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How to Avoid Micromanaging Your Remote Workers

8 min read
Micromanagement is a remote work deal-breaker. Here's why it's a bad idea and how it affects employee morale and productivity.
How to avoid micromanaging your remote workers

While remote work did exist before the COVID-19 outbreak, not many people worked remotely until the beginning of 2020.

Even though it’s been over two years, some companies can’t seem to get the hang of managing remote employees.

Remote work is still looked upon with suspicion, as people assume that remote workers are slacking off when they should be working.

The reality is much different: research by Mercer shows that nearly 95% of employers state that productivity has remained the same or increased since they started working from home.

So, why hire the best staffing companies to recruit the best employees, just to lose them to poor management choices?

Before we explain how you can avoid micromanaging your remote workers, let’s discuss what micromanagement is and how it is harmful.

What Is Micromanagement?

Micromanagement is a negative management style characterized by excessive supervision and control of employees’ work, as well as a lack of delegation of tasks or decisions.

Managers with this problem generally don’t allow their employees to make decisions without their involvement, as they want to have control over everything.

This behavior is not limited to in-house team managers. It often occurs in distributed teams, too.

How to avoid micromanaging your remote workers

Why does micromanagement occur?

You must be wondering why people behave this way.

Well, answering this question won’t be simple, because there is no universal cause. But, here are the three most common reasons for micromanagement.

Managers think they’re disconnected

As managers climb up the corporate ladder and get promoted, they have less contact with the customers.

Some people have a difficult time as they feel like they’re no longer in touch with the actual work in the company.

Having to manage a remote or hybrid team ads even more to that feeling of isolation.

Those that aren’t able to make peace with this will start asking their subordinates to gather more and more information and constantly keep them in the loop.

They’ll ask for additional reports, schedule more frequent check-ins, and request pointless meetings to feel more connected with the remote employees they manage.

Managers are out of their comfort zone

Managers that used to work at the operational level often have difficulties letting go of their old job.

Exceptional employees often get promoted to managers because of their ability to successfully solve problems, achieve goals, manage budgets, and control the numbers.

Once they reach a certain level in the company, they’re no longer able to do any operational tasks due to a lack of time.

Some people handle this well, while others don’t.

Those that don’t will want to be involved in each and every decision their subordinate makes and fix all the mistakes they make instead of teaching them how to do the job on their own.

Managers are afraid

Some managers used to feel very confident about their operational abilities, but aren’t sure they know how to manage and be a good virtual leader.

They fear they will be considered a bad leader if their team fails to do everything perfectly.

To avoid this, they will try to keep everything under control.

Ways to avoid micromanaging your remote workers

They’ll constantly seek information from their subordinates, worrying that someone has made even the smallest mistake that portrays them in a bad light.

Aside from these three reasons, micromanaging is also a consequence of trust issues, fear of loss of control, and overall anxiety.

How Is Micromanagement Harmful?

Obviously, micromanagement isn’t a good management style. Let’s see what the consequences of this kind of behavior are.

It hurts employee morale

Micromanagers aren’t exactly the favorite person in the room.

Their need to control everything employees do erodes loyalty and trust, and can even affect employee morale and mental health.

Employees that work with micromanagers tend to be very stressed out because they feel like nothing they do is ever good enough.

This feeling of incompetency is especially difficult for young people who have little to no experience and need guidance and leads to losing motivation and productivity.

In the worst-case scenario, they’ll eventually quit due to the amount of pressure they feel at work.

As you know, a good worker is hard to replace, which is why it’s of utmost importance to figure out how to solve the problem.

It’s time-consuming

Micromanaging doesn’t just hurt the employees.

It also prevents the manager from doing their job.

While it seems like micromanagement activities don’t take too much time, they actually do.

For instance, micromanagers often ask their subordinates to CC them in all emails they send to clients.

Imagine how much time is wasted by reading all those emails.

The same thing goes for those endless meetings they schedule just to be kept in the loop – this is a huge amount of wasted time that could have been spent on something much more meaningful.

💡Pro tip

Daily one-on-one meetings or weekly catch-ups are by far the best way to stay up to date on your remote employees’ performance. However, finding a time that fits everyone’s schedule is often a challenge. Learn how to schedule remote team meetings on the fly.

