microwave ovenAs managers, we have all felt the need to micromanage our employees. Most of the time it is because either we, or our superiors, fear dire consequences if we don’t keep a close eye on everything. From my experience, however, I have found that if left unchecked, the side effects of micromanaging are dramatically lower team morale and effectiveness.

This was no more evident than in a not-for-profit for which I once worked. In that organization, there was a very real fear that spending would get out of control if too many people had access to the budget. This meant that three of my employees, who were tasked with leading huge programs in my department, were not authorized to spend even $1’s worth of the budget without my direct approval! You can imagine the effect this kind of micromanaging had on the morale of my employees, not to mention the amount of time I wasted approving every expenditure.

The huge responsibilities my employees had were not in-line with the authority (think “power”) they needed to carry out those responsibilities. Taking into account the fears my organization had about the budget, I made a proposal to my superiors that would increase my employees’ authority level and align it to the level of importance their responsibilities required. Specifically, I asked that each of my key employees (including my administrative assistant) be authorized to spend up to a certain limit without my direct approval. In return, I would commit to reviewing the expenditures each month, thus ensuring compliance to the rules. With some coaxing on my part, the proposal was accepted. In the end, my employees not only felt a heightened sense of morale, they also learned more about the budget, how it was developed, and how to use it most effectively!

Of course there is a catch in this whole deal. As a manager you have to be willing to stick your own neck out in the process. Granting authority is always risky because you have to trust your employees’ ability and integrity. However, I have found that with regard to your employees, if you give them an inch, they will go an extra mile!