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Leading for Collaboration, Not Control: Why Micromanagement and Moral Policing Fail in Today's Workplace

Modern organizations strive for engaged and empowered employees, yet some managers fall into the trap of micromanagement and moral policing. This seemingly well-intentioned approach, aiming to control behavior and enforce "proper" values, backfires spectacularly, fostering resentment, disengagement, and ultimately harming organizational goals.


Beyond Feedback: Avoiding the Micromanagement Trap

While constructive feedback is crucial for professional growth, micromanagement goes beyond that. It delves into dictating and controlling every step of an employee's work, hindering autonomy and stifling creativity. This micromanagement often stems from a misguided belief that the manager is the sole source of "correct" behaviors and values.

From Policing to Empowering: Reframing the Manager's Role


Leaders who police and judge employees based on personal values forget that their role is to support individual strengths and guide them towards achieving organizational objectives. This shift in perspective enables leaders to:

  • Provide clear and objective feedback: Focus on the tasks at hand, highlighting strengths and offering constructive advice for improvement, not moral judgment.

  • Empower and trust: Foster a culture of trust and accountability, allowing individuals to take ownership of their work and make decisions, fostering a sense of ownership and engagement.

  • Embrace diverse perspectives: Recognize and value the unique experiences and values of each employee. This inclusivity fosters a richer team environment and leads to more innovative solutions.

Unveiling the Hidden Bias: The Dangers of Moral Policing

Micromanagement and judgment often mask unconscious biases. We all internalize societal norms, leading to blind spots in our judgment. When policing behavior based on racism, classism, or misogyny, disguised as "professionalism," we perpetuate a system based on social castes, not merit. This undermines the very principles of liberty and justice for all, principles that America aspires to but hasn't fully achieved.


Leading by Example: Professionalism and Boundaries

Effective leadership demands professionalism and clear boundaries. Setting clear expectations around work performance while respecting individual autonomy demonstrates trust and fosters a healthy work environment. Paternalistic attitudes, where managers view employees as needing constant guidance and correction, not only disrespect individual agency but also fail to recognize the unique value each person brings to the table.


By relinquishing the urge to control and judge, and instead focusing on clear communication, empowerment, and respect, managers can build a collaborative and thriving work environment, fostering innovation and achieving organizational goals while simultaneously fostering a sense of agency and respect for all employees. This shift is crucial for moving towards a truly just and equitable future for organizations and society as a whole.

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