You’re Micromanaging Without Even Knowing it

The prevailing problem is that many micromanagers don’t even realize that their behavior counts as micromanaging.
The prevailing problem is that many micromanagers don’t even realize that their behavior counts as micromanaging.
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Micromanagers are notorious for failing to understand why micromanagement is an issue.

The mindset is that managers are supposed to manage—ipso facto. That’s why they’re in charge in the first place. By that logic, why should it matter if they peek over employees’ shoulders every now and then to double-check work, or dictate every action down to a tee? It’s their reputation and their store that’s on the line.

The problem, bluntly, is that micromanagement turns managers into puppet masters and employees into their marionettes.

Some managers might not have a problem with that. That’s fine, so long as they’re content with extracting the bare minimum effort from their employees. Recognition is a pillar of employee engagement, and when workers are not delegated independent responsibility, they do not feel valued—the result is less productivity.

Micromanagement, then, is a double whammy: workers become disenchanted and efforts lag; the manager wastes precious bandwidth on meticulously dictating every detail when he or she could be engaging with customers or tending to other crucial responsibilities.

This concentration of lost efficiency exerts a strong negative influence on the bottom line. When employees are not engaged and management is nowhere to be found, customer experience suffers, and sales are lost.

Evidently, micromanagement is the first in a chain of deadly dominoes that undermines business. But everyone already knows that micromanagement is bad—right? There are no managers that cite micromanagement as a winning strategy; there is no foundational text of the micromanagement school.

Yet across the retail, hospitality and restaurant industries, micromanagement continues to thrive, plainly and boldly in the open.

How is this possible?

The prevailing problem is that many micromanagers don’t even realize that their behavior counts as micromanaging. Here are the best practices that top managers use to ensure they don’t fall into the trap.

Observe—don’t hover. Micromanagers are like helicopter parents, hovering over employees’ every customer interaction in order to ensure things are running smoothly. Besides indicating a lack of trust in workers, this behavior injects a major stress element into employees’ work days: even if a worker’s performance is consistently great, the knowledge that every action is being scrutinized is exhausting and leads to quick burnout. And no manager can be everywhere at once: when helicopter managers do withdraw, the weight of the pressure causes employees to sag and service to suffer. Managers should occasionally observe, but only occasionally—workers need to know that their leadership trusts them to perform. That confidence builds empowerment that perpetuates even better performance.

Schedule Check-ins. The non-hovering mindset is aided by designating specific times to review performance. Scheduling a once-per-month check-in with each employee infuses a definite element of accountability into work while simultaneously letting employees know that they are trusted to handle the brunt of the shifts without ceaseless supervision. A structured 15-minute one-on-one time block is sufficient to go over achievements and recognition while leaving time for coaching areas that need work if necessary.

Ask questions. The worst managers think that they already have all the answers, and that their job is to force their own vision of store operations onto their employees. In reality, the relationship should be almost entirely the opposite: managers should view their employees as invaluable information-gathering resources who can speak to the changing currents of customer demands and expectations. No one has more face time with customers than frontline workers, and their anecdotal insight can be coupled with larger scale analytics to form a complete picture of the store climate.

Ashish Gambhir is an entrepreneur and 15-year veteran of the restaurant and hospitality industry. He is the co-founder of MomentSnap, a mobile-first frontline employee engagement platform optimized for quick service and fast casual environments. He previously co-founded NewBrand Analytics, a social media listening tool that was acquired by Sprinklr last summer.
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