How Do You Avoid Micromanaging Remote Employees?

Remote Micromanager.
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Micromanagers are nothing new when it comes to the workplace. But the challenge is that in remote work environments, this sometimes becomes much more rampant. 

After all, you aren’t physically next to your team and they could be working in various places around the world. How can you ensure they are doing great work, actually working, and not skiing somewhere while being logged in from their phone?

And while no one wants to be labeled a “micromanager” sometimes we still fall into the trap, without even realizing it. This can cause you stress and you also begin to alienate your team, decreasing productivity and workplace satisfaction. 

So, what are the signs you might be micromanaging remote employees? And how do you avoid micromanaging your team going forward? Let’s dive in. 

Why Do Remote Managers Micromanage?

It’s no secret that remote managers sometimes micromanage. But why does this happen? There are a few reasons, but let’s just call out three here.

First, remote managers may feel like they need to be more hands-on because they can’t see their employees working in person. They may worry that their employees aren’t working as hard as they should be or that they’re not doing their jobs correctly.

Second, remote managers may not trust their employees to do their jobs without close supervision. This lack of trust can be due to a variety of factors, including a lack of communication or a previous bad experience with a remote worker.

Third, some managers may simply be control freaks who want to be in charge of every aspect of their employees’ work. And when they are now not working in person, their need to be “in the loop” increases. 

Maybe this is sounding familiar to you a bit? Don’t worry if that’s the case, we’ll get you out of the micromanager funk!

The negative impact of micromanaging 

Whatever the reason, micromanaging remote employees is generally a bad idea. It can lead to remote employees feeling resentful and demotivated, and it can make them less likely to do their best work. 

A study by Accountemps shows of the people who reported working for a micromanager, 68% said it had decreased their morale, and 55% claimed it had hurt their productivity.

Or worse, your remote employees start looking for a new remote job and you are scrambling to find new top talent. Forbes cites that 69% of employees considered changing jobs due to micromanagement and 36% actually changed jobs. 

Am I Being A Micromanager? 

Now if you are on this article, then you already are taking initiative in wanting to be a better remote manager. Kudos! 

You may not actually be a micromanager currently, maybe you think you are falling into the trap, or you have a hunch that your team views you as one.

So how do you know if your remote team views you as a micromanager? Here are a few signs to consider about your style of remote management:

  • You tend to control every aspect of a task or project
  • Every decision made by an individual you feel you need to be involved
  • You constantly message remote teammates to check how fast they respond
  • You’re overly obsessed with every little detail, even ones that are not important
  • You lack confidence in managing remotely, so you become overbearing on your team
  • You feel the need to take over tasks or projects instead of trusting your people
  • You look into docs or tools constantly to check that someone actually doing work

If any of these feel familiar, then you may be seen as a micromanager. It’s okay, you can still improve! And self-awareness is not always easy to realize and identify your flaws. 

So what can you do? 

How to Avoid Micromanaging Remote Employees

If you’re a remote manager, there are a few things you can do to avoid micromanaging your employees. Many of these tips may take time for you to break bad habits. But working on your remote management skills will be noticed by your team, who will love to see it. 

1. Learn to trust your remote team

The first step to avoiding micromanaging your remote team is to learn to trust them. 

This can be difficult if you’re used to managing in-person teams. But it’s important to remember that your remote team is just as capable as an in-person team. 

If you find yourself constantly checking in on your team or asking for updates, take a step back and trust that they’re doing their job. Focus on outcomes, set expectations, and empower your team. 

You’ll generally know pretty quickly if someone is slacking off or pretending to work remotely. 

2. Give remote workers autonomy 

One of the best things you can do for your remote team is to give them autonomy. This means letting them work independently and trusting them to get the job done.

If you try to control everything they do, you’ll only end up micromanaging them. Instead, give them the freedom to do their job and trust that they’ll do it well. 

What you start to find is many remote employees becoming self-sufficient, and more productive, giving them a boost of confidence knowing their manager isn’t babysitting them. 

3. Build better communication processes

Another way to avoid micromanaging your remote team is to build better communication processes. This way, you can stay updated on their progress without constantly checking in on them. 

There are a few different ways to do this, but one way is to set up regular check-ins where you can ask for updates and give feedback. 

This doesn’t need to be daily, but maybe something as simple as once a week with an individual and once a week as a team. 

And this is also where asynchronous methods can also reduce having too many virtual meetings. Once some work is completed, your team can just send a recap of accomplishments, challenges, and next steps when they are working. It’s a great process for those remote employees across various time zones around the world.  

4. Work on empathy for your remote team

One of the best things you can do for your remote team is to work on empathy. This means understanding their situation and trying to see things from their perspective. 

If you were on the other side, how would you feel about your manager? What would you want and expect from them? What would help you be more productive? 

Everyone has different views, thoughts, or ideas about remote work and team collaboration. If you can empathize more with your team, you’ll be less likely to micromanage them.

5. Use project collaboration tools 

Project collaboration tools can be a great way to avoid micromanaging your remote team. These tools allow you to stay updated on their progress without constantly checking in on them. 

These are great for getting intel on things like: 

  • Deliverables of projects
  • Timelines of tasks
  • Challenges your team is facing
  • Status or progress reports

There are a few different project collaboration tools available, so find one that works best for you and your team. Some solid ones include Basecamp, Trello, and Asana – but there are plenty of other options you can choose from to best suit you and your team’s needs. 

6. Create bite-sized project milestones 

Another way to avoid micromanaging your remote team is to create bite-sized project milestones. This way, you can stay updated on their progress without constantly checking in on them or making your team feel like you are hovering. 

These milestones are updates set from the start, which then allows employees to share with you the status, challenges, and progress. 

By breaking up projects into smaller milestones, you can check in on each milestone and give feedback without micromanaging the entire project. But, you are still there to provide support as needed. 

7. Encourage deep work and “No Meeting Days”

Encouraging deep work and “no meeting days” can be a great way to avoid micromanaging your remote team. But also to give remote workers breathability to focus and not feel overwhelmed with constant meetings. 

By encouraging your team to focus on deep work, you are giving them space to avoid distractions and not worry about Slack or email responses right away. This helps you start to break away from micromanaging by trusting your remote team. 

And by having “no meeting days” you help them feel productive by not getting bogged down in meetings constantly. You set a tone that you are letting your team use that day how they see fit for projects and tasks.

Final Thoughts

One thing to keep in mind to avoid micromanaging your remote team is to set clear expectations. This way, your team knows exactly what you expect from them and can work independently to meet those expectations.

If you’re constantly changing your expectations or giving unclear instructions, you’ll only end up micromanaging your team. Start implementing your changes and begin to gather feedback from your team to make sure you are accountable. 

And when you begin to scale back your micromanagement ways, trust remote employees more, and focus on the results over constant monitoring – you’ll find the work and team morale will improve. Plus, you will all be a much more effective team.

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About Todd Kunsman

Todd is the founder of Remote Work Junkie and has been featured in numerous publications like Business Insider, HuffPost, CNBC, and more. He’s been a remote work advocate for close to a decade and has been working remotely full-time for 5+ years. He’s also a marketing, personal finance, and music nerd 🤓

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