Human Resource Management

Micromanaging Employees

Written by Andrew Goldman for Gaebler Ventures

Growing your best employees along with your company is a key component of long-term success. Don't stifle your best employees with unnecessary micromanagement. Find the happy medium between involvement and employee development.

Most small business owners in the 21st century understand the dangers of micromanaging.

Micromanaging Employees

On the off chance that micromanagement is a new term for you, we should note that micromanaging occurs when employers closely monitor or control their employees, and it is especially common in small startup organizations.

Still, it is understandable why entrepreneurs like you want to be involved in all aspects of the business; after all, it's your company.

While there is an acceptable amount of department involvement on your behalf, you want to be particularly wary of the affect is has on your employees; especially employees that you've identified as having high growth potential.

Especially Avoid Micromanaging Employees With High Growth Potential

Employees with high growth potential are employees who you believe can learn new duties and have the ability to make more senior decisions as they move along in their careers.

Although it is imperative not to rush these employees along, it is even more crucial not to muffle their progress with micromanagement. As a manager, you should look to nurture these employees and offer advice and direction without being controlling.

Sometimes Mistakes Can Be a Good Thing

There is a natural tendency for the small business owner to want to keep a close eye on the progress of young employees a few years removed from college, or those who have just changed careers.

Of course this is a legitimate concern. The key, however, is to find a way to oversee their work in a way that still allows for the employee to do the bulk of the work and make some mistakes on their own. If you are constantly looking over their shoulders, this will affect their performance and stunt their growth.

Remember, the employee needs that sense of accomplishment that accompanies task completion. If they feel you did most of the work, they are not going to have the confidence they need to move forward.

I worked for a company with an extremely talented (and young) manager of consumer sales. Although he had manager status, the owner was involved in every task assigned to his department. As a result, the manager felt detached from the completed product. This led to several areas of inefficiency, as the manager would have to sit around and wait for the busy owner to have time to complete meetings and discussions. Ultimately, this talented employee left the company, citing how he never felt his work or opinions were appreciated.

Use Meetings To Communicate Vision and Goals

Part of growing your business of course requires you hire, develop and maintain loyal employees. This does not have to conflict with your involvement, as it did in the aforementioned example.

The key is to remain involved while letting your employees make decisions and accomplish tasks.

Find ways to meet with your employees with open discussions about decisions being made. Hold them accountable for the decisions they make, and explain your position honestly. If there is ever an example where you disagree, you have the authority to overturn decisions, but you'll find you do not need to overturn everything. Sometimes your employee will be right.

Small business owners who micromanage their leaders rarely benefit from their employees' instincts.

After all, two heads are better than one.

Andrew Goldman is an Isenberg School of Management MBA student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has extensive experience working with small businesses on a consulting basis.

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There's a fine line between micromanaging and paying close attention to what's happening in your business. What's your opinion on micromanagement?

  • Matt posted on 4/17/2009
    I just this evening spent over an hour with my employer expressing the exact views discussed in this article. I have had at least a half dozen prior extensive discussions of the same nature with my employer. He just doesn't understand the fine line between supervision and micromanagement. He claims to be letting me run my own show as a project manager with basic supervision, and does not believe that he is beiong over involved. He will send me to look at a job, ask me to configure an estimate or bid for the job and then go back and do everything that I just did and completely disregard everything that I configured. My figures are always competetive with our competition, and his have always been completely out in left field. The 1:10 ratio of bids that we have won are solely because we were the only company to bid. On jobs that we were awarded, I would finish in half the time estimated and under the budget for expenses. Except times were I finished in half the time he proposed, over what he had bid, but would have been below budget and right on time for what I would have bid. With him still being in complete denial that he is micromanaging, I do not know what to do.

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