Micromanagement makes the best people quit

If you’ve ever instructed your team to CC you on emails or asked for frequent updates on work in progress, then you might be perceived as a micromanager. These and other incriminating behaviours amount to telling employees how to do their job – the result is that they become less motivated and leave.

The role of a manager is to enable their team employees to do their job and contribute collaboratively to the organisation’s goals. Sometimes, this involves paying close attention and checking that work gets done. As the Harvard Business Review points out, “The problem with micromanagers is that they apply the same level of intensity, scrutiny and in-your-face approach to every task, whether warranted or not.”

Micromanagement leads to conflict

When a manager tells an employee how to do their job, both the manager and the employee interpret things differently – they also attach emotions to that interpretation which can lead to disagreements. When conflict is not addressed immediately, it impacts on the organisational culture.

Best described as the unwritten rules of an organisation that influence behaviours, culture is ‘how things are done around here’. To build an effective culture, it's essential to promote behaviour that is right and sanctioning behaviour that is wrong.

A supportive culture can’t simply survive with unaddressed conflicts. It festers and turns bad. A bad culture can further demotivate the micromanaged employee, and they look elsewhere for a job in more pleasant climates.

Micromanagers aren’t necessarily bad people. After all, their behaviour is driven by a desire to get things right – perfect even. It may just be that they were promoted to management without any support or training to tackle the challenges of leadership.

The simple fact is that micromanagement at work is harmful and damaging – to employee morale, organisational culture and the business’s bottom line.

Micro changes create better managers

In the same way that nobody wants to be micromanaged, there aren’t many among us who would put their hand up and say: ‘I want to be a micromanager!’ The secret to future proofing yourself from micromanagement at work is self-reflection and continual learning. Here are five things you can do today to micromanage less.

1. Develop a delegation roadmap

Our relationship with control and delegation is the result of a lifetime of experiences, but it’s not locked into our DNA. Delegation is a skill that can be learned and improved. It all starts with some simple preparation. Write down the tasks that your team can do without your help and the tasks that only you can do. Use this as a rough roadmap to work collaboratively with your team.

2. Understand learning styles

Are you the kind of person that reads product manuals? Apple doesn’t think so. Most Apple products ship with minimal documentation because so many people learn by doing, watching or listening. Understanding the learning style of your team and delivering information to them in their preferred way leads to better performance. Adopting the right style with the right person is less likely to be perceived as micromanagement.

3. Learn to coach

When there isn’t enough time in the day, it can appear easier to tell someone how to solve a problem, rather than helping them to find the answer themselves. By coaching rather than telling, you enable employees to bring out their best and potentially find solutions of which you couldn’t think. After all, that’s why you hired them, right?

4. Conflict resolution skills

Language can have a big impact on a small conflict. The question “Can I see you in my office?” carries much more weight than its seven words suggest and rarely ends well for employees. It’s important for leaders and managers to understand their relationship with other employees and never walk into conflict resolution unprepared. If there’s a conflict, it must be addressed, but it’s more important to use an effective conflict resolution script, prepare what you are going to say, and practice it on another independent human before addressing the elephant in the room.

5. Find your mentor

A mentor is somebody who has been there and done that. They understand your struggle with micromanagement, and they’re more than just a great sounding board for your challenges. Some of the best mentors are found in Professional Practice degrees at Deakin University.

Build on your experience with a Professional Practice master’s degree

The difference between a micromanager and an effective manager is often just an adjustment of previous behaviours. Deakin University’s Professional Practice degrees recognise and reflect on your industry experience to help you become a better leader.

In as little as 12 months, you can complete a fast-tracked Master of Leadership while you work. Whether you’re working in management, or you’ve shown the potential to become a leader, this course acknowledges your wealth of skills and experience in a postgraduate qualification.

With better leadership skills, you can focus on the bigger picture, rather than the cc’d emails, to achieve results and contribute to a culture that attracts the best employees to your organisation.


Learn more about our innovative Professional Practice degree in leadership, where you can use your experience to gain a master’s degree. Get in touch with our Enrolment team on 1300 043 524.