In the late 1800s and early 1900s a man named Fredrick Taylor came up with theories called scientific management. Taylor supported a scientific application to the workplace where he proposed exact processes and methods that all workers should use to carry out work, mostly in industrial companies. These exactions were supposed to lead to optimal economic efficiency. While these ideas seem extreme, the same essential issue of trying to control employees to an extreme can still be seen in today’s workplaces. Micromanagement is a type of business management where managers or supervisors closely control or observe details of employee work. Micromanaging employees could be characterized by employers or managers that give very specific direction without allowing for employee creative contribution, close observation for errors in even tiny details, or allowing workers to have little to no control over job decisions.
Micromanagement can be a concern for companies for many reasons. First there is an obvious resentment from employees if they are treated as if they are incapable of performing their jobs without being told exacting details. Managers may think they are doing a good thing by being super specific with instructions and directions to avoid errors. As managers may often feel, telling someone exactly the way to do something is the only way to get it done the way you want; however, even errors here and there may be worth it to keep the employees feeling as if they are an important part of the company rather than a replaceable part. Employees are often unmotivated if they are constantly over directed or over observed. It can be easy for an employee to get the attitude that they could never do well enough to make their manager happy. These negative attitudes can be dangerous if they diffuse throughout the organization where employee camaraderie, teamwork, and general workplace culture may suffer. Employees can also become highly unmotivated if they don’t feel personally connected and responsible to their job. When being tightly observed and told exactly what to do, it can make them feel like their contribution to the workplace isn’t all that unique or useful. When employees feel personally important to the organization and feel intrinsically motivated to do their job their work will reflect such dedication. Lastly, when employees feel freedom and job autonomy towards their job, it may result in more creative and profitable ideas or solutions. When all employees feel that they have the right to provide input to an issue or work task, many more potential ideas may be more positive than one overly abrasive manager’s opinion. Restricting employee task performance or idea generation to what is specified by a supervisor can only restrain potential for employees and the company to grow.
So, what if your company is using the practice of micromanagement or may just have a few practices that make employees feel overly controlled? Making adjustments in the organization could really help improve workplace culture, employee satisfaction, and innovative outcomes. Managers need to be trained on how to balance giving direction while allowing employees autonomy to be creative and make decisions regarding their work. If a manager has been controlling in the past, it will be important to make the changes in the organizational procedures very obvious. Such managers need to show approval for employees that do take advantage of their job autonomy when it results in positive outcomes. These changes should be encouraged organization-wide. In order to keep high organizational justice perceptions, all individuals in the organization should be allowed some job autonomy to some degree. Some jobs may require more supervisor control than others, but any changes to make employees feel as though they are a unique and valuable component of the organization will encourage peak performance and happy employees.