Written by 9:00 am Women in Business

The Truth About Micromanagement and Accountability

Be Accountable

I’ve written and spoken about this topic numerous times, but there appears to be a big misconception in today’s society about what constitutes micromanagement and what defines holding people accountable for the work they do.

Some employees complain they’re being micromanaged when, actually, they’re being held accountable. I just have a hard time understanding their perspective. I don’t know if it’s fair to call these individuals soft or lazy, but there certainly seems to be a divide between employees and leaders in terms of how much emphasis is placed on micromanagement versus how much responsibility is given to each individual.

The Telltale Signs of a Micromanager

Maybe the easiest way to solve this conflict is to really define what micromanagement is. True micromanagement occurs when supervisors intervene in every element of their subordinates’ work and decision-making, far beyond what is normal or healthy.

Micromanagement occurs when someone hovers over your every step to ensure your work is completed, or when they don’t trust you to accomplish tasks. 

These are the individuals who typically have the philosophy of if you want something done right, you better do it yourself. 

Hold Your Employees Accountable and Get the Results You Deserve

Employee accountability, on the other hand, is vitally required. They must be held accountable because you, as their leader or business owner, are held accountable by the clients who pay you to ensure that they get what they purchased.

Holding people accountable doesn’t imply a lack of faith; rather, it means you’re ensuring all processes and procedures are being followed correctly—in order to feel confident that deliverables are completed and clients are satisfied.

A strong leader recognizes the importance of autonomy while simultaneously keeping individuals accountable. Someone who simply micromanages their colleagues is not a leader, but rather a manager—in the sense that their only concentration are the duties at hand—and that’s all they’re concerned about.

I hate to admit it, but there’s a time and place for micromanagement. 

Improve The Way You Manage Employees

There comes a point when an employee’s failure to adhere to established protocols undermines confidence in the team’s ability to get the job done.

Time for a performance improvement plan!

A performance improvement plan often incorporates a period of time for a strong leader to monitor the employee on a deeper level (observing tasks and behaviors that occur on a regular basis) in order to rectify the situation.

The requirement for close supervision should end after the specified period of time stipulated in the performance development plan has passed; otherwise, the employee hasn’t earned back the manager’s trust, and the business would be better off without the employee in question.

How to Empower Employees

Instead, as a leader, you should put in place procedures that encourage accountability without limiting employees’ freedom to do their jobs, make decisions, or take care of customers.

If done properly, a leader should make sure such accountability is built into the organization’s processes and procedures, allowing for clear, high-level evaluation of work.

Are You Being Micromanaged?

Ask yourself these questions: 

Am I being babysat? 

Does my manager take the time to meet with me every day and go over my progress as well as what remains to be done?

If that’s the case, you need to ask yourself one more question before you get worked up. 

Have you built trust among the executive staff? 

Have you earned their confidence in that you can carry out responsibilities, or have you given them reason to doubt your abilities? It’s easy to take your frustrations out on a superior, but before you do, check your own behavior to be sure you’re conveying the message you intend.

Leaders value employees who take the initiative to go above and beyond for the customers who pay their salary. 

Why You Need Open and Honest Conversations 

If you have any lingering questions about the way you’re being led or managed, it’s in your best interest to directly bring up your concerns. The worst way to approach this conversation is to accuse someone of micromanaging you without providing any background or evidence.

Communicating your feelings in a way that invites direct and frank responses is the proper approach. You should, for instance, arrange a private meeting with the company’s top leadership.

Approach that one-on-one meeting by letting them know you’re worried they don’t fully trust your abilities and that you’d appreciate hearing their honest comments on how you might grow professionally and more effectively fulfill the responsibilities of your position. That way, you can have an open discussion without fear of retribution and learn more about the root causes of the distrust or micromanagement.

Get the Most Out of Leadership

There may be a disconnect between the way an employee learns and a leader teaches—driving confusion and conflict. Having a meaningful dialogue with the intention of learning, understanding, and growing will assist in resolving the issue, rather than leading to discontentment

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s just some terrible leaders out there—and there’s not much you can do about it besides continuing your way up the chain of command until you get the response you’re looking for to improve the situation.

Messages sent via channels like email and text messaging are among the worst ways to receive and give feedback. Words on paper are also readily misunderstood, leading to a lot of friction between parties.

There is absolutely no replacement for a good old fashion one on one, face-to-face, conversation. 

If both parties go into the discussion expecting a win-win outcome, the chances of reaching an agreement improve significantly. However, the issue will most certainly continue if one party is hesitant to have an open dialogue. 

We’re All Responsible for Our Job

Since I’ve worked in sales and marketing for over two decades, I’ve encountered a wide range of management styles, both positive and negative. Even in my current position, I’m still answerable to the company’s founder for the work that I’m expected to do.

Those who refuse to take responsibility for their actions will always feel they’re being micromanaged. Every day, I see firsthand how the modern workforce struggles to take criticism in stride and even avoids asking for improvement suggestions.

This baffles me because it’s impossible to do better if you have no idea in which areas you’re falling short. If you aren’t open to hearing the reasons for someone else’s suspicion, you can’t expect to win their confidence.

It’s possible that the issue isn’t with the employee at all, but rather with the supervisor, who is having a hard time getting over a similar situation from the past. If that’s the case, then just requesting feedback on how to improve demonstrates a great deal of confidence in the other person.

Maybe the leader just needs more time to grasp your level of dedication to their customers and there’s nothing you can do to improve.

Accountability Means Better Performance

Let’s rally around the accountability flag! 

It’s time that we start treating our fellow colleagues with more respect, and hold each other to a higher standard. It’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure we’re all pulling our weight when it comes to the company’s success.

With a successful foundation of accountability and mutual understanding, our workplace can be more enjoyable, and prosperous, for everyone! 

Let’s put in that extra effort and thrive together—I think you can handle it. 

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Last modified: December 2, 2022