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Micro vs. macro management | Focus on two different leadership types

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Paulyne

December 6, 2022

Nobody likes to be controlled, no matter if it is in our personal or professional lives. It's no surprise that micromanaging negatively impacts employees' morale and performance. Although giving more autonomy and empowering your team is the way to go, it requires balance. Learning more about micro vs. macro management helps us understand better these two opposite supervising methods. What is the difference between micro and macro leadership? What are the pros and cons of each of these management strategies? How to find the right balance to drive your workforce successfully? While working models become more flexible and people-focused, management practices also need to evolve and adapt to the trends of the future of work. With 56% of US employees quitting their job because of their boss1, working on your management style is fundamental. 

Micro vs. macro management: definitions

Definition of micromanagement


Do you ask your employees to be informed about every action they take? Do you need to validate every step of each operation your team is working on? Do you spend more time monitoring your staff than focusing on the big picture and finding solutions to reach goals? Micromanagers can’t help but over-control what their coworkers are doing.
This “helicopter” leadership can sometimes be helpful for short-term or challenging projects that require a straightforward structure. But, as we highlight in our articles about employee burnout and toxic work culture, micromanaging is not a leadership style that benefits workers or companies. Eventually, it contributes more to negative impacts than good ones. Stay with us:  in the next paragraphs we will cover the benefits and drawbacks of micromanagement.

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Meaning of macro management

Macro managers adopt a different style that tends to be the opposite of micromanagement. They empower their team members by sharing the goal to reach with them but letting them figure out the most successful way to achieve it.  The objective of macro leaders is to support their coworkers without controlling every detail of their work. Macro management is a  leadership established on trust and autonomy. The focus is on the outcome more than on the steps between.

In terms of management’s best practices, a more flexible approach better matches today’s employees’ expectations. As with micromanagement, we will also discuss the perks and downsides of this type of leadership. But yes, when knowing that the trends of the future of work are based on more flexibility and employee-centricity, macro supervision is undoubtedly part of the modern ways of working.

The difference between micro and macro leadership: the impact on employees' morale

The impact of micromanaging on your team

Positive impact: micro leadership can… Negative impact: micro leadership can…
help handle challenging short-term situations destroy creative and innovative skills
reassure people lacking self-confidence and needing more structure give employees the feeling they are neither trusted nor valued
create frustration
make team members lose confidence in themselves and their abilities
increase bore out and burnout
reduce engagement and productivity
make individuals lose time on reporting instead of working on their tasks
increase turnover

Micromanagement doesn’t bring a lot of positive aspects to workers and, therefore, to an organization. Quite the opposite.. This leadership style refrains people from thriving and developing their skill set. 

It is like putting a (desk) bird in a cage.

Instead of getting better at flying, your team members end up losing their core skills and start working in auto mode. Although success without failure is a myth, micromanaging doesn’t leave room for trying new concepts or making mistakes.

However, knowing what your workforce’s needs are is fundamental. Even if most employees favor macro management, some actually feel reassured to refer to their supervisor before taking action. But again, as a leader, over-controlling every detail is not be the best way to help them grow personally and professionally.

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The advantages and disadvantages of a macro management style

Pros: macro management helps… Cons: macro supervision can…
foster employees' empowerment be more difficult to apply for young managers
give staff more autonomy create issues for short-term goals
boost skills and self-development make employees feel abandoned if they are not well-balanced
reinforce trust between managers and team members
enhance creativity, innovation, and solution-oriented behaviors
match the values of remote and hybrid work models
increase workers' engagement and motivation
increase efficiency

Macro management benefits people and, consequently, the company in many ways. Managers can focus on the bigger picture instead of wasting time excessively supervising their team members. Employees can make the most of their skills, think outside the box, and handle their tasks and schedule according to their needs. Not only does it show them trust, but it also provides them with the autonomy they are asking for. Moreover, macro bosses help boost and motivate workers by allowing them to challenge themselves and keep the passion for their role alive.

However, this leadership style also has to be balanced, as employees shouldn’t feel left alone. To avoid ending up with a team that is lost, supervisors have to be clear about the next goals. They need to make sure everyone knows their role and responsibilities. Again, the key is to support your workforce, encourage them to find solutions by themselves, and let them fail without over-controlling them.

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A balanced leadership style: the key to managing hybrid teams successfully

Micromanaging doesn’t fulfill workers' expectations in terms of management

To understand better what people expect from their boss, we recommend you read our article about employees' expectations. As highlighted in that post, workers seek professional development (re-skilling, up-skilling, and career growth), autonomy, flexibility, purpose, transparency, and accountability. 

Unfortunately, micromanagers provide very little (or even the opposite) of these key aspects, negatively impacting employees’ satisfaction and morale. Unless your team members like to be micromanaged, which is rarely the case, this management style usually leads to two paths. Either people quit. Or they stay, but their mental health is strongly affected, resulting in low performance and often burnout.

Micromanaging is clearly the wrong approach if you want to create a positive work environment, foster employee centricity, and improve employee happiness.

A manager explaining a concept to his coworker.

Macro management needs to be adjusted according to your team profile

Do you want to encourage your employees to grow and challenge their abilities? Do you enjoy having the point of view of your coworkers and knowing that the next big idea could come from the creative minds of your team? Are you looking for methods to foster engagement and productivity? Then macro management is your best shot. However, like for any successful strategy, you must first find out what your staff expects from you. 

As mentioned, some people need structure to perform well. In that case, then, the goal is to support them without falling into micromanagement. As much as sharing constructive feedback with your employees is key to making them grow, the other way around is crucial too. Ask your team members how you can assist them best, what they need from you and how your collaboration could be improved. 

The ideal balance is to give people the autonomy they require and be present simultaneously without over-controlling. There is no magic trick, but the information in the next paragraph can help you.

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Coworker and manager working together

The key ingredients of successful leadership are communication, organization, and employee centricity

Macro leaders have to focus on three fundamental aspects to get the most out of it: 

  1. They must adopt a transparent and straightforward communication strategy.
  2. They should have a spotless organization to enable smoother collaboration among their workforce. 
  3. They should always prioritize an employee-centric approach

This last recommendation is crucial. Each business is unique, and all individuals have distinct needs. Understanding what your team members expect regarding management and which practices can help them thrive is essential to be a great leader. You can discuss it in one-to-one sessions or through different means, such as feedback forms or employee satisfaction questionnaires

Happy manager and coworker collaborating together.

Knowing how to support your coworkers is even more critical if you are among the many companies that have embraced hybrid work over the last couple of years. Managing remote employees can be challenging. On one side, it can quickly increase micromanaging behaviors. On the other hand, macro-managed teams can feel disconnected and isolated if their supervisor doesn’t promote collaboration. The difference between micro and macro leadership is quite extensive. Still, although a macro approach is more suitable for employees, it has to be balanced. Now that you can compare all the upsides and downsides of micro vs. macro management, you are fully equipped to improve your management style. 

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1According to the 2022 Survey about Great Resignation conducted by FlexJobs.

Paulyne

Content Creator

Micro vs. macro management | Focus on two different leadership types