Why You Should Get Your Hands Off Your Employees

by Dora Wang on Jan 23, 2015 2:00:00 PM

Leadership Qualities Shouldn't Turn Into MicromanagingOver half of employees say they’ve worked for a micromanager. Yikes. And those micromanagers hurt the morale of 68% of them, and productivity of 55%. Double yikes.

Of course no one wants to be a micromanager. And chances are, no one thinks they’re one (even if they really are). That’s because a lot of the traits of a micromanager can actually sound like good leadership qualities. Being attentive? Helping your employees out? Handling the details so everything goes smoothly? That sounds great.

But micromanaging is bad for your employees’ work, and it’s bad for your bottom line.

The Billion-Dollar Problem

Constantly interrupting workers “just to check in” isn’t just a nuisance. It actually costs companies money in lost productivity (one estimate is $588 billion annually in the U.S. alone).

Interruptions at work have been the subject of multiple studies, and the news isn’t good. For instance, the average amount of time it takes for someone to get back to their task after an interruption is 23 minutes. So a manager who stops their worker to get an update every hour is nearly cutting that worker’s productivity in half. And when employees rush to make up for their lost time, the result is more stress and a lower quality of work.

What about micromanagers who don’t actually interrupt employees ... but just keep an eye on them? Hovering as a constant presence over someone’s shoulder is still disruptive, because people who believe they are being watched perform at a lower level. Constant monitoring to ensure good work does just the opposite.

Lead Better By Backing Off

Some of the best leadership qualities require involvement with your team. You want to be a mentor, you want to be someone they can rely on, and you want to make sure they always know what’s going on. How can you be hands-off without your employees thinking you don’t care?

It’s all about setting up a foundation where your employees know you’re a good leader. Then you don’t have to make a big fuss about showing them every 15 minutes.

Make yourself available when they need you. If you’re always closing your office door or giving short, hurried answers to their questions, then it doesn’t matter how often you show your face at their desk. They’ll think of you as inaccessible. So give them your full attention when they come to you. If you can’t do so at the moment, tell them you’ll reschedule—and always follow up.

Get to know your employees’ capabilities. If you have a strong understanding of what your people can do, then you won’t need to monitor every aspect of their work. Train them, give them productive feedback, and check on their progress occasionally. Then trust them to do well.

Get your employees to know you. Clearly communicate what they need to know about your role and responsibilities. Keep them in the loop about relevant projects, and share with them your professional vision. When you’re open and transparent, you won’t need to tell your employees what you want, because they’ll already know.

These are the ways to demonstrate real leadership qualities, rather than a micromanager’s hollow imitations. They’ll save you the time, your employees the stress, and your company the cost.

 

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This post was written by Dora Wang

Dora is an employee engagement researcher for TINYpulse and managing editor of TINYinstitute. Having grown up in Texas, she is now firmly settled in Seattle, where she spends her free time reading comic books, wrangling her three cats, and (of course) rooting for the Seahawks.

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