Bad for Your Business, and for You!

As a small business owner, do you often believe that no one can be as competent and productive in their area of expertise, or represent the company as well as you can?  That’s fine, as long as you want to remain a sole proprietor.  However, once you hire employees, jumping in constantly to complete tasks, prevent mistakes, or solve problems can be disastrous for a growing business. 


Yes, new hires, or those being retrained for a new role (even those with a lot of previous experience), need to be given significant training and support while they acclimate to a new environment.  Their independence should be granted in small steps, as they prove their worth.  However, even then, it is important that an employee be allowed to make mistakes.  It is a critical part of the learning process.  It is crucial to evaluate whether they learn from their mistakes, or make too many of them.  If the latter is the case, then it is better to early on reassign them to tasks which better fit their skill/interest profile or terminate them.  Doing the work for them is a waste of resources!


Also, high stakes projects need to monitored more closely, with the responsible employee(s) reporting in at specific, agreed-to intervals.


However, employees who are regularly micromanaged often feel untrusted and unfulfilled, as they are discouraged from learning and being innovative.  Some become so dependent that they won’t make any decision without approval and avoid trying new skills because of a fear of making mistakes which will result in criticism.  Others feel resentment and leave long before they reach their potential.


Bosses who micromanage also suffer, because they have made themselves indispensable.  They are not only planning and supervising projects and doing their own work, but they are taking on the responsibilities of others as well.  They often complain of burn-out and exhaustion.  They do not benefit from the creative contributions of the staff they have hired.


The primary cause of micromanagement is fear:

  • that someone else will not do a job as well, especially if they use a somewhat different process
  • that an employee’s failure to learn reflects badly on the owner/manager
  • that an employee mistake will destroy the business’ reputation       

The primary antidote is better communication.

  • Employees need to know clearly what is expected of them, whether it be in terms of attitude, skill set, time deadlines or budget.  Use SMART goals which are specific, attainable, relative, and time-sensitive.
  • Employees should be encouraged to ask questions or solicit help with new responsibilities, without fear of blame or embarrassment.
  • Encourage employees to problem-solve by offering you possible solutions along with every issue that they bring to your attention.
  • Do acknowledge all incoming requests in a timely manner, even if initially only by email, providing a time-frame for getting back with an answer.  Require employees to do the same in return.
  • Be open to hearing about alternative ways of doing things.