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The Case Against Micromanagement

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Does micromanagement work in Philippine office situations?

There have been several discussions with regard to micromanagement— whether it is a management style suitable for our country. First, to define it, micromanagement is a practice wherein a subordinate is constantly watched over and directed by a boss, who would also require that even small details be raised to the higher-ups.

Due to the (subservient) culture of Filipinos, there is a tendency for many to simply follow and be obedient in these kinds of situations.

But does the above apply to all type of employees? Based on our own observation and interviews, here are five reasons why it may not work.

1) Initiative
When micromanagement gets into the work system of an employee, the work habit developed is one of dependency on the directions of the boss. This extends even in the way things are done and the manner of execution.

Moving one step back, the initiative of an employee is therefore affected and suppressed to the point that a response would be only according to the directions given. There would be no room to explore possibilities or out-of-the-box thinking.

2) Recognition
Since the boss is the one who practically calls the shots and dictates what needs to be done and how exactly to do such, then the recognition for a “good” performance or work execution is seldom attributed to the employee. There is no feeling of accomplishment since anyone could have done the job—anyway the boss was always there to observe, direct, and manage. We would, at times, even hear remarks from observers such as “If the boss was not on top of the situation, things would not have been done”or “It’s great that the employees were constantly shadowed by their boss to avoid mistakes.”

3) Respect
Imagine a situation where the boss is always around, calling the attention of employees for the slightest error or deviation from standards. It’s like placing people in an aquarium and constantly observing their every move, every action. Eventually, employees lose respect for themselves, especially when the boss calls their attention in front of everyone else.

This can be both embarrassing and humiliating to the point that instead of a positive and proactive behavior, the employee avoids the work that must be done.

4) Performance
Employees tend to be confused when the performance evaluation process is undertaken and they are rated as “fair” or “needs improvement” when, in their eyes, they know that the micromanagement approach never gave them a chance to perform better.

Words used during debriefing of a performance evaluation process can sound empty to employees since they know what they hear can’t happen. Examples of these are “I want to challenge you to be a better employee,” “You are not showing the potential to grow in your job,” or “I don’t see initiative on your part.”

Therefore, it becomes a challenge for management to also be aware of what message they are sending as they assess the true performance of an employee. Is it more of “You will do just fine if you follow step-by-step what we expect you to do” or “This is what we want you to accomplish. We leave it to your discretion how to go about it as long as you keep within the framework.”

5) Fear
Micromanagement builds the discipline of “Follow instructions to the letter.” This means a clear understanding that what is being requested needs to be done the way it’s supposed to be done. To ensure such, the boss would constantly monitor the subordinate and would immediately call attention to signs of possible lapses or miscues.

During the post-analysis work, the discussion would center more on what was done wrongly or what was violated and then a lengthy explanation has to be provided. In the end, the impact on the subordinates is one of fear to commit mistakes, to think differently, to voice out a suggestion.

This ‘halo effect’ has longterm repercussions as the self-confidence or self-esteem of a person is not built. Fear is carried throughout the work experience and can definitely affect future opportunities of the subordinate to explore new thoughts and eventually build competency.

Net Takeaway
The above factors are just some considerations that could affect the performance of subordinates who prefer to be given a window and a certain amount of leverage to execute a target with their own approach or style.

Likewise, these employees would be the ones who believe that the accountability for a performance should be determined by their own actions.

But there are also those employees who are comfortable with micromanagement as a leadership style since they need guidance and direction to get things done.

What is important for the boss is to be perceptive and aware of when micromanagement will apply to which type of employee.

Print ed: 04/13


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