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PRODUCTIVITY PLAYBOOK

It's Official: Micromanaging Kills Productivity

New research suggests the more you try to dictate how and when employees work, the less they will accomplish.
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Ever wonder what really makes employees work harder?

Let's start with what doesn't. Contrary to the instinct of micromanagers everywhere, watching over your employees' shoulders and dictating where and when they should work is perhaps the worst tactic for productivity. 

New research from University of Pennsylvania professor Alexandra Michel finds highly educated employees work more when given autonomy over their schedules. In fact, they'll often work to the point of exhaustion. 

Michel saw this herself, when she began her career at Goldman Sachs years ago. There, the average investment banker burned out after nine years and typically quit by age 35. To understand this, Michel spent 12 years studying young executives at two large investment banks.

When employees were pressured to work more, they were less inspired, she found. But when allowed to set their own pace, taking fewer vacations and working on weekends, they could accept it because it was their choice, Michel explained in the summer issue of The Sociological Quarterly, where her study was published. 

Of course, employee-dictated schedules aren't without their flaws. Michel noted many autonomous bankers worked excessively hard, suffering "debilitating physical and psychological breakdowns" as well as back pain, insomnia, addictions, and eating disorders. Others often sacrificed personal needs at the expense of a healthy work-life balance. So while the work schedules were on their own terms, their judgment, creativity, and ethical sensitivity suffered, making life miserable for those around them. 

What's your take on how much autonomy employees should have regarding their schedules?

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IMAGE: Complot/Shutterstock
Last updated: Jul 10, 2014

JILL KRASNY | Staff Writer

Jill Krasny is a staff writer for Inc. magazine, where she covers the intersection of entertainment and startups. Prior to Inc., she was a writer for MTV and Esquire and an editor at TheStreet. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in communication. She lives in New York City.




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