A Control Freak’s Guide: Not Freaking Out When Your Employees Don’t Live Up to Expectations

A Control Freak’s Guide: Not Freaking Out When Your Employees Don’t Live Up to Expectations

You know how you want your business to operate—all the way down to the finest detail. Your employees, however, just can’t seem to get it right. They’re not performing their duties exactly as you would, or exactly as you had envisioned.

Perhaps your assistant manager sent out invoices before calling new client prospects, when you assumed he’d do it the other way around. Or one of your waitstaff spent an extra 30 seconds chatting with a regular customer when the couple three tables away were waiting on their coffee.

If you find yourself disappointed and stressed by your employees and their apparent shortcomings, it may be time to take a deep breath, take a step back, and reassess the situation. Are your workers really failing at their jobs—failing you—or are they simply doing the work in ways they consider best for the business, and in a way that works best for them?

If you can look objectively at the situation, ask yourself whether that frustrating employee is really hurting the company, or maybe sales are being boosted in ways you hadn’t considered. Before you hover, flip your lid, and possibly lose valuable employees, consider the idea that your control-freak ways could be making you and your workers miserable—and unnecessarily holding back your business.

“Absolutely no one likes to be micromanaged. It’s frustrating, demoralizing, and demotivating. Yet some managers can’t seem to help themselves,” Muriel Maignin Wilkins, co-founder and managing partner of executive coaching firm Paravis Partners, wrote in the Harvard Business Review recently. Many micromanagers don’t even recognize their controlling ways, she wrote, and there are many telltale signs.

Micromanager Traits

Micromanaging bosses are often never quite satisfied with many things, and can feel frustrated because they would have performed a task differently, focused on certain details, and would have enjoyed making corrections. They always want to know where employees are and what they’re doing, ask for frequent status updates, and insist on being a part of all communication. Micromanagers apply unnecessary focus on even the most mundane details. Over time, micromanaging can negatively impact your team—and your company’s productivity.

Consider reasons why you shouldn’t micromanage rather than making excuses for why you should. Controlling bosses make excuses that can lead to a disempowered team. But “let it go,” as Elsa sings in “Frozen.” Look at your to-do list for smaller tasks you can delegate to others. Let employees know what you want them to do—but now how to do it.

Get Over Yourself and Empower Employees

Control freaks can hurt their teams and their own career outlook. While there may be cases where the hands-on approach is required, micromanaging can stifle employees, and create situations that leads to employees feeling like they’re not being trusted, or that their manager doesn’t think they can do the job. Try focusing on the results—not on how your employers got them.

Getting over yourself can be hard, but the lesson learned can be worth it. San Francisco 49ers President Paraag Marathe once described micromanaging as his biggest “whoops,” and that he learned to let good people do their jobs well.

Dinah Brin

About the Author


I’m a journalist-writer covering small business, personal finance, HR, health, logistics, real estate and corporate features. Former staff writer for Dow Jones Newswires and the AP.

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