibility, micromanagers harbor doubts and feel compelled to oversee every detail.


When do participation, collaboration, and oversight become micromanagement? „When they interfere with performance, quality, and efficiency. When they become barriers to achievement or impediments to getting things done. Micromanagement and micromanagers do not add value to individuals or processes. Regardless of the intent, the results are subtraction, not addition.”(Chambers, 2009)



If not micromanage, then what to do?


1. Delegate. It serves as a source of enhanced organizational performance. It involves the deliberate transfer of formal authority to others, fostering empowerment, and job satisfaction, and ultimately catering more effectively to the needs of clients, audiences, and partners. Studies show four principles that underpin delegation: „(i) match staff to task, (ii) organize and communicate clearly, (iii) choose the level of delegation carefully, and (iv) transfer formal authority and accountability with the task.” (Serrat&Serrat, 2017)


2. Build trust and empowerment: Build trust in your team members by believing in their abilities and giving them the autonomy to make decisions and take ownership of their work. Provide clear goals and expectations, and then step back and allow them to find their own solutions and approaches.


3. Be results-oriented: Focus on the outcomes and results rather than getting caught up in minute details. Define clear objectives and metrics for success, and trust your team to deliver the desired outcomes.


4. Be a coach or a mentor. Instead of constantly instructing and controlling, embrace a coaching and mentoring approach. Offer guidance, constructive feedback, and support to assist your team members in developing their skills and realizing their full potential. Foster a culture of continuous learning and growth.


5. Offer recognition. Additionally, prioritize recognition and appreciation for your team members' accomplishments and contributions. Take the time to acknowledge their efforts and provide positive feedback, which will serve as motivation and uplift their spirits.


Micromanagement, with its suffocating grasp, strangles productivity, stifles creativity, and demoralizes employees. It transforms workplaces into battlegrounds of control and surveillance, leaving individuals feeling disempowered and undervalued. Organizations must recognize the destructive nature of micromanagement and strive to foster a culture of trust, autonomy, and empowerment.



Sources:

Serrat, O., & Serrat, O. (2017). The travails of micromanagement. Knowledge Solutions: tools, methods, and approaches to drive organizational performance, 473-479.

Chambers, H. E. (2009). My way or the highway: The micromanagement survival guide. ReadHowYouWant. com.


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