The Madness of Micromanaging and An Overwhelming Cry for Autonomy

Workplace issues are often put down to a lack in morale. As explored in our previous article, when morale is depleted a negative impact is habitually experienced throughout. Of course, any steps made to boost morale are positive ones. Yet, a lack of morale is often merely a symptom of something much harder to cure. 

There is a big bad bear of the workplace and his name is micromanagement.


The micro-manager is a soul-sucking creature. It stomps from desk to desk, room to room, scrutinising every movement. Many have felt the micromanager dissect actions, and bellow demands. No one can breathe without their say so. And we all, eventually, get sick of their nagging and patronising ways.

But after the initial anger/dislike towards the bear subsides. And after the passion for our work has left us. All that is felt is….meh.

Fedup person alone

The ‘meh effect’, as I like to call it, is fatal to any workplace. Staff morph into mindless zombies, while those in charge take advantage of their power. Employees are left to feel belittled, distrusted and unimportant. A transition into zombie-hood is inevitable for those under the reign of a micro-manger. 

Yet ‘meh-ness’ is not usually the result of a lack of morale. This is merely a side effect. It is, in fact, an overwhelming cry for autonomy.

Benefits of Autonomy

Autonomy is the freedom and flexibility to do your job properly. Research has shown that the higher the level of individual autonomy, the higher the job satisfaction. And, as we know, the higher the job satisfaction, the more motivated staff are to complete their work. In fact, Daniel Wheatley, argues that… 

'the greater the level of control employees feel they have over their work,
the greater the benefits for the employee'.

Plant, coffee, diary

A survey (Glensler 2013) highlights that employees with freedom over their work performed better are were more satisfied. In addition, in a test with over 400,000 people, autonomy mattered more than salary. Thus, the more flexible the schedule, the better the overall wellbeing of staff.

Of course, in particularly routine jobs, such as nursing, autonomy may not be that easy to “allow”. Especially when certain procedures need to be implemented at precise times. According to Gagne, however, the perception of autonomy has a very positive effect on workers. But how can autonomy be created in work which requires strict rules or stringent time management? It’s simple, exchange micromanagement for supportive supervision.

Supervision is the cool caring aunt that, from time to time, points you in the right direction. She presents you with a goal, and the flexibility to reach it in the way you deem fit. Thus, a sense of autonomy is very possible even in jobs that require supervision.


Room to Breath

Recent research highlights that levels of autonomy affect women and men differently. The levels of autonomy of 20,000 employees were examined and, according to Dr Wheatley

'the manner of work and control over work schedule was found to be more relevant
to the well-being of female employees’.

Women, especially mothers, have very little time for themselves. According to Deni Kirkova, mothers get on average a mere 17 minutes a day to relax. Therefore, having time during the day to just breath can be hugely beneficial. 

screaming woman

Although many men also do the school run, stats suggest that men benefit from a more structured environment. What’s more, they appear to be more affected by the task and speed. 

‘Men were found to be more impacted by job tasks, the pace of work, and task order’
- Matthew Taylor

Despite evidence that woman desire autonomy more than men, it is a crucial to all employees. By forming flexible work schedules, morale is boosted, and employees are more engaged. It also allows people to work during their most productive hours. For flexible businesses, it does not matter when you work, just that the work is done. And to a respectable standard. It, therefore, makes more sense to produce work when you are naturally at your freshest and most attentive. 

Safe working conditions

With the ability to work when you wish, you are also less tired. This is because you are able to sleep when you need to. According to Circadian, a workforce performance and safety solutions business…

'Sleep deprivation is often the root cause of decreased productivity, accidents,
incidents and mistakes which collectively cost companies billions of dollars/pounds
each year.'

Another benefit of flexitime means that employees will have time to devote to friends and family. This will not only energise employees but portray your business as family friendly.

family, son and father

A Level of Trust

Some businesses worry that if they permit a large amount of freedom, staff will take advantage. That is why it is good to put in place boundaries from day one. If Mark works from home Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, make Thursday and Friday obligatory office days.

Another issue may be if boundaries between home-life and work-life become merged. If this is the case set clear objectives. These issues of autonomy can, more often than not, be easily solved. 

The benefits certainly outweigh the negatives. In fact, you could be hurting your business by withholding autonomy from your staff.

student typing


What we can do for you

More often than not, people quit their bosses, not their job.

It is, however, hard to determine the root cause of staff complaints in the workplace. Especially when the symptoms of a lack of morale and a lack of autonomy are so similar.

Instead of throwing money at issues in morale with yoga classes and free fruit. Or firing managers in a bid to resolve issues of micromanagement. Get to the root of the problem with Pansensic.

We work with organisations from all over the world in a wide range of sectors. What they have in common is the understanding that the experiences of their customers/staff/stakeholders can provide game-changing insights. 

Contact the team, ask for a demo, or just have a chat.

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