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Is Telepressure and Micromanagement The New Pandemic?

Micromanagement
By jasmine

Blog | June 28, 2024

If the term “Telepressure” is new to you, you are not alone. Often, the dynamics of modern work environments dictate the need for new terminologies. This one had to be created for the COVID-19 and post-COVID work era, for reasons we will discuss.

Micromanagement is often perceived as a managerial style where leaders excessively control and oversee their team’s work. While it might stem from a desire for excellence and control, micromanagement can lead to severe repercussions for both the employees and the organisation. To illustrate this, let’s delve into an extreme example and analyse its outcomes, while also considering how constant connectivity tools might affect mental health and productivity.

Telepressure and Micromanagement

The Case of the Overbearing Retail Operations Manager

Consider the case of “*Retail Giants,” a large retail chain known for its extensive network of stores and a strong online presence. However, the Operations Manager, Richard, was deeply involved in every aspect of the company’s office operations, leading to significant micromanagement issues. (*fictional Company and Manager’s name. Intended as examples only).

Richard’s micromanagement manifested in various ways:

  1. Daily Briefings: Every morning, Richard required all office team leaders to present detailed reports on their progress, including minor tasks. This consumed valuable time and created a culture of fear, where employees were more focused on reporting than on their actual work.
  2. Constant Check-Ins: Richard frequently monitored the online status of his office staff, scrutinising every aspect of their work habits. Employees felt they were constantly being watched, which hampered their creativity and willingness to take initiative.
  3. Approval Bottlenecks: Every decision, from inventory management to promotional strategies, needed Richard’s approval. This led to delays and frustration, as projects stalled waiting for his go-ahead.
  4. Detailed Instructions: Richard provided explicit instructions for tasks, leaving no room for employees to use their judgment or skills. This demotivated the team and resulted in a lack of ownership and responsibility among employees.

The outcomes were predictably negative. Employee morale plummeted, and the once vibrant and innovative culture of the retail chain’s office turned into a stagnant environment of compliance and minimal engagement. Talented employees started leaving the company, seeking workplaces where their skills and ideas would be valued. The turnover rate soared, and with it, the costs associated with hiring and training new staff.

The Impact on Mental Health and Productivity

Telepressure anxiety

Micromanagement, as seen in the case of Retail Giants, significantly affects employees’ mental health. The constant pressure and lack of autonomy can lead to stress, anxiety, and burnout. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, 58% of employees reported that micromanagement negatively impacted their job performance, and 68% said it diminished their morale.

Moreover, in the era of digital communication tools like Microsoft Teams, the effects of micromanagement can be exacerbated. The most common office connectivity software, while a powerful tool for collaboration, also has a darker side when it comes to mental health and productivity. The “green dot” indicating online status can create a sense of constant surveillance, contributing to increased stress and anxiety among employees.

Understanding Telepressure

Telepressure is a term used to describe the urge to respond to work communications quickly, regardless of the time or personal situation. This phenomenon is particularly prevalent with connectivity apps and tools where the expectation to be always available can blur the boundaries between work and personal life, leading to burnout.

Statistics highlight this issue:

  • A survey by the American Institute of Stress found that 80% of workers feel stress on the job, and nearly half of them need help in learning how to manage it.
  • Another study by Harvard Business Review revealed that 87% of employees expect their employers to support them in balancing work and personal commitments, but constant connectivity makes this difficult.
  • A report by RescueTime showed that the average knowledge worker spends only 2 hours and 48 minutes on productive tasks per day, with frequent interruptions and the pressure to respond immediately to messages reducing overall productivity.

Recently, there have been notable incidents highlighting the extreme measures employees take to manage this pressure. For example, Wells Fargo recently fired employees for using “mouse jigglers” to appear active on Teams without actually being engaged in work. This incident underscores the adverse effects of telepressure and micromanagement on employee behaviour and morale​ (Merriam-Webster)​. To be clear, we do not condone such behaviour; we are simply reporting the incident to underscore the severe effects of telepressure on employee actions, remaining neutral as Switzerland.

Is Productivity at Risk?

Indeed, productivity is at significant risk under micromanagement and constant connectivity pressures. When employees are micromanaged, their ability to innovate and problem-solve is curtailed. They become more focused on meeting the exact specifications set by their managers than on finding the best or most efficient way to accomplish their tasks. This can lead to inefficiency and reduced productivity.

Additionally, the stress and anxiety caused by micromanagement and the constant need to be online can lead to mental health issues, which in turn affect productivity. Burned-out employees are less likely to be engaged, motivated, or productive. They are also more likely to take sick leave, further affecting the company’s productivity.

Avoiding Micromanagement and Telepressure

To foster a healthy, productive work environment, managers should consider the following strategies:

  1. Build Trust: Managers should work on building trust with their employees by recognizing their competencies and allowing them to take ownership of their tasks. Trust fosters a positive work environment where employees feel valued and empowered.
  2. Set Clear Expectations: Clear communication of goals and expectations can reduce the need for constant oversight. Employees should understand what is expected of them and be given the freedom to achieve these goals in their own way.
  3. Encourage Autonomy: Giving employees the freedom to make decisions and manage their own work can boost morale and productivity. Autonomy leads to increased job satisfaction and a sense of ownership.
  4. Focus on Outcomes: Rather than focusing on how tasks are performed, managers should concentrate on the results and outcomes. This shift in focus can reduce micromanagement and allow employees to use their strengths and creativity.
  5. Establish Boundaries: Set clear boundaries for work communications, especially outside of regular work hours. Encourage employees to disconnect and recharge to prevent burnout and telepressure.

How HybridHero Can Help

HybridHero is a tool designed to support a more flexible and goal-oriented work environment. By focusing on outcomes rather than micromanaging processes, HybridHero helps managers and employees set clear, achievable goals. This approach promotes autonomy and empowers employees to take ownership of their tasks, thereby reducing the need for constant oversight and mitigating the effects of telepressure.

Goal oriented work

HybridHero offers features that facilitate effective communication, goal setting, and performance tracking without the need for intrusive check-ins. By integrating these practices, companies can foster a more productive and healthy work environment, leading to improved employee satisfaction and overall company performance.

Conclusion

The example of Retail Giants illustrates the detrimental effects of extreme micromanagement and telepressure. While the intention behind micromanagement might be to ensure high standards and control, the actual outcomes are often the opposite. Employee morale, mental health, and productivity suffer, leading to high turnover rates and stifled innovation.

In the modern workplace, where software tools create a sense of constant connectivity, the impact on mental health and productivity can be even more pronounced. To foster a healthy, productive work environment, managers should focus on building trust, empowering employees, and respecting work-life boundaries. This approach not only enhances employee well-being but also drives the organisation towards greater success.

References:

  1. American Psychological Association. (Year). Study on the impact of micromanagement on job performance and morale.
  2. Another relevant source for the same study.
  3. American Institute of Stress. (Year). Survey on workplace stress.
  4. Harvard Business Review. (Year). Study on employee expectations and employer support.
  5. RescueTime. (Year). Report on productive task time and interruptions.

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