The Detrimental Effects of Micromanagement - American Society of Employers - Heather Nezich

The Detrimental Effects of Micromanagement

Micromanagement can destroy employee motivation, creativity, and job satisfaction, and it is the biggest complaint workers have.  If not addressed, employees are likely to leave.  And if there is no exit interview performed, an organization might not even realize it’s happening.

Most organizations desire employees who will do more than they are asked, who think for themselves, who are creative, and present new ideas; however, micromanaging will squash all of that.  Micromanagement will eventually lead to a breakdown of trust between employee and manager. When trust is gone, two things typically happen: a loss of productivity and employee turnover. According to a study by NCBI the costs of long-term micromanagement can include “low employee morale, high staff turnover, [and] reduction of productivity.”  It also states that it’s labeled among the top three reasons employees resign.

When employees are micromanaged they feel like they’re losing their autonomy or possibly never had it. When this happens, they’ll lose the desire to do anything other than what is asked of them.  They will no longer attempt to go outside the box or the extra mile.   On the other hand, if you give those same people a certain level of autonomy, they will take pride in what they do and how they do it.  “Autonomy is the antithesis of micromanagement,” said Joan F. Cheverie, manager of professional development programs at EDUCAUSE.  “And it may be the best way to ensure your employees are happy at work.”

A study in Taiwan surveyed 1,380 staff members from 230 community health centers. The more autonomy employees had at work, the more satisfied they were with their jobs and the less likely they were to leave their positions.

While it may be a slow transition for some managers, some tips to give your employees more autonomy include:

·        Start Small - According to the economic theory of loss aversion, “we’re much unhappier when we lose something than when we are pleased when we gain something new.”  This is the case for autonomy as well. Taking autonomy away from a team negatively impacts the team.  So start by increasing your team’s autonomy slowly, rather than risking giving them too much control and having to backtrack later.

·        Balance Autonomy and Structure – According to Cheverie, “Stop telling your staff how to do their job and, instead, set the strategic direction, deadlines, and benchmarks and then allow them to determine how to accomplish the job.”  Doing so leaves managers free to focus on high-level, strategic thinking and allows employees to approach the work in a way that works best for them.

·        Encourage Employees to Set Their Own Goals – When employees are allowed to set their own goals it creates intrinsic motivation, which is behavior that is driven by internal rewards.  They are much more likely to be driven by their goals if they were the ones who established them. 

·        Give Employees a Feeling of Choice – According to David Rock, executive director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, employees should be given a framework within which they can make their own choices.  He states, “Try defining the end result really clearly and outlining the boundaries of what behaviors are okay, then let people create within this frame.”


Moving from micromanagement to promoting autonomy in the workplace won’t happen overnight, but managers should be trained on how to avoid micromanaging and encourage autonomy.  The payoff will be happier, more engaged employees.



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