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Legendary micromanagers

There’s a long list of entrepreneurs who are just as famous for being successful as they are for being difficult to work for.

Steve Jobs was notorious for being ruthless and controlling with employees, according to his business partner Steve Wozniak. Elon Musk’s “ultra hardcore” work culture caused some employees to sleep on the floor of the office after working 12-hour shifts.

Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos once called “work-life balance” a “debilitating phrase.” In 2023, Amazon delivery drivers filed a lawsuit against the company for forcing them to urinate in bottles — rather than stopping to go to a bathroom — during their shifts.

Suffice it to say, billionaires don’t mind pushing people to the edge of sanity. But is this aggressive work culture really a key to success or an unnecessary hassle? Research seems to lean towards the latter.

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Controlling bosses are counter-productive

Researchers have studied the impact of micromanagement in recent years and the results might not be surprising for anyone who has worked for a difficult boss.

A study published in the Asian Journal of Economics and Banking found that controlling bosses reduced employee morale and productivity. In fact, productivity suffered even if the micromanager somehow sustained employee morale.

Authoritative bosses undermined employee autonomy and made them more likely to agree with fake news even if they knew it was fake, according to a recent paper published in Scientific Reports.

Unsurprisingly, employees are not keen to work for controlling bosses. A survey conducted by Monster found that 73 percent of workers felt micromanagement was their biggest workplace issue. The survey also found that 46 percent of workers would consider leaving because of it.

Micromanagement might also be unnecessary for business leaders trying to enter the billionaires’ club. Warren Buffett is the perfect example.

Buffett’s management style has been described as hands-off and laissez-faire. Business owners acquired by his company are allowed to “operate on their own, without our supervising and monitoring them to any degree,” Buffett once said. “Most managers use the independence we grant them magnificently, by maintaining an owner-oriented attitude.”

In other words, Buffett is a master delegator who trusts his associates to work independently with minimal oversight.

If the world’s seventh-richest man doesn’t need micromanagement to succeed, it’s probably not necessary for everyone else.

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Vishesh Raisinghani Freelance Writer

Vishesh Raisinghani is a freelance contributor at MoneyWise. He has been writing about financial markets and economics since 2014 - having covered family offices, private equity, real estate, cryptocurrencies, and tech stocks over that period. His work has appeared in Seeking Alpha, Motley Fool Canada, Motley Fool UK, Mergers & Acquisitions, National Post, Financial Post, and Yahoo Canada.

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