Manager Puppetry Isn’t Benefiting Anyone

ALERT! CONFLICT AHEAD: Technology fuels company’s ability to micromanage, yet today’s new generation thrives on empowerment.

Everywhere you turn, companies are looking to invest in technology. That’s where the sizzle is. But where are the people, once considered your most valuable asset, in all of this? Oddly enough, companies are reeling in the loaded possibilities of technology while, at the same time, our aging management pool is being replaced with a new breed of managers who cannot thrive under a strong hand. We must then get to the root of why we feel technology is “the” answer to our pains.

Why Technology is Shiny

POINT 1: Information is power. In management, the amount of information we can gather is expansive, almost too much so. Access to information allows companies to direct managers to do exactly what they want done, including schedule tasks out to the minute, leaving no room for error (good or bad). How does this make managers better? Information for the sake of having it makes no sense. What you do with it defines your growth and that aspect lives in the hands of able-minded managers.

POINT 2: Transparency is trending. Another alluring aspect of technology is the transparency it offers into the inner-workings of offsite people and operations. The power to watch every little activity could be too tempting for some. When we become the “overseers” dictating what needs to be done, stick in hand, we quickly lose the whole point of top performing managers. Directionals, course corrections, compliance, guidelines, guardrails and so on are one thing, but “GPSing” managers’ movement in a unit doesn’t benefit the manager.

Now what? What we should be concerned about is where we end up. In my opinion, we are sure to find ourselves with an expanding field of “mindless” managers who are good at doing what they are told but little else. I also see stagnation; a death sentence to any organization. Evolution that comes out of top performing, higher engaged managers will be glaringly absent.

Right or wrong, this new ME generation of managers excels under roundtable inclusive leadership, empowerment and innovation. Extreme technology controls that are only about what corporate wants and not about the manager, strangles their ability to drive their business. Many of these great new systems sure sound and feel like micromanagement, which means we would be remiss we did not take a closer look.

Micromanagement is defined as a management style in which a supervisor closely observes or controls the work of an employee.  According to Kenneth Fracoro, who wrote “The Consequences of Micromanaging”, says the following are the negative effects of micromanaging:

  • When your employees come to realize you are not listening to them, they begin to shut down and stop making suggestions and being straight with you.
  • Employees are no longer willing to make sacrifices, and financiers won’t advance growth capital because they can see that you have kept all the power and responsibility.
  • Micromanagement may lead to disengagement—an employee puts in time but little else, and his apathy affects not only his own productivity but also that of his colleagues.
  • Micromanagement tells an employee that you do not trust their work or judgment.
  • An employee loses interest, resents your role as manager, and does not become proficient at doing their job.
  • An employee becomes confused and angry, leaving the company for greener pastures where they can be appreciated.

Being a puppet feels bad and being a puppet master is exhausting. None of us enjoy being micromanaged. We want empowerment.  Countless studies show that companies that empower their employees and managers have the highest level of profitability and the greatest return on invested capital.

We know we shouldn’t micromanage but this new technology is exciting. If I can see immediately what is not being done, I can quickly intervene and fix the problem.  But I am not allowing them to learn; I am micromanaging.  I am telling them how I would solve the problem instead of asking them to come up with their solution. How presumptive on my part to assume my way is the right way. I am cutting the opportunity for innovation off at the knees.

The Dilemma:

Do I utilize information technology to give me more visibility into what my managers and employees are doing?


Do I provide them great tools to help them manage better, but at the same time, continue to give them autonomy?

Empowering people and what you can do with today’s technology can definitely be in conflict if we aren’t careful.  Our mistake is believing we have to decide on just one. Instead, we will thrive by integrating both worlds.  The road of micromanagement is clearly a dead end for all parties involved.  When you are looking at some cool new technology, stop and make sure the people it is meant to serve are actually benefiting from it.

By, Shiloh Kelly, Vice President of Marketing, Red Book Solutions | 20 years Cross Industry Experience | Corporate Marketing and National Sustainability Lead, BlueLinx |Chief Strategic and Creative Officer, Limelight Advertising | Strategic Marketing Manager, Vail Resorts

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