The Devastating Effects of Micromanagement

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While some managers have the best intentions at heart and simply get carried away in managing their employees’ day-to-day work, there’s a different breed of manager that the entire office fears and despises: the micromanager.

There’s a fine line between effective management and micromanagement and, unfortunately, it’s one that is crossed all too often. If you’ve ever worked for someone who kept hovering over you every single second of the workday, monitoring your progress, obsessing over every minor detail, and providing you with detailed instructions on how to do your job, you’ll know that crossing that line has some very dangerous and long-term side effects.

1. Health problems arise

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Yes, your micromanaging boss could be making you sick – literally.

Harvard Medical School instructor Jonathan D. Quick, co-author of Preventive Stress Management in Organizations (paid link), backs up that claim and says that “the leadership qualities of ‘bad’ bosses over time exert a heavy toll on employees’ health.” He also said that research has linked having a micromanaging boss to a variety of health issues including an increased risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, sleep problems, chronic stress, and it even drives employees to smoke, drink and overeat.

2. Employee turnover shoots through the roof

Simply put, micromanaging will destroy manager/employee relationships. Monitoring everything they do, walking them through every element of their job, and redoing their work because it just wasn’t done the way the micromanager would, slowly but surely guides employees toward the door. And considering the time, effort, and resources required having to hire and train replacements (and then hire and train replacements for those replacements), this kind of manager only ends up running their company into the ground.

3. Productivity is affected

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Those who don’t quit and instead choose to stay in their jobs only end up muddling through, delivering subpar results and missing important deadlines. In other words, stalking employees and their every move kills workplace productivity.

In a 2014 study (PDF), University of Pennsylvania professor Alexandra Michel concluded that educated employees tend to work more, harder, and better when given autonomy over their schedules. Michel spent 12 years studying young and ambitious executives at two large investment banks and found that bankers felt more motivated when they were allowed to think independently and do their jobs without constant supervision.

4. Personal relationships suffer

The stress that comes with working for a micromanager can carry over into your personal life, and personal relationships could consequently get the short end of the stick. An employee who has a hard time at work could, in turn, give family and friends a hard time, effectively damaging his relationships with them beyond repair.

5. Job security is questioned

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While the existence of job security has become a hotly debated subject among today’s workforce, employees who work under the supervision of a micromanaging boss sometimes live with the fear of being demoted or losing their jobs every day. In questioning their own job security, they often force themselves to keep quiet about their boss’ behavior which, in turn, results in overworking themselves to the point of career burnout.

6. Progress slows down

Workers will simply stop taking the initiative if someone keeps coming along to undermine or scrap their work altogether and provide them with detailed instructions on how the task should instead be carried out. This, however, will cause a project’s progress to slow down dramatically as employees will have to redo and redo their work until it meets the micromanager’s absurd requirements. To combat this, you could keep your micromanaging boss at bay by keeping him in the loop and offering updates only if and when appropriate.

7. Teamwork is destroyed

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Teamwork creates synergy and supports a more empowered way of working as well as promotes better communication and helps goals to be achieved faster. However, the complete opposite is accomplished when an employee’s work constantly falls victim to an intruder: their creativity is suppressed, and their talents are insulted.

A micromanaged workplace discourages any sense or form of teamwork as employees stop working with each other and start working with the micromanager only. And that’s not good for the company because employees begin feeling undervalued and unappreciated. Moreover, the organization itself loses out on the benefits of a highly effective team that can innovate, collaborate, and produce creative solutions to problems.

8. Morale is lowered

As explained earlier, employees who are made to feel like they can’t do anything right and whose work is constantly criticized will stop trying altogether. Their confidence will be destroyed when their work is subjected to constant second-guessing and their job satisfaction will inevitably plummet due to lack of autonomy and trust.

In a Trinity Solutions survey published in Harry E. Chambers’ book My Way or the Highway: The Micromanagement Survival Guide (paid link), a shocking 79% of respondents revealed that they had or were currently experiencing micromanagement in the workplace while 69% had considered changing jobs. However, the most frightening statistic of all is that a staggering 85% of respondents said that their morale was impacted negatively by being micromanaged.

The message here is clear: employees should be given ample room to breathe, realistic demands, and a say in how they get their work done. Open communication should be encouraged, independent decision-making should be allowed, and employees should be allowed to get on with what they were hired to do in the first place. Only when this is accomplished are they able to perform effectively and efficiently.

Is micromanagement a current problem in your company? How are you dealing with it? Share your advice with us in the comments section below!