Micromanagement refers to the practice of a boss closely monitoring you at work. It is a common leadership style but one with many downsides. When a micromanaging boss is peering over your shoulder and checking up on you, it wastes time, distracts you from work, and causes you to feel disengaged. It can make you less productive and lead you to thinking about leaving the company. This is a management style that can negatively affect your mental health.
In this article, we explore the mental health impact of micromanagement so that you can be aware of the issue and take steps to resolve the situation.
Micromanaging Bosses Increase the Stress of Employees
In the book Preventive Stress Management in Organizations, co-author Jonathan D. Quick, a Harvard Medical School instructor, states that “the leadership qualities of ‘bad’ bosses over time exert a heavy toll on employees’ health.” Quick draws attention to studies illustrating how micromanagement can deteriorate employees’ health, leading to issues like chronic stress.
If you have experience working for a micromanaging boss, then you will know how it can make you feel stressed at work. The stressful aspects of micromanagement include having a boss who hovers over you, obsesses over small details, and has to have a stern chat with you every time you make a mistake. You may also notice the effects of chronic stress at work if it is making it hard to concentrate and work as productively as you know you can.
When this behavior is constant, the chronic stress it causes can end up affecting your life outside of work. If your micromanaging boss is putting you in a state of stress, you may find yourself feeling more irritable and bad-tempered when spending time with your partner, family members, or friends.
Micromanagement Can Lead to Lower Self-Esteem
When you have a boss who’s always monitoring you, giving you orders, and criticizing your work, this can lower your self esteem and confidence. This behavior from your boss can give you the impression that your manager doesn’t trust you to work alone or that they think you are incapable. The overbearing nature of micromanagement can make you feel like a robot who’s just taking orders rather than a person who has been trusted to use their insights and abilities to solve a problem. This can end up feeling quite infantilizing.
It’s worth keeping in mind that micromanaging often reflects issues that a boss has instead of reflecting anything negative about you or your work. A micromanager’s impulse to control is often caused by their own insecurity. By controlling others, they can gain a boost in confidence. If your boss is treating you this way, remember this doesn’t necessarily mean you are being unproductive.
How Micromanaging Can Increase the Risk of Depression
Johann Hari, the author of the book Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions, refers to research highlighting that you are more likely to experience depression when you feel controlled at work and that you will be unable to make choices. Hari stated in an interview, “Giving people back control over their workplaces is one of the most effective ways to reduce depression.”
Without the freedom to make decisions at work, then – Hari argues – we are likely to feel our jobs are meaningless and pointless. All of us need to feel that what we do each day is valuable, meaningful, and purposeful. When work is absent these features, then we are at an increased risk of depression, which can end up impacting productivity.
If you are convinced you have a micromanaging boss and want things to change, you have some options. You can discuss the issue with your boss directly. If that doesn’t work and you feel their micromanagement style is affecting your mental health and productivity, you can raise the problem with HR. Discussing the issue with other employees can be helpful as well. If they notice the same issue, you will be in a better position to demand change.
However, sometimes micromanagement is an ingrained part of the management culture in the workplace. When your efforts to call for change fail, then you should consider whether you can personally cope with the micromanaging. If not, then a career change may be the ideal option, even if it creates some stress and disruption in the short term. After all, your mental health should be the number one priority when it comes to your work. You need to feel well and fulfilled in order to work to the best of your abilities.
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