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How to Keep Your Team Effective Without Micromanaging

By Daniela McVickar on March, 27 2020
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Daniela McVickar

Marjon Bell had a boss who most people would agree was a micromanager. Her boss banned cellphones from the office, tracked employee’s movements obsessively, and provided other employees incentives for ‘tattling’ on one another. She would even make employees email her when they left their desks, and when they returned. According to Bell, she left within six months and found the job experience demoralizing and demotivating.


There’s another problem. While the boss in the previous story clearly was a micromanager, women in management often have to fight against the perception that they are micromanagers. In fact, women who use the same management techniques as men are viewed as bossy.

 Specifically, if men want detailed, daily progress reports, that is seen as effective management. When a woman does the same, that’s perceived as micromanagement. So, not only do women have to avoid actual micromanagement, they may need to be concerned about perceived micromanagement as well. 

Unfair? Probably, but fortunately, there are some ways to keep your team on task without micromanaging.


Find Better Ways to Track Progress on Tasks

If you are a project manager, you really need to stay on top of things. Even a small detail getting away from you can cause a project to go off the rails. At the same time, questioning your team members too often, or demanding detailed status updates on a daily basis can feel intrusive for them. They may even think you don’t trust them.

One way to fix this problem is to find better, less intrusive ways to track progress. There are several tools that you can use to track progress without imposing too much control.

Use Appropriately Positive Motivation

A study from Warwick University shows that people work harder when they are happy. When productivity is lagging, it’s best to find out why. In many cases, low morale is the cause, not a lack of supervision. Consider focusing on that to improve productivity. You can do this by finding appropriate ways to use positive motivation. 

What counts as appropriately positive motivation? Tangible actions that match the importance of the effort or accomplishment are key. This might include:


  • A catered lunch to celebrate completing a major project.
  • Sending an office email thanking a group of employees for working overtime to complete an urgent task.
  • Offering an employee an additional personal day for exceeding their productivity goals.


Encourage Breaks and Vacations

Micromanagers often fight hard against the notion that employees need downtime to be effective. Some may crack down on it entirely. Others may impose so many conditions, rules, and restrictions that they effectively create a ban. As the story in the lead paragraph shows, this rarely if ever makes employees more productive. Instead, they feel unappreciated, and not motivated to work in the company’s best interests. 

By accommodating breaks and vacations, managers show they care about their team members. This can provide more motivation to stay productive than any negative consequences or rules.


Identify and Eliminate Roadblocks

Rather than assuming that a lack of team productivity is driven by a lack of discipline or not enough supervision, consider what roadblocks might be preventing workers from succeeding. Examples of roadblocks are: 

  • Lack of training.
  • Not enough staff.
  • Workers spend too much time on tasks that should be outsourced.
  • Confusing or lack of communication.

Identify what might be preventing workers from doing their best, then step in to eliminate those roadblocks. For example, if you have a small marketing team that is spending too much time on content, you can provide them with tools, resources, and information such as Canva for creating graphics, Hemingway for proofreading, and Trustmypaper for content writing.    

Focus on Accountability

When people feel as if their every move is being monitored by a micromanaging leader, that can actually take away any sense of accountability that they have. After all, why should they feel responsible for an end result, if they can’t be trusted to work on a project in their area of expertise without constant supervision. It’s frustrating, and a bit infantilizing. 

Instead of micromanaging, try laying out very clear expectations. Communicate with each team member what they are accountable for, and when it needs to be delivered. Accountability isn’t a threat of punishment. It’s simply an assurance that each person will be evaluated according to their responsibilities.

Final Thoughts

Micromanagement can damage morale, increase turnover, and lead to a decrease in productivity. In addition to that, micromanagers spend too much time tracking the minutiae of employees’ activity rather than leading. For women in leadership, the perception of being a micromanager can have serious impacts. By following the tips here, you can keep your teams on track without frustrating them with micromanaging tendencies.


About the author: Daniela McVicker is a blogger and a freelance writer who works closely with B2B and B2C businesses. Currently, she’s a content editor for AllTopReviews, a service to check the top 10 websites for writing help. Daniela is focused on building an effective team where everyone can become a better version of themselves. When Daniela isn’t writing, she loves to travel, read romance and science fiction, and try new wines.