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Should You Micromanage Your Engineering Teams?

Should You Micromanage Your Engineering Teams?

Most supervisors and HR managers recognize that employees in creative professions don’t thrive under a micromanaging leadership style. When employees are tasked with jobs that involve pure innovation, idea generation, and insight, their productivity suffers if they’re excessively criticized or their work is picked apart at every turn.

But does the same general rule hold true for engineers? Some supervisors and managers maintain that engineering work is detail and task oriented, not creative or innovative. Quality work is meticulous, error free, and complete—not original, insightful, or trail-blazing. If your engineers produce work that’s graded for accuracy, not brilliance, then micromanagement might not be such a dirty word. Here’s why.

1. Meticulous (but not innovative) work is usually conducted at the junior or mid-career level.

Junior engineers and new graduates thrive on structure. They aren’t often familiar with the culture and rhythm of a professional workplace, they don’t always know what’s expected of them, and they can’t yet be trusted with high levels of independence. A micromanaging style can provide them with the constant feedback they need in order to stay on track. Coaching and hand-holding aren’t always resented at this level—they’re usually appreciated.

2. Constant feedback reduces drama.

A little bit of criticism can go a long way…and when criticism and feedback are rare, one negative remark can be traumatizing, and can lead to a reduction in confidence and a sudden increase in risk-aversion. But if criticism is a daily–or even hourly– occurrence, each incident doesn’t carry the same sting. Of course, business-as-usual criticism should always be constructive, and should be accompanied by equal amounts of business-as-usual praise.

3. Micromanaging eliminates small problems before they become big problems.

Supervisors, not employees, are the ones who carry responsibility for an employee’s mistakes. When errors take place, time is lost, mistakes are made, or the company is embarrassed in front of a client, blame travels up the rope, not down. If your workplace is built on a culture of integrity (which it should be), then your managers will naturally take responsibility for the actions of their direct reports. And of course, they’ll want to do all they can to keep those actions positive.

For more on how to encourage a culture of productive, supportive, and effective micromanagement in your engineering workplace, reach out to the staffing experts at Techneeds.