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Micromanagement: Are you the office watchdog?

Managers are responsible for mentoring and monitoring staff progress but the line between mentoring can be blurred when managers start feeling the need to constantly check in.
Source: Ljupco Smokovski ©
Source: Ljupco Smokovski © 123RF.com

The reality is that constantly checking up on staff can be both unhelpful and unwanted. When a manager starts to do this, it tells the staff member that you don’t trust that they can do a specific task. The staff member might also feel that they are incapable of doing this task and need constant observation.

Unfortunately, that’s how the concept of micromanagement grows. The idea that a staff member can’t do a task without supervision leads to staff feeling demotivated and it makes them question their self-esteem and confidence.

Micromanagement is not a productive management style. It leads to resentment and frustration with staff members. But, here’s the thing, managers don’t deliberately wake up each day thinking what can be done to make their team members lives difficult. Sometimes the micromanagement style is unintentional.


If you are wondering whether you fit the title of a micromanager, then here’s what you need to look out for:
  • Turn down the number of times you check in on an employee doing a task. Perhaps the need to check in comes from anxiety and wanting to ensure a staff member is doing the task correctly. But being a manager means having trust. Trust that your team member is capable of doing a task assigned to them. The staff member needs to feel that you know they are competent to do the task. But what do you do when you know the staff member has a track record of procrastinating and doing low quality work? If this is the case, then check when the task needs to be completed by - a deadline can give you an idea of how often you need to check in. It can also guide you on how often you should check in on this staff member.
  • If you usually give a task to your team without clear instructions, this can also be a reason why you feel the need to constantly check up. Whenever you assign a task to a team member, ensure that you are thorough about what needs to be done. This way the deliverables are ironed out and staff members are aware of your expectations. This will help with the anxiousness around staff capabilities and it will give team members a chance to prove their capabilities.
  • Your management style should align with the needs of your staff member. If you have a new team member, they might need regular check ins. This means it is important to make someone aware of why you are checking in.
  • As a manager, you should not focus on the small stuff. The aim of the game is customer satisfaction and productivity. Focusing on the stuff that is not necessary can make staff feel inadequate and result in frustration on your part.
  • Currently, some of your team members might be working from home. You should put behind the idea that your staff are having fun at home. The fact is working from home is a lot more stressful than we think. There are work deadlines and distractions at home that can make it hard to be productive. As a manager, your job is to manage not time-check.

Establish trust with your team members. If they are delivering results and meeting deadlines, that is all you need. You don’t have to ask them to report to you on every break they take.

It is time to break the toxic work culture of micromanaging. Having trust in staff promotes positive team spirit and encourages productivity.

About the author

Devan Moonsamy is the CEO of ICHAF Training Institute, a South African TVET college.

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