7 Ways Micromanagement Stifles Creativity

 

“We agree completely that micromanagement is a big mistake. It diminishes people’s self-confidence, saps their initiative, and stifles their ability to think for themselves. It’s also a recipe for screwing things up—micromanagers rarely know as much about what needs to be done as the people they’re harassing, the ones who actually do it.”
Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

Micromanagement happens when a leader tries to control every aspect of how another employee, or group of employees performs their role, or even tasks within their role. This stye of management does more harm that good as it suggests the leader must have total control, doesn’t trust the employees or doesn’t have faith in their ability to do the job.

The end result of this style of leadership is a stifling of creativity and innovation in the organization. When all decisions have to go through the leader and every idea is scrutinized, the employee’s creativity stagnates. Here’s why:

  1. Employees become disengaged. When they feel they are not trusted, or everything is under someone’s personal microscope, or they feel that their input and ideas don’t matter, employees become apathetic and are no longer emotionally invested in the project or the company.
  2. Employees don’t grow. When employees are not free to do the work they feel they’ve been given to do without being trusted and valued, growth stops. When leaders look for every small mistake or make trivial changes to what the employee has suggested, the employees are boxed into a job where they feel they can’t make any mistakes, and risk-taking is not esteemed. Learning from mistakes and successful risk taking lead to growth and employee satisfaction.
  3. Employees don’t feel appreciated. When every aspect of their job is under observation and scrutiny employees often feel rewarded or that leaders care about the blood, sweat and tears that they have put into the job.
  4. Employees don’t feel trusted. When every idea is either stifled, changed or redirected, or when every move is watched for errors, employees not only don’t feel trusted, they won’t trust leaders or other employees. An organization without trust can hardly grow since little creation and innovation happen when people don’t trust each other.
  5. Employees feel forced to work the same way. We all think differently and approach challenges from different perspectives. Micromanagers expect employees to work in the same way, typically the way they used to do it. There’s no reason to dictate the way the end goal is reached if the results match the expectations and original goals.
  6. Employees become passive-aggressive. When leaders are micromanagers often the employees who remain with the organization become passive-aggressive. The organization becomes characterized by employees who show indirect resistance to the leader’s demands. They avoid direct confrontation and often procrastinate and develop a “Fine, Whatever,” attitude.
  7. The company won’t attract creative people. Companies have personalities and when the word is out that XXX, Inc, is known a style of micromanagement it will not attract the best creative talent and people on staff who are creative will leave for a more innovation-friendly environment.

If you are a leader who feels you must control everything, take some time to evaluate your leadership style. If you feel your organization lacks the innovation and creativity to grow to the next level, maybe the problem isn’t them; it’s your need to micromanage.

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5 Responses to “7 Ways Micromanagement Stifles Creativity”

  1. Michael says:

    My team was at the top of our market and highly regarded in our creativity and production this was due to a manager that trusted my decisions. That manager was promoted and needless to say we have a new manger and we are at the absolute bottom of our market and not even considered. I would say that every word you have written is true.

    • Wayne says:

      Thanks, Michael. Trust is critical and the absence of it usually causes what you’re experiencing. My only advice is to keep swinging the bat.

  2. Sharon says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with your statement on micromanagement. The problem for me is that my manager denies that he micromanages. He is actually offended when I try to discuss it with him. All 7 of your descriptions are exactly how I fee. I tell him all the time that I feel like he doesn’t trust me. Not only that, he has to come to my desk and stand beside me to talk to me or show me something. I have asked him to not come around my desk, he still does it. What do you do about micromanagers that deny they micromanage?

    • Wayne says:

      That’s a really good question and I’m sure you’re not alone in your thinking. I work with one CEO who has the same issue—he simply doesn’t see how his micromanagement cuts off creativity, discussion, trust and his people’s initiative to do “above and beyond” what he could offer alone. From my personal experience, it takes time and unoffensive straight talk. When it happens, try to remind him gently. Also, offer solutions don’t just point out the fact. You can make suggestions and get his buy into the suggestion. Then, when he crosses over, you have a reminder of what you two agreed to do. Unfortunately, some leaders are just wired that way and as employees, we have a choice to confront with care or make other, tougher, decisions.

  3. […] Take the time to notice your own strengths and weaknesses. When did you get the most jazzed up about your last job? Did you like it when your manager gave you specific instructions or did you like empowered creativity instead? […]

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