Micromanaging in HR: How to stamp out toxic habits

'I will go as far as saying that micromanagement is the biggest driver of a negative company culture'

Micromanaging in HR: How to stamp out toxic habits

A recent study from Accountemps found that 59% of people have been micromanaged by their manager – with that number rising for those in remote work. And while HR leaders might be tempted to check-in more on employees working from home than those in the office, the reality is that this can have a damaging impact on morale.

The same survey found that 68% of micromanaged employees say the experience left them feeling down, while 55% say it hurt their productivity. So, what should HR be doing to stamp out the toxic practice whilst also keeping an eye on their people?

Warning signs of micromanagement in HR

“Micromanaging is the same whether it’s in HR or any other industry,” says Robert Stone, chief people officer at advertising giant Wunderman Thompson. “It’s really important that any micromanaging behaviours are addressed and resolved as soon as possible to ensure they don’t develop into psychosocial hazards – such as burnout, stress, anxiety or bullying.”

According to Stone, the key indicators that you’re guilty of micromanaging in HR include;

  • Restricting employees by not allowing people to grow and make mistakes
  • Managers that are wanting all of the credit and not acknowledging the efforts of the wider team
  • Managers that aren’t open to collaborative ways of working and feedback
  • Managers that are setting unrealistic timelines
  • Over communication and oversight on simple tasks
  • Ignoring employee’s personal boundaries

On the flip side, employee signals that they could be the subject of micromanagement include disengagement, high turnover, increased uptake in personal leave and a lack of creative and innovative thinking.

Read next: This Socciable HR software review discusses its internal communication benefits

How to stamp out micromanagement in HR

Stamping out micromanagement is easier said than done. In the era of remote work, managers may find it difficult to step away from their people entirely. And while it’s not advisable to leave your people alone, without contact, for days on end – checking in multiple times a day will only have the opposite intended effect.

Worryingly, data from Forbes found that 69% of employees have considered quitting purely because of micromanagement – while 36% actually did throw in the towel. So how can HR leaders avoid it when their teams work remotely – while also ensuring their people are being productive?

“I know a lot of people have different views and are probably sick of hearing about ‘remote working’, however, I’m still a strong believer that management fundamentals should remain the same if you’re working remotely or back in the office,” says Stone.

“The best managers are ones that take on a ‘coaching’ role and set clear objectives and deliverables for team members. Furthermore, they’re not afraid to hold their teams accountable in a fair and inclusive way. I think that a lot of micromanaging tendencies come from poor planning and communication between team members."

Stone is a big believer that the new working from home or in a hybrid model has limited some of the more organic feedback conversations that occurred sitting in the office together.

“However, that just means there needs to be a bigger emphasis on the more formal catch ups,” he tells HRD.

How does micromanagement impact employees?

Micromanagement, as Stone reveals, can lead to a myriad of problems down the line – most concerningly in the current climate being high turnover.

“I will go as far as saying that micromanagement is the biggest driver of a negative company culture,” says Stone. “You’ll lose trust in your employees which will ultimately see a huge decline in output and productivity.”

The unintended repercussions of micromanagement include;

  • Employees will just be ticking the boxes to cruise through their roles
  • You won’t see your team members challenge, push and impact work in a way that is moving the needle
  • The creation of an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ culture
  • High turnover and low engagement scores

What are the alternative to micromanagement?

If you think you might be guilty of micromanaging, take a step back and breathe. While it’s stressful managing people in remote work, and you might think they’re doing less than their in-office colleagues, micromanaging isn’t the solution.

“I think you can simply put it down to open and clear communication between all team members,” Stone tells HRD. “I do believe that setting clear goals, deliverables and objectives is one of the most important roles of a good manager, mentor or coach.

“From my experience of seeing micromanagement tin the past, this is mainly down to managers not having the required training and tools to be a good manager. Move your conversations to coaching conversations rather than feedback conversations.

“These conversations should be ‘always on’ and not just a project wash up or an annual review. No employee should ever go into a difficult conversation without prior knowledge and prep, as all feedback should be two ways.”

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