Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts

Many a business owner often feels that unless they are always in their employees’ ear, telling them what to do that things are going to fall apart. They may feel that things will not flow without them always being there to break up the log jams. This is one reason why many leaders put off going on vacation and taking time to recharge for longer than they should. They are afraid that catastrophe would ensue in their absence. And who could blame them? Most business owners are bearing the weight of their business upon their shoulders 24/7. They are carrying a load that most employees could not dream of. It is because of this that many business owners exhibit micromanaging behaviors. Micromanaging creates as many problems as it solves, and it creates resentment among the staff after long enough. This is because they are always dreading the constant nagging corrections and check-ins. This will make them hide their mistakes. When they receive corrections over the tiniest things often enough, the employees will lose respect for the owner. They will grow to resent being in their owner’s presence. That is bad for the business and the team at large. Infighting and malice can provide a toxic environment.

Here are some ways to combat this. Reevaluate the way that staff members are trained so that they are better equipped to spot the fine details. And hence, they will not have to always be reminded to cross their t’s and dot their i’s. Another is that the owner must trust his or her chosen training process. I.E. that the work is going to get done the way it is suppose to. When an owner is constantly checking up on everyone, it could make some feel as though the owner does not trust them to do their own job correctly. Feelings of distrust in the workplace detract a portion of the focus away from the job. Obviously, this will cause productivity to suffer. Now none of this is to say that the owner should not commonly check and make sure that things are running smoothly, but it is saying that overdoing it can be harmful to moral, productivity, and perceived trust.

Micromanaging your team will also just cause them to avoid you, and it will make them automatically feel uncomfortable in your presence. They will feel like they are walking on eggshells, in that they are always right about to be knit picked or corrected on a procedure at work. It will make your team view corrections as something to hide from and/or resent. Instead of viewing corrections as opportunities to improve. This is just like when a movie villain is devalued because they loose every time. They loose their authority and value as a character.

Leaders can’t detract from their authority. It is vital for them to be able to properly lead their team and being a nagging, detail-obsessed leader will definitely diminish one’s authority and respect within the team. Both of those diminish and sometimes compromise that leaders ability to effectively lead. When respect within the chain of command is not present the team will lack cohesion at a fundamental level. That will effect business. When employees do not respect their leader, they are more likely to disregard orders or find ways around them. This will inevitably be harmful to business.

If you have ever competed in a sport that requires an intense level of focus, you know that your own mind can be a micromanager. At the peak intensity one too many thoughts about the wrong thing can derail your edge in the moment. For instance, I enjoy competing in Karate tournaments. There are times where you need complete mental silence, so that  you can execute a properly timed scoring-technique. If your mind is bombarding you with thoughts, it is far harder to do what you want when you want. Your mind is behaving very much like a micromanager, and it completely messes with your focus, which needs to be zen-like. “Your going to slip.” “There was your opening…..which you missed.” “They are watching you fail.” “Try this.” “Would that even be legal?” No, silence and focus, that is what your team needs. Freedom from things that weigh it down. The same result that a yap-happy mind produces will be produced by micromanaging your team. All of the cogs in the watch have to spin at the right time in order for it to function.

Micromanaging will produce a toxic work environment, and result in the leader loosing respect among the team. It is for these reasons that micromanaging is just bad managerial practice. When the staff feels as though the owner does not trust them and is always looking over their shoulder to make sure that the work is up to par, then, obviously, this puts a great stress upon the employees to have every detail just the way that the owner wants it. This is going to make them focus more on how they can make things just the way the owner wants them, so that they don’t get heckled. This puts the employees focus in the wrong place: on how to avoid the owner or just make them happy. Instead of on their job.

You may say: “Wait, if the leader has lost respect among his or her employees, and the employees are not following regulations or are cutting corners, then won’t the business suffer?” “What is the leader to do then?” First of all the leader is responsible for insuring that regulations are followed and for keeping order. Thus, they must restore these standards and take charge. This should not even have to happen. The owner should never have allowed the situation to get to this point. Upholding the details and standards is not the same thing as micromanaging. At a surface level it may seem that way, but in reality they are not the same thing. A good example of what micromanaging is would be telling some how to do their job, which they have already been trained  how to do, then checking in to make sure they did their job right. It is exceeding the bounds of practicality and actively interfering with their ability to do their job effectively. It constantly shifts the employee’s focus in the wrong direction when they are being micromanaged.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius-and a lot of courage-to move in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein

A micromanager has to relinquish control over some things. They have to alter their management style. It is a case of adapt to survive. For, they are most certainly holding their business back by continuing their current management style. They are creating a toxic culture and are creating resentment. They have to be alright with not being able to control everything. Trying to control everything does not mean that you actually do. It is simply wasted, misplaced energy. Now, the staff also have a part to play in all of this to.

If the staff are forgetful and not on the details, that can prompt an already on-edge superior to micromanage their people. So then the employees will be playing into and prompting micromanaging behavior. None of this is meant to excuse poor employee behavior. They are still responsible for their part of the bargain. Now, with all of that being said, the majority of responsibility falls upon the owner and/or leader to not micromanage his or her team. The team’s moral will rise if they are not being micromanaged and when the team is in better spirits they work more effectively.

While micromanaging may seem like the best way to get things done, it is just a way to create a toxic and resentful environment. When employees feel as though they are constantly walking on egg shells, it will compromise their ability to effectively do their job. It is for this reason that the business will begin to suffer. Micromanaging will create an avoidance culture. Where people are simply trying to do everything possible to avoid the owner in order to not be nagged. Micromanaging staff may cause good employees to quit simply because they are always being heckled, yet another reason that micromanaging will be harmful to a business.

Over time this type of behavior from the owner will cause a loss of respect among the staff, and that will make a bad situation go down hill fast. From this point, righting the plane will be challenging. The owner must change their behavior, regain respect, and return the business to healthy levels of discipline. A business cannot thrive if its team is under the shadow of micromanagement, and every business owner wants their business to thrive.

Challenge: examine and have others take a look at your management style to see where it needs work. This might be like pulling teeth, but introspection is underrated. All of us have to work on the removal of what is unnecessary from our management. Then take two weeks and implement their recommendations. See if you notice anything different from your staff or business. We all are a work in progress, thus it is not bad if the engine needs work or improvements sometimes. If you don’t see the results that you were hoping for, repeat this process the next week. This process will take time. It is tough being a leader but the old saying(paraphrased) “There are no bad followers, only bad leaders” holds true, even now. Thus, it is up to you to find a way. A way to make your team be all that it can. That starts with its leader: YOU!