Could Micromanaging Employees be Driving Them Away from Your Business?

Lately, in the hardwood lumber industry (and just about every other industry) there has been a lot of discussion among businesses about keeping employees engaged and motivated in their work. This seems particularly important now, given the ups and downs of the job market. If you’re lucky enough to find and hire a talented, qualified job candidate, the next big step is being able to retain that employee for as long as possible.

Equally important, you want your business to have a reputation as a place where employees thrive. That’s the best way to ensure continued interest among job seekers in the weeks and months ahead.micromanagement

Probably the most effective way not to keep employees happy is through micromanaging them.

When you or your managers micromanage team members, “you are communicating to them that you don’t trust them to do their jobs and that you don’t believe they have the skills to properly do their work,” notes cultural change expert Monica Meadows. In some cases, micromanaged employees “begin to think you are purposely trying to push them out of the company.”

Here at Baillie Lumber, we do our best to avoid micromanaging employees. From our dedicated and knowledgeable team of Lumber Traders and Foresters to the hard-working employees at our sawmills and concentration yards, we work hard to provide them with opportunities to grow in their careers, make profitable decisions, and consistently find new and better ways of getting things done.

For business owners and managers who still feel some form of micromanagement is needed, consider these potential negative effects on employees:

  • Diminished morale
  • Stifled creativity and innovation
  • Less productivity
  • Loss of self-confidence

All these effects can lead to increased employee turnover—never a good situation for a business. No one wants to show up at work “and feel they are walking into a penitentiary with their every movement being monitored,” observes business author Brigette Hyacinth. “I have never seen a happy staff under micromanagement.”

So how can leaders avoid the micromanaging trap? Here are a few thoughts we found helpful to keep in mind.

Start with your high performers. Look closely at those individuals who display a consistently upbeat attitude, a desire to learn new skills and the commitment to go above and beyond their job descriptions. If a high-performing employee’s manager sometimes slips into micromanagement, suggest instead that they observe his or her work habits, “in the hopes that there are ‘lessons learned' that can be applied to the workplace in general.”

Armed with this knowledge, you can encourage your high-performing employees to share techniques and other habits their co-workers can successfully emulate.

Be careful when selecting a project leader. No one is claiming that employees can’t benefit from being managed properly. At the same time, it’s important to always match a project with the right team and leader. “An unskilled employee completing a high-risk task should be closely managed,” notes Omnia, a management consulting firm. In general, an important project “should probably be reassigned to a more seasoned staff member in the first place.”

Make sure your expectations are understood. Micromanaging sometimes seems necessary when an employee fails to grasp what is expected of him or her—often because expectations haven’t been made clear to them. Setting realistic expectations, and ensuring they are understood by the employee, can lead the way to decreased micromanagement. 

Talk frankly with employees about preferred management styles. Consider consulting with your team members about their preferred management style. Some will welcome a more hands-on approach, while many others will voice the hope you can trust in their knowledge and capabilities.

This two-sided conversation demonstrates to employees that, as Harvard Business School Online puts it, “you respect their opinions, while also letting go of any assumptions you might have about how you’re performing as a supervisor.” In other words, a frank discussion around this subject can lead to improved management and performance all around.

You hire people based on their experience, judgment, and skillsets. Give them the space to use those abilities, without stifling motivation or creativity. When you do, everyone wins!

Brett Del Prince
Baillie Lumber
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