We've all heard how micromanaging is archaic, demoralizing, and a surefire way to alienate your employees. No one thrives in a controlled environment. Cubicles and time cards are out. Open offices and telecommuting are in.

Today's workforce wants flexibility, freedom, and equality. Rather than reign with an iron fist, management should be considered more as equals rather than authorities. Success is based on collaboration rather than individual responsibility.

Many leaders struggle between these two types of management styles. On one hand, they don't want to micromanage and alienate their staff. On the other, they need to set boundaries for employees who are starting to slack off. As soon as one person starts taking two hour lunches or continually post selfies while the rest of the team grinds away, it won't take long until others follow suit.

Whether it's a few missed deadlines, blatant disorganization, or disruption of the office in general, you need to do something about it. Even if their performance is stable, their obvious misuse of time affects the office culture and team dynamics.

So how can you get people back on track without running the office like a drill sergeant? Here are five strategies to get staff back on track.

1. Check-in.

By noon you've spotted three new Instagram posts, two non-work related phone calls, and a 35-minute gossip session in the lunchroom. Clearly you're aware this employee is not doing their job, and it's getting to you. So much so that you've begun monitoring their hourly move. It's exhausting.

One of the reasons people slack off at work is due to boredom. They either don't have enough work, or don't feel challenged enough. Another reason may be they don't fully understand the project or task at hand. Is there a lack of leadership or resources?

These are all answers you can uncover with a simple check-in. Tell them you've noticed they seem disengaged at work lately, and ask if they're enjoying their job, what they like or don't like about the role, and how they foresee their career path. Then you can gauge what steps to take next.

2. Set expectations.

A study found that the average worker is only productive for around three hours a day. The most common unproductive activities included reading news websites, checking social media, and discussing non-work-related things with coworkers.

Does this mean you block all non-work related websites from the company's servers and take away their phones? No, but it does mean you should have a clear set of expectations on what's acceptable according to your company's standards.

3. Delegate with meaning.

It's simple: the more they have to do, the less they have time to do other things. That doesn't mean you assign them garbage duty. If you think boredom is the issue, give them meaningful work that will force them to go outside of their comfort zone.

For example, if the employee is currently in an entry-level position, assign them pilot projects that would typically be managed by someone more senior. A small-scale assignment with a clear deadline will let you see how resourceful, passionate, and focused they are about their future with the company.

4. Keep them accountable.

There's a big difference between management and micromanagement. It's perfectly acceptable to check-in periodically and ask the status of a project. The employee may appreciate the inquiry, especially if you offer help, advice, or resources to ensure their assignment becomes a success.

However, storming into their office three times a day to see how much work they've done, followed by eight emails and phone calls, is not going to go over well. You want to excel their productivity, not stall it.

Regardless of the type of work, there needs to be process of accountability. If there's no one to hold them responsible, staff will be less inclined to deliver on their commitments. When you assign the deadline, also set out when you'll be checking-in. Then the employee will be prepared and all expectations will be clear.

5. Call them out.

You've had your one-on-one, set expectations, and assigned them a pilot project. Two weeks later, they're back to the same antics. Now what?

When a leader has exhausted their resources and the issue persists, it's okay to tell them enough is enough. Start with an observation, not an accusation.

Be honest and transparent with what's acceptable use of their time, and how things have to change. Then start a plan of accountability to start turning things around.

Published on: Aug 25, 2017