Why some employees want to be micromanaged

Some employees cannot seem to survive without constant guidance and hand-holding. Why?

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It is easy to blame the manager for micromanaging, but there are some employees who not only seek micromanagement, but actually need it. This is certainly an attention-grabbing statement. Why? Because it is a known fact that nobody likes to be micromanaged, whether at the workplace or anywhere else. At the core of engagement lies capability and trust, both of which micromanagement denies.

Prasad Kulkarni

“In my experience, retraining works, and the manager has to be present to explain, train, coach and guide the employee. A need for micromanagement may also occur if an employee has not had the chance to create and express.”

However, the fact of the matter is that there are always few employees who feel comfortable seeking and obtaining approval for every little task and being directed at every turn. Doing so makes them feel secure and comfortable, knowing that the onus of responsibility is not on them. Such employees need to be micromanaged.

This is not specific to the current situation. The initial phase of the new work-from- home mode witnessed many layoffs, which led to fewer employees within organisations. During that period, there may have been many employees burdened with additional responsibilities as their colleagues were asked to leave. In such situations, if a workers were to suddenly be asked to handle new tasks, they would definitely require some micromanagement for a short while.

This is one example of a situation where some amount of micromanagement may be necessary, but only as a temporary measure. For instance, in the above example, when companies were in a crisis and employees found themselves wearing multiple hats, experienced managers certainly needed to come to the forefront and guide them. If employees are new to certain tasks, they would definitely need more of their manager’s time in the initial stages to build competence.

There also exist some members in the workforce, who cannot survive without direction. One may be quick to assume that it is only the junior freshers who require such spoon-feeding, but the same may be true even for individuals with a few years of experience. We can exclude senior managers or leaders, as their roles, by default, require them to be capable and self-directed.

Subir Roy Chowdhury

“A need for constant direction has more to do with a lack of confidence and conviction. It is up to the managers to build up the conviction level of the employees. It may take a while, but over a period of time mistakes will come down.”

Such need for constant hand-holding is born out of stress, and the people who experience this need are least likely to be star performers at any organisation. The need emerges out of an incapability to do things by themselves or a lack of confidence, despite being capable. In the worst case, it can be both.

Why do such individuals lack these qualities? That is a deep question, the answer to which may hint at a personality type. Changing personality styles is not an easy task nor a quick-fix one.

What can be done

Such situations may be frustrating for managers, as they may end up performing half the employee’s work themselves. We asked HR pundits what can be done in such cases, and how such employees can be dealt with.

The basic rules to follow in such a scenario are: present clear and direct feedback to the employees; have an actual conversation with them discussing what is required or expected from them; and convey the big picture instead of reprimanding for specific instances only.

Prasad Kulkarni, VP-HR, Accelya Group, says that in cases where there is a lot of micromanagement occuring, a short period of retraining can be arranged for the employee. “In my experience, retraining works, and the manager in this case has to be present to explain, train, coach and guide the employee. A need for micromanagement may also occur if that person has not had the chance to create and express,” opines Kulkarni.

For instance, this may be a time for managers to take a step back and slowly start delegating. In the beginning, the employees may continue to make mistakes, but, over a period of time, these will subside.

Subir Roy Chowdhury, CHRO, Satin Creditcare Network, explains that the need for micromanagement stems from something deep below the surface. “A need for constant direction has more to do with a lack of confidence and conviction. It is up to the managers to build up the conviction level of the employees. It may take a while, but over a period of time those mistakes will come down,” asserts Chowdhury.

While the junior staff may initially need guidance from their seniors, few fall behind and are unable to gather the resolve to self-direct. To help such employees cope, a well-defined process, such as a document outlining all steps necessary to complete their daily tasks may help.

If none of the above measures work, then there is a need to address the matter as a serious performance issue. If appropriate, a formal improvement plan with specific timelines may be in order, including considering a change in role. At the end of the day, the employee in question may be discovered to be a misfit for the role.

To conclude, whether or not employees require extensive direction, flows from a lot of factors, including their personality and their upbringing. Very few individuals have a style, which is quite structured and directed, the details of which are not possible to include in this article. However, before resorting to harsh measures, it would certainly be helpful for the employers to remember that there is always a way to deal with employees of such nature.