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How Soft Skills Training for Managers Can Reduce Micromanagement in the Workplace

  • By Sheldon Kawarsky
  • October 25, 2023

Micromanagement in the Workplace

The goal of every manager is to empower and motivate employees to perform at their best. While leaders may never find a management style that perfectly suits every personality on their team, there are some styles to avoid, specifically micromanagement in the workplace. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of this helicopter style, it’s important to recognize and address the signs as soon as possible.

This blog post delves into the issue of micromanagement and explains how leaders can use soft skills to avoid micromanaging their employees.

What Is Micromanagement in the Workplace?

Micromanagement is a management style where supervisors meticulously control or monitor an employee’s work. This style may include managing each step of certain job processes, requiring constant updates from team members, and failing to delegate tasks to others.

Micromanaging can damage the manager-employee relationship, implying a lack of confidence in the employee to do the job they were hired to do.

Common Reasons for Micromanagement

What leads a manager to micromanage their team? Often, micromanagers:

  • Lack team leadership skills
  • Fear losing control
  • Seek the comfort of performing familiar tasks (their old job)
  • Are perfectionists with unrealistically high standards
  • Are insecure about their subordinates outperforming them

Micromanagement is sometimes also a response to incompetent employees, but it more frequently results from the manager’s own personality traits, feelings, or insecurities.

Adverse Effects of Micromanagement on Employees, Teams, and Organizations

Micromanagement in the workplace can have far-reaching consequences, negatively impacting individual workers, teams, and entire organizations.

  • Decreased Morale: Employees who believe managers don’t trust their skills and abilities may lose motivation to excel and become apathetic towards their work. 
  • Higher Turnover: Micromanaged employees feel stifled (or worse, demeaned) by the nonstop handholding and look for employment elsewhere, where their expertise will be appreciated. 
  • Reduced Productivity: Hyperfocusing on details over the big picture can reduce overall productivity. Employees spend too much time checking in with management, while managers are too involved with employees’ work to do their own. 
  • Stress and Burnout: With management constantly hovering over their shoulder, workers stress over doing everything “right” to avoid criticism. Managers may burnout as they struggle to juggle everyone else’s work on top of their own. 
  • Missed Opportunities: Employees shine with their adaptability often during challenging times, such as taking on a difficult client or project. Micromanagement takes away the opportunity for employees to move the organization forward through change and risk-taking. 
  • Dysfunctional Communication: Micromanagers tend to dictate a plan of action to teams rather than allow for engagement and collaboration. Team members are unlikely to communicate with each other and instead defer to management to complete tasks. 
  • Inhibited Creativity: Always having to do things the manager’s way can discourage employee creativity, leaving no room for new and better ideas. 
  • Dependence on the Manager: A micromanaged team will lose confidence in their ability to do the work independently and constantly seek management’s advice. 
  • Limited Decision-Making: Teams face difficulty making decisions when every detail has to be pre-approved by the manager or when management has not delegated tasks appropriately. 
  • Negative Reputation: If word spreads within the industry of management’s micromanaging style, it can earn the whole company a poor reputation and hurt its chances of recruiting the best talent.
  • Eroded Organizational Culture: Left unchecked, micromanagement can infiltrate company culture, leading to a systemic breakdown in communication and trust. 

Companies should prioritize reducing micromanagement in the workplace to avoid these pitfalls at every level. 

Essential Soft Skills for Managers and Leaders That Can Reduce Micromanagement

One way of resolving micromanagement issues is to invest in leadership training for new managers. Leadership isn’t an innate ability for everyone. Many successful managers and leaders have spent time developing the soft skills necessary to manage a team effectively. Soft skills are the intangible personal qualities that enable a person to interact and work well with others.

Effective Communication Skills

Communicating clearly and effectively is a basic element of good people management skills. After all, it is a manager’s job to define roles, responsibilities, and expectations for employees so they can achieve individual and team objectives. When communication is open and free-flowing, everyone understands their contribution to the team’s success and feels secure to express their ideas or concerns.

Active-Listening Skills

Effective communicators understand that listening skills are just as important as speaking skills. Active listening means fully engaging in what the speaker is saying and feeling. This includes maintaining eye contact, paying attention to the speaker’s nonverbal cues, and eliminating distractions and interruptions. It allows leaders to better understand the worker’s viewpoint and respond thoughtfully.

Delegation Skills

Managers should learn their employees’ strengths and weaknesses and assign tasks accordingly. This ensures that responsibilities are divided among team members and that no one person has complete control or accountability for team affairs.

Team-Building Skills

It’s important to build a sense of camaraderie in a team. The spirit of trust and rapport helps leaders and team members work cooperatively toward the same vision. Some examples of team-building exercises include:

  • Establishing regular group check-ins
  • Celebrating team successes
  • Acknowledging individual achievements
  • Giving proactive feedback

Conflict-Resolution Skills

Conflicts are inevitable in the workplace, so leaders must know how to resolve them quickly and professionally. You’ll need the patience and emotional intelligence to understand both sides of the issue, maintain impartiality, de-escalate should emotions reach uncomfortable heights and protect relationships from irreparable damage.

Problem-Solving Skills

Problem-solving skills allow a leader to analyze a situation and find the best solution based on available information. It requires active listening, constructive communication, and effective collaboration. Managers must also keep a calm and positive attitude because the team will look to them for guidance when problems appear, and their disposition will set the tone for better or worse.

Adaptability and Stress-Management Skills

Adapting to changing and stressful situations will be useful in working through conflicts and problem-solving. Adaptability helps managers think outside the box to resolve unexpected concerns, and displaying grace under pressure will inspire the team’s confidence in leadership’s ability to take control of the situation.

Time-Management Skills 

There are only so many hours in a day, but managing the time allotted effectively allows leaders to focus on the most essential matters. Good time-management skills in a leader are a combination of carefully prioritizing and scheduling tasks, delegating responsibilities, communicating clear objectives and setting firm deadlines. This way, they will have time to follow up with the less pressing (but also important) issues.

Employee-Feedback Skills

Great managers can give and receive constructive feedback from employees, earning their trust in the process. Employees benefit from respectful critique of their work and feel empowered to share their ideas to improve the team’s performance.

Join Our Soft Skills Training Workshops for Managers and Leaders at TSSG

Are your staff members falling victim to micromanagement in the workplace? The Soft Skills Group (TSSG) can equip your managers with the skills necessary to lead their teams with trust and respect. Contact us today to discover how our workshops boost your leaders’ employee management skills.

Sheldon Kawarsky

Sheldon has over 20 years of experience holding manager and director roles in the private and academic sectors, focusing on business development and fostering relationships with companies, universities, government organizations, and venture capitalists. His strength is in relationship building and clarifying the needs of clients to ensure their training maximizes their return on investment.