micromanaging your employees

Many small business owners are guilty of micromanaging. Is micromanaging your employees hurting your business?

By Rieva Lesonsky

It’s no secret that delegating tasks is often very hard for small business owners to do. After all, how many of you started your business thinking, “I can do it better than my boss can!” or something similar? When you’re the best at something, it’s tough to let anyone else take the reins. But micromanaging can hurt you, your employees and your business.

The dangers of micromanaging your employees

Micromanaging might not seem that bad to you. If you know the best way to do something, why not have everyone else do it the same way? Unfortunately, micromanaging can have serious downsides for you and your business. Here are a few:

  • You may burn out. I haven’t yet met the small business owner who has time to do everything their own to-do list—much less keep an eye on everything their employees have to do. Trying to oversee every task in your business yourself will leave you burned out and less effective.
  • Your employees won’t be happy. Being able to have control over their work is a huge factor in employee satisfaction. When employees feel like robots—or that they’re being watched—they’ll disengage from their work, becoming less enthusiastic and less effective. They’ll also lose respect for you.
  • Your business will suffer from high turnover. Dissatisfied employees are likely to start searching for new jobs that offer more autonomy.

You might be a micromanager if….

Watch for these warning signs you might have a problem with micromanaging:

  • You ask your employee for daily updates or progress reports (even on non-urgent projects).
  • You never think your employees are doing a good job. It could always be better (if you did it, that is).
  • Instead of teaching employees how to take over low-value tasks, you do them yourself (“It’s faster”).
  • Work backs up because everything has to wait for your approval. Deadlines get missed and customers aren’t happy.

Still not sure if you’re a micromanager? Try these ideas to find out:

  • Perform a self-assessment. Write down every single thing you do all day, every day, for one week. At week’s end, assess what you did. Was most of your time spent on tasks that only you can do? Or did you spend a lot of time doing things someone else could have done or checking up on your team’s work? If you’re taking responsibility for tasks that your assistant could do, you’ve got a problem?
  • Ask for staff feedback. Do a 360-degree performance review of yourself. Ask your team to provide honest feedback on your management style. (See what to do if you get a lot of negative feedback.) One of my business partners got a rude awakening years ago when an employee finally blurted out that she was sick of being micromanaged. My partner finally understood that not everyone would do the job the way she did—and that was OK.

How to kick the micromanaging habit

Ready to break the habit of micromanaging your employees? Take these baby steps.

  • Look for low-value work you can delegate without feeling you have to oversee it. Start small and gradually build up to trusting your employees with more important work.
  • Explain what you want employees to achieve but let them figure out the details of how to get there. They may think of a better way to tackle a problem than you would have.
  • Authorize employees to make certain decisions without your OK.
  • Tell employees they don’t need to CC you on emails that don’t directly affect you.

Yes, giving up your micromanaging ways takes hard work. But ultimately, letting go will pay off in big ways—more time to focus on important work, more satisfied employees, and a more successful business.

Demanding boss pointing to his watch stock photo by Stock-Asso/Shutterstock