Are You Making Your Employees Less Productive?



  • Micromanagement distracts managers, makes employees feel lack of control.
  • Overuse of email can keep employees from focusing and being proactive.

Often overlooked in organizations, especially large ones, is the fact that productivity, happiness, and engagement are all related. Employees who are happier and more satisfied at work are more productive and more engaged in the mission of the organization.

Several factors affect the happiness of the staff. First, studies show that control makes us happy. So employees who feel disempowered and micromanaged are less likely to feel like they have control over their work environment, and are therefore less likely to report being happy at work. 

And there are two sides to this coin. Managers and leaders often tell me that their biggest source of distraction is interruptions from their staff.

If your employees often come to you with issues, they may feel like they are not empowered to solve problems on their own. And if you offer them solutions, instead of encouraging them to do what they think is best, this reinforces the idea that they are not empowered to solve problems on their own, which furthers the employees’ unhappiness and continues the managers’ distraction.

Another way to help your staff feel more in control, and therefore make them happier at work, is to be careful about encouraging multitasking.

Have you inadvertently tied your employees to their email by always expecting an immediate response? Even if you don’t expect an immediate response, do your employees think you do? Or do they think you will look more favorably on an immediate response? This puts employees in reactive mode all day, and prevents them from being proactive —assessing their overall workload and choosing what to work on next.

When companies fall into the habit of using internal email for immediate and urgent communication, the (often unintended) byproduct is that employees are forced to always leave their email open, being distracted by every new message that comes in.

This kind of email culture also ensures constant multitasking, and prevents employees from ever being able to focus on the task at hand for any period of time. Studies show that this means that tasks will take longer and the quality of the results will be lower. Constant multitasking makes us more prone to making mistakes, more likely to miss important information and cues, and less likely to retain information in working memory, which impairs problem solving and creativity.

Supporting single-tasking and focus will help employees to feel less scattered and distracted, and therefore less stressed, contributing to their feeling of well-being at work.

And speaking of multitasking, give your staff the gift of your presence by turning away from your computer and putting down your smartphone when meeting or speaking with them. This will help to make them feel valued and listened to — both factors that contribute to their happiness at work.

This article was originally posted on Maura's blog:



The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily The University of Texas at Austin.

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About The Author

Maura Nevel Thomas

Founder and Chief Trainer,

About Maura Nevel Thomas and Regain Your A 20-year veteran of the productivity industry, Maura Nevel Thomas is founder and chief trainer of...


#1 Thanks for reading! Yes there

Thanks for reading! Yes there is ample information to support the points in my article. First, I'll tell you that each of the assertions I made has been "proven" through my 20 years of experience working with individuals and teams on personal and group productivity. But I don't just rely on personal experience in my work. There is also scholarly research that reinforces my findings. The work of Shawn Achor, Harvard researcher and author, discusses many research studies that support the assertion that "Employees who are happier and more satisfied at work are more productive and more engaged in the mission of the organization." I suggest his book, "The Happiness Advantage." He also has a TED talk on the subject. "Control makes us happy" is generally accepted among social psychologists, and the one with whom I consult from Yale University tells me that the "classic" study on this topic is called "Illusion and Well-Being: A Social Psychological Perspective on Mental Health." If you Google that title, you will find many references to it. Also, the study linked in the post supports the other findings, although it tested a slightly different hypothesis. There is so much research about the disadvantages of multitasking that you will be overwhelmed by it if you search for it on the internet. Some of my favorites are listed on the Research & Resources page of my website at I hope that gives you what you're looking for, but please feel free to reach out to me directly at maura (at) regainyourtime (dot) com, or call me at 424-226-2872, and I'd be happy to assist you further. Thanks again for reading!

#2 Hi Maura, I was wondering if

Hi Maura, I was wondering if you had any peer reviewed studies that you could link to me to back this up? I'd like to bring this article to my boss, but I'd prefer to have ammo to back it up. Thanks!

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