• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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The fine line between leading and micromanaging

The fine line between leading and micromanaging

In our previous discussion, we unpacked the subtle yet pervasive signs of micromanagement, from the excessive control over minor details to the suffocating lack of autonomy felt by employees. Recognising these signs is the first step toward addressing the underlying issues that plague many organisations. However, the true gravity of the situation becomes apparent when we consider the consequences of micromanagement on team dynamics and organisational health. This is not a matter of mere inconvenience; the impact of micromanagement extends to the very core of a company’s operational success and employee well-being.

How do the negative effects of micromanagement manifest in the workplace, and what do data, research findings, and personal accounts from those who have endured it reveal about this pervasive issue?

Damaged Trust: Employees who are micromanaged often feel that their managers do not trust them, leading to a breakdown in the relationship. A study by the American Psychological Association found that employees who do not feel trusted by their managers are less likely to feel engaged with their work.

Higher Stress: Constant oversight and the pressure to perform to an exacting standard can significantly increase stress levels. The American Institute of Stress notes that job stress is a major source of health problems and can be exacerbated by micromanagement.

In Nigeria, where dynamic business environments are coupled with diverse workplace cultures, the financial impact of micromanagement is becoming increasingly evident.

Greater Frustration: The inability to make decisions or take ownership of one’s work can lead to heightened frustration. This has been quantified through employee satisfaction surveys that show a correlation between autonomy and job satisfaction.

Stunted Team Growth: Teams need space to experiment, take risks, and learn from mistakes. A study by the Harvard Business Review highlighted that teams under micromanagement often lack the developmental experiences necessary for growth.

Faster Burnout: The World Health Organization has classified burnout as an occupational phenomenon. The repetitive nature of micromanagement, with its focus on routine monitoring and control, can accelerate employee burnout.

Reduced Productivity: While the intention behind micromanagement might be to increase productivity, the opposite is often true. Data from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that employee productivity is higher when they are granted more autonomy.

Less Creativity: A micromanaged environment can suffocate creativity and innovation. A study from Cornell University found that creativity in problem-solving is significantly lower when individuals feel watched and evaluated.

Weaker relationships: Micromanagement can erode the relationships between team members and between employees and management, leading to a less collaborative atmosphere. This is supported by research that illustrates the importance of trust and autonomy for effective teamwork.

More resignations: A culture of micromanagement can lead to higher employee turnover. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has reported that one of the top reasons employees leave their jobs is due to feeling constrained and micromanaged.

Lower team morale: Constant micromanagement can deflate team morale, as employees feel their contributions are undervalued. Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report has linked low morale to micromanagement and the lack of employee engagement.

Personal stories from the trenches

Real-life stories resonate deeply and bring to light the human cost of micromanagement. Consider Sarah, a graphic designer whose passion for creative expression was the driving force behind her work. When her organisation brought in a new manager who insisted on reviewing every detail of her designs, Sarah began to feel that her expertise was being undermined. The manager would often request multiple revisions without substantial justification, focusing on minutiae that had little impact on the overall quality of the work.

Sarah’s job satisfaction plummeted, and she found herself dreading each assignment, knowing that her creativity would be stifled by her manager’s overbearing approach. In a candid interview, Sarah expressed how this micromanagement drained her enthusiasm for design and eventually led her to seek employment elsewhere, where she hoped her ideas and expertise would be valued and trusted.

This story is not unique. Numerous employees across various industries have similar experiences. Take, for example, David, an experienced software engineer known for his innovative solutions. Under a micromanaging supervisor, David felt that every line of code was scrutinised excessively, and he was discouraged from trying new approaches that could potentially lead to breakthroughs in his projects. The lack of autonomy and trust left him feeling undervalued, leading to a decrease in his willingness to go above and beyond for the company. David’s story is a testament to the stifling effect micromanagement can have on even the most talented and motivated individuals.

The organisational cost

In Nigeria, where dynamic business environments are coupled with diverse workplace cultures, the financial impact of micromanagement is becoming increasingly evident. Nigerian companies experience similar repercussions as their global counterparts when it comes to the costs associated with losing an employee due to micromanagement. While specific data may vary, it’s not uncommon for Nigerian organisations to incur losses equivalent to 10% to 30% of an employee’s annual salary when factoring in recruitment, training, and the dip in productivity as new hires ramp up.

Micromanagement in Nigeria, echoing global trends, incurs hidden costs, particularly in rising stress-related healthcare expenses for businesses. While specific Nigerian data is scarce, global patterns indicate a substantial financial burden. A report by the American Institute of Stress underscores the considerable costs linked to job stress, such as healthcare expenses, absenteeism, workplace accidents, and reduced productivity, reflecting potential challenges for Nigerian companies.

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Moreover, the impact on productivity from employee demotivation is a critical concern in Nigeria’s growing economy. In a context where innovation and efficiency are driving forces for competitiveness, micromanagement can be particularly detrimental. Nigerian employees who spend an inordinate amount of time on reporting and managerial approvals are likely to contribute less to the company’s objectives. Although there may not be Nigeria-specific figures akin to the Gallup poll that estimates a $450 to $550 billion annual loss due to disengaged employees globally, the trend is clear: disengagement, spurred by micromanagement, is a costly affair for businesses in Nigeria as well.

These financial implications underscore the need for Nigerian organisations to address micromanagement proactively, as the cost of inaction can be substantial and multifaceted, affecting not just the bottom line but the overall health of the corporate ecosystem.


The effects of micromanagement are both profound and far-reaching, impacting employee well-being, team dynamics, and organisational financial health. The costs associated with this management style can undermine the productivity and innovation it seeks to enhance. However, it is important to remember that these effects are not irreversible.

In the next article, we will explore the road to recovery for organisations trapped in the cycle of micromanagement. We will provide actionable strategies for leaders who want to foster a culture of trust, autonomy, and empowerment. Expect to learn how to engage employees effectively, encourage creativity, and boost productivity without falling into the trap of micromanagement.

About the Author

Dr. Toye Sobande is a strategic leadership expert, lawyer, public speaker, and trainer. He is the CEO of Stephens Leadership Consultancy LLC, a strategy and management consulting firm offering creative insight and solutions to businesses and leaders. Email: [email protected]