How to Avoid Micromanaging Your Remote Workers?

If you’ve recognized yourself in the previous sections, it’s time to learn what you can do to avoid micromanaging your remote workers.

how to avoid micromanaging your remote workers

Communicate expectations

One of the first things you need to do is communicate your expectations.

Remote work can be very efficient if everyone understands what needs to be done, the deadlines for each task, and how to document the progress.

You could also adopt asynchronous work, which is the practice of organizing your team in a way that your employees don’t have to work and communicate simultaneously.

This means your remote workers can work whenever they want, outside of the typical working hours.

For this to work, you’d need to optimize your communication and work processes in a way that allows your employees to perform their tasks without waiting for others to finish theirs.

With asynchronous work, remote workers can balance out their professional and personal lives in a way they find convenient.

You’ll also save the time you’d usually spend in meetings because the work processes will be optimized in a way that doesn’t demand frequent meetings.

Don’t spy on your remote workers

Overseeing your employees’ work is one thing, but spying on them is something else.

Forget about installing spyware or tracking programs on your team members’ laptops.

No one wants to do a bad job on purpose.

There are times when your employees will be slower than usual, but that doesn’t mean they’re slacking off.

You either trust your coworkers, or you don’t. And if you don’t, why are you working with them?

There are other ways to track your employees’ progress, such as through project management tools (we’ll get there in a bit) and by observing the actual results.

Teach your employees instead of cleaning up their mess

If you’ve recently been promoted to manager, there’s no doubt you’re very good at performing operational tasks. But, that’s no longer your job.

As you’re the manager now, you also need to learn how to become a leader.

The next time your remote worker faces a problem, don’t take over the entire task and finish it by yourself.

Build a culture of mentorship for your remote or hybrid team.

Be patient and teach them how to fix the problem on their own.

How do I stop micromanaging remote employees?

They will be grateful that you took the time to teach them and will appreciate you as a person.

Remember: you want to lead by example.

Use a project management tool

Project management tools are great because you always have an insight into what’s going on with the project.

Tools like Trello and Wrike have hundreds of options: you can set a deadline, break the project into multiple tasks in the form of a checklist, log the hours you’ve spent working on a task, and much more.

Once your remote workers start using one of these tools, you’ll no longer have to schedule a meeting just to know what’s happening with the project.

A click here and there and voila – you know exactly what your coworkers plan on doing today.

Accept that perfection is unreachable

This is a very difficult lesson for a lot of people because perfectionism isn’t something that happens overnight.

If you’re struggling with this problem, we know it’s very unpleasant and stressful for you too, not just your coworkers.

We know it sounds like a cliché, but perfection really doesn’t exist.

Everyone makes mistakes from time to time.

The next time you start demanding perfection from your coworkers, ask yourself if you’re realistic.

Is this how you would treat your loved ones?

You probably don’t, so don’t be too harsh.

Ask for feedback

As a remote team manager, one of your tasks is to give feedback to your team members.

This feedback can be positive or negative – it doesn’t matter.

What’s really important is to ask for feedback and provide a safe environment where they can confide in you.

This will help you establish a meaningful relationship with your team.

Be kind to yourself

If you’ve recently been promoted to a manager position, it’s normal to feel nervous and afraid.

Managing is a skill and it takes time to master it.

Micromanagement is frequent among those that are new to the job, so be kind and forgiving to yourself.

The important thing is that you’ve noticed what’s going on and are willing to fix the problem.

To Sum It Up

Micromanagement is a very harmful and unnecessary practice for both you and your coworkers.

You’ve already taken the first step to solving this issue – admitting that you’re facing a problem.

All you have to do now is to use the tips we mentioned above and see how they work for you.

And if you need an extra hand to manage your remote team, here’s a list of some of the best remote work tools.

About the author
113. Guest Contribution - Coworking Psychology Why People Thrive in Shared Workspaces-4
Travis Dillard
Business Consultant at DigitalStrategyOne

Travis Dillard is a business consultant and an organizational psychologist based in Arlington, Texas. Passionate about marketing, social networks, and business in general. In his spare time, he writes a lot about new business strategies and digital marketing for DigitalStrategyOne.