Micromanagement and Remote Workers - A Challenge in the New Normal

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The Problem Statement

Working from home, if not remote working, has become the new normal after COVID-19. This has drastically changed the way organizations operate and employees function. Amongst many challenges caused by the above, there is one significant struggle every young manager faces day in and day out. That is the intensifying confusion about achieving the same productivity businesses once had when operating on-site. To make things more challenging, the leaders have concerns about lack of control which has driven most of them to micromanage.

First Burning Question

Before getting into finding a solution, the first puzzle to solve is, 'Am I micromanaging my team?' Unfortunately, there is no scientific or statistical method to solve this one. Gartner's research proposes trusting the gut feeling on this occasion and relying on a genuine self-evaluation. However, they have given some help here. According to their findings, many managers who tend to micromanage feel that they can not trust their employees to perform their jobs properly when they are away from the onsite environment. On the reverse side, this makes the employees feel less trusted, lose self-confidence, and contribute less. Another vicious cycle in action!!.

To make the self-evaluation easier, there are 05 questions managers can ask themselves.

  1. Do I often have concerns about or question (outspokenly or silently) employees’ productivity?

  2. Do I find myself constantly wanting to be informed of every bit of progress made?

  3. Do I peek into systems records to check that someone actually did what I asked?

  4. Do I find myself limiting others’ authority to keep myself engaged with initiatives?

  5. Do I find it difficult to delegate tasks because I don’t trust they will get done?

Tip: If the answer is yes for any of the above, then you have the attributes of a micromanager.

The Way Forward: Solution

As it is visible, this is a fierce battle between supervision and micromanagement. The 05 question evaluation drives managers to question their understanding of the actual supervision and its evil-twin, 'micromanagement'. Luckily, the research also proposes a few effective action items that can be adapted to overcome this situation.

Reflect - Block out a time from your daily schedule to evaluate the value you brought into the business by supervising on a day. Think again about whether you could have utilized that time for more strategic activities? Balance that time through such a mindful conscious approach.

Understand the perfection you are trying to achieve - On a scale of 1-10, what level of productivity are you trying to achieve? Where is your team right now on the same scale? When eight is more than enough, are you pushing too far for a 10?

A statistical balance for guidance and freedom - This is another scenario where the 80/20 rule can become handy. Let the employees execute 80% of the work on their own way while providing your guidance for only 20%.

Trust your team - The beneficiary of guidance should not be the manager but the employee. Develop a sense of trust and transmit it towards the team. Reduce the number of cross-checkings and manage by objectives.

Plan for the worst-case - This will provide an extra layer of safety in case of a failure. More importantly, preparedness for the worst case will leave everyone with an opportunity to learn from mistakes.

Do not blame - Let the team come up with solutions during failures rather than initiating it with instant blame.

Conclusion & Personal Opinion

Modern businesses have moved to remote work where managers struggle with achieving the same productivity and organizational control. This compels managers to micromanage, but there are methods to overcome this challenge. In my opinion, there is no such ideal framework that will suit the practical situations of the current business organizational context. However, knowledge like this should be adapted by modern leaders according to their critical analysis of the case. At the end of the day, great teams lead to great achievements.