The dreaded “M” word: Micromanagement.
Regardless of your industry, you’ll be familiar with both micromanagement and autonomy, either by their definitions or by directly experiencing one or the other (or both).
The truth is, these two different styles of management can be effective in specific situations, but as the saying goes - too much of anything can be bad!
Why does micromanagement get such a bad name for itself?
Now, we’re not going to start a “justice for micromanagement” campaign, but it’s important to look at how micromanagement can help you instead of hinder you. And, not all micromanagement is bad.
By definition, to micromanage is to “control every part, however small, of (an enterprise or activity)” - doesn’t sound so bad, right?
But, micromanagement gets a terrible name for itself because it’s taken to the extremes, thus leaving employees feeling uninspired, with little to no control over their own development. However, micromanagement can be used to elevate someone’s career, and ultimately teach them discipline and good behaviours before they’re given autonomy.
What are some good elements of micromanagement?
- Closely followed processes: This teaches consistency, and also ensures that everybody is being held accountable to the same standards.
- Performance management: If someone or a team is struggling to perform, micromanagement can be a steadfast way to uncover where the issues are and mitigate them immediately.
- Regular check-ins: Although this can be viewed as “why are you watching my every move” - it can also be translated as “are you doing OK and how can I help?”.
And, where do you draw the line?
To be frank - you shouldn’t be micromanaging experienced employees who have demonstrated that they're able to do their job to the best of their abilities. Some may still need coaching and direction, but you have to draw the line when you’re hindering instead of helping someone with micromanagement techniques.
So, we should give everybody autonomy instead…?
Everyone’s favourite word - autonomy. Unlike its evil twin micromanagement, autonomy gives employees and teams complete freedom, with minimal direction and is largely reliant on the personal motivation of the individual (as well as their skill level) to execute tasks.
Autonomy is a popular management style for a number of reasons: it’s easier for the manager in question as they aren’t inundated with tasks and catch-ups, and it’s also favourable for the employee because they can often have more “freedom” in their role and career.
When is it the “right” time to give autonomy?
Autonomy is something that makes more sense to earn rather than give straight away, and this can be measured across three key areas: communication, skill level, and experience level.
Communication refers to how well an individual communicates with their manager and the wider team. Are they responding to their task requests and executing what they need to do on time? And, are they keeping the right people in the loop at the right time?
Skill level refers to how honed an individual's skills are to execute said tasks. Naturally, everybody has skills they need to work on - so logically it makes sense to give autonomy to the skills that are already there, and adopt a technique from micromanagement to hone the rest.
Experience level is more about what someone has achieved instead of their tenure. What projects have they had involvement in that will enable them to have autonomy in future ones? Someone can be incredibly skilled but lack the experience to navigate specific situations, so look at this and assess accordingly.
In summary, there is a place for both styles of management and you must assess this on a case-by-case basis. Creating a framework to enable individuals to have autonomy can be a steadfast way of ensuring that you don’t fall into the trap of micromanaging, whilst still giving individuals the tools they need to be successful.
For more information on sustaining an inclusive culture for all of your employees, check out our free D&I in the workplace handbook, available to download now.