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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What about giving staff space to work

The author is an Organizational Development Practitioner

When you buy a dog, you should not go out yourself to bark, so goes the proverb. As much as this sounds hilarious as you would not expect a man who goes out to bark having locked in the dog, it is a possibility at the workplace. A close interaction with workers indicate that there are instances when they have been ‘forced’ to be on the periphery of critical work engagements even when they had been hired specifically for those tasks.

This is commonly referred to as micromanagement. According to the Wikipedia, micromanagement is a management style where a manager closely observes or controls the work of his or her subordinates or employees. Micromanagement generally has a negative connotation due to the results it brings forth. In most cases, micromanagement starts off as a harmless engagement where the boss seeks to provide guidance to the new hire as they settle at work. This is usually taken kindly since the employee considers this as part of company policy for mentorship or induction. 

But as time progresses, when the employee realises that the boss has been unable to detach and keeps guiding and pulling the strings, the employees start to get a bit uncomfortable. This is when the push, shove and resistance set in. Employees want to feel they have been provided with space to perform the tasks placed on their in-trays with minimal interference. Being provided with room to be creative and learn on the job is a huge esteem booster as employees struggle with concepts and practices and eventually crack the nuts through trials and persistence engagement.

Micromanagement has been seen a clear indicator of lack of trust by the boss in the supervised. In could be that the boss does not trust the capacity of the employee or the quality of the results. In as much as the boss could be under pressure to produce results, micromanaging is never the best route to get your results. It has been suggested that you could consider enhancing the capacities of the employee in the areas you realize they need support in. With this, you will spend less time enhancing staff capacity and the rest of your time basking in the glory of beautiful results.
Micromanagement is one of the key killers of team work. You could authorize the spending to the last coin for company team building, but your effort could boil down to naught if staff are not provided with space to operate. Staff want to feel part of the system that produces the company results and want to feel valued. Taking up roles designated for other staff amounts to a no-confidence vote in the staff. This gradually erodes the commitment and attachment of the employees to the company since they start to feel they are unable to attribute any portion of the results to their effort.

Finally, we all manage risks differently. When managers are risk averse, there is a tendency to micromanage. The fear of failure has been known to grip managers who subsequently play very close ball with the staff they supervise just to ensure no errors are committed and no losses incurred. As much as this helps reduce losses in the short term, it has the undesired effect of stifling creativity and learning at work. Let staff explore, fail, learn and grow. That is what a workplace should be all about. It should not be an environment that structurally prohibits creativity and risk taking.

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