Micromanagement in the workplace | Why are businesses run like nurseries?

Micromanagement in the workplace | Why are businesses run like nurseries?

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So you may be wondering, “why the random headline?” or maybe “how is this person in my head?” or definitely “why is he continuing to use this stupid rhetorical question nonsense?”. I wouldn’t blame you for any of them but I firmly believe that nearly all businesses are run like they employ children to do their work.

Micromanagement in the workplace? I’m confused, what do you mean?

OK, so what exactly do I mean when I say this? Imagine you’re starting a new job and you come in fresh on your first day, ready to get cracking. You sit down and you are given an old laptop, steam-powered most probably, with the minimal amount of programs installed on it. You start to use it and realise that a lot of websites are filtered or locked, preventing you from viewing or accessing them. You try to install some software, which you need for work, but you can’t as that is also locked down and ‘protected’.

Over the first few weeks, you have regular meetings with your manager, which involve you basically listing out every single task or todo that you have completed, your manager will then give their opinion on each item. Sometimes they even sit next to you when you are completing some tasks to make sure that you are doing them correctly (micromanagement), all sold to you as ‘a way of improving quality’. Frustrating and annoying at first, turning into resentment, lack of self-worth and potentially hate, after a short period of time.

“Why don’t they trust me to do the job that they hired me to do? Why am I treated like a child who needs constant micromanagement?”

Why is micromanagement in the workplace a problem?

Trust, that is the key word here. I personally think it comes down to a few reasons, why people don’t trust their team, at least initially:

  1. For IT/privacy/compliance reasons (rare if you are a small business)
  2. The manager has been burnt before and doesn’t want to make the same mistake again (judging new people on previous peoples actions)
  3. The manager’s insecurity (the manager’s problem, not the employee)
  4. Pressure, either from above or internally, to minimise mistakes (everyone makes mistakes, the important part is how they are handled)

A lack of trust breeds a terrible culture, one which encourages office politics, a lack of care towards the company and also, potentially most important, doesn’t get the best out of the employee.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know, here at Signable, we employ adults, so we treat our team as such.

What is the alternative?

I can already hear the comments from people, saying things like:

  • “It isn’t as simple as that!”
  • “I need to make sure they are doing things in the correct way.”
  • “Micromanagement in the workplace isn’t a problem.”
  • “It’s not micromanagement, I just want to make sure they’re making no mistakes.”
  • “How can I be sure they aren’t spending their time on social media all day?”
  • “Last time I trusted a new person, they abused it, I don’t want it to happen again.”

All of these are valid points however they are all rooted in a lack of trust towards that employee. Why would you not trust the person you have recruited? You know, the person who you thought was the best person out of a whole group of people, in the recruitment stage? What is the worst that can happen? Sure, they may make more mistakes, they are only human after all, its their reaction to those mistakes which tells you more about who a person is. It is also massively unfair to judge someone by other peoples failings.

The alternative is, what we do at Signable, to trust people 100% when they start. This includes giving them full ownership over one area of the business with no micromanagement in the workplace. Regardless of what level they start at. Ownership and trust empowers people to be better and to do better. Constant micromanagement and a lack of trust treats people like children and demotivates them.

One of my favourite quotes, which is about personal development, applies here and I will leave you with it:

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

– Richard Branson