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Risks of Remote Micromanagement – and How to Avoid Them

Keeping Your Remote Team

Happy and Productive


Workplace micromanagement is nothing new.

Some bosses have always believed that keeping very close tabs on staff members demonstrates their dedication to the job. What is new, however, is remote work.

Originally conceived as a short-term solution in light of the COVID pandemic, working remotely has become a long-term reality for many. When bosses can no longer check in with staff simply by walking across a room, the temptation to micromanage is elevated.

A Matter of Trust

There’s the manager who insists on multiple detailed status updates every day. The boss who holds hours-long and unnecessary daily team meetings. And the executive team that requires staff to keep their webcams on all day so they can be observed while working.

Bosses micromanage because they lack confidence in their own abilities as well as in the skill of their workers. When managing remotely, this suspicion manifests itself in daily monitoring and check-in, excessive suggestions for accomplishing work, or even installing screen recorders.

For many remote workers, the lack of trust demonstrated by such micromanagement tactics is an absolute deal-breaker. They feel suffocated by a work environment where creativity is stifled. While trust is essential for any work team, research indicates that remote teams require an even higher level of trust than their in-house counterparts. So how can a manager build trust remotely?

Balancing Autonomy and Accountability

Successful remote work teams require autonomy. Your staff needs the freedom to manage their own schedules and to approach their work in the best way they know how. They also need the freedom to make their own decisions -- and then, they need for you to step back and let them do it.

One way to achieve this is to focus on outcomes and results, instead of processes and number of hours worked. By doing so, you’ll be demonstrating you trust them to achieve those outcomes. And you’ll free up your own time to focus on more important tasks than babysitting your team members.

Of course, meeting deadlines and adhering to schedules still matters, so this autonomy must be balanced with accountability. So be sure to set expectations with your workers. Team milestones and targets should be agreed upon up front, so each team member can be held accountable. But give them a lot of leeway on how to reach those targets, as well as decision-making capability.

By allowing employees autonomy, managers not only demonstrate that they trust their workers, they free up their own time to focus on more important tasks than babysitting their team members.

Transformative Leadership

When you inspire your employees and demonstrate how their work connects to a greater purpose (such as your company’s values or business strategy), you’re practicing transformative leadership. This type of leadership boosts each staff member’s basic motivation, increasing employee engagement and driving creativity. It is particularly effective when working with remote teams.

Transformational leaders are enthusiastic and passionate. They’re not only concerned with the process – they’re focused on helping every team member succeed, as well. They serve as a role model for their staff, and they have a positive influence on employee well-being. And they demonstrate a work-life balance that trickles down to every member of their organization.

Best Practices

Here are a few best practices to employ when developing a transformative leadership style:

  • Experiment with different ways of solving problems.

  • Take personal responsibility for both positive and negative developments.

  • Always look for opportunities to improve, keeping your team’s best interest in mind. Keep the higher-level needs (e.g., staff esteem, confidence and aspirations) in the forefront.

  • Make ideas a higher priority than processes.

Putting It All Together

Being micromanaged is one of the biggest reasons workers leave a job. It results in low employee engagement and creates a real burden for companies due to poor retention rates and additional hiring costs.

Working remotely has now become the norm. Effectively managing staff remotely means setting clear goals and assessing each individual’s progress against those, not monitoring each minute of their workday.


Sources: Crossbeam

Harvard Business Review



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