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Mar 27

Excessive Meddling in Employees Work

Posted by: Steve Marr

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Don was the Marketing Vice President of a large insurance agency. He insisted on reviewing every customer sales presentation and made extensive corrections. His pen scratching on every presentation became legendary within the company. No effort, regardless of how well done, escaped his attempt at improvement. While occasionally Don caught a significant error, most of the changes were minor, like changing the size of a heading, a slight word revision, or adjusting the format to his preference.


The result? Team morale was virtually nonexistent. In fact, Don’s meddling actually caused the sales staff to work less, rather than more. Some of the staff became angry, others were demoralized, and still others accepted the apparent fact that their best work would never be good enough and just stopped trying.  When we excessively become involved in the work of subordinates, we destroy motivation, create ill feelings, and waste everyone’s time. Rather than focus on changing the font size on a $500,000 proposal, Don needed to review how the comparisons match up against the likely competitors.   

Moses gave us a model when he said, “How can I alone bear the load and burden of your strife?” (Deuteronomy 1:12 NASB). Moses understood he could not do everything and that delegation was necessary. He further said, “The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it” (Deuteronomy 1:17 NASB). Moses was saying, “You do the work you are capable of doing and I will take on only the work when you need help.”

Bosses tend to interfere for several reasons. Some are perfectionists who can’t resist making improvements. Others have an excessive ego, believing nothing can be done as well by others as themselves. Control freaks will meddle as a way of insuring everything is under their control and that their perceived territory is protected. Finally, some bosses seem to believe that the constant refining of other’s work justifies their position. Jesus gave us a model when He said, “And he called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to heal diseases” (Luke 9:1 NASB). The Lord had trained the disciples, then gave them instructions, and then delegated the power and authority to carry out His mission. The Scripture is clear that each pair worked independently.  

When not to interfere 

When the issue is mainly one of preference, we should not become involved. Don was always insisting on font changes, often inconsistently based on his preference on a given day. In reality, any one of several readable fonts would have been fine. Also, when the issue is not material, we should not get caught up in making changes. One office manager would insist documents be placed in a certain position when being inputted into the computer system. Rather than focusing on the quality and quantity of the work, the focus was on the position of documents. In reality, some worked better using the suggested positioning, while others did not. The insistence on using only one positioning actually reduced productivity rather than improving it.  

When to interfere

At times, we do need to become involved in managing staff and changing how work is accomplished. Any time a company policy is violated, we need to step in. Insurance quotations required approval for special rate structures and Don could correctly insist that the required approvals be obtained in advance. Poor customer service is another instance when we need to step in. The insurance company wanted to produce quotations within 3 business days of receiving all the information required. Again, Don would be correct to step in whenever quotations became delayed. Unfortunately, when Don unnecessarily became involved, he caused many more proposals to fall behind, thus creating a larger problem than the one he thought he was fixing.

Any time ethics are violated we need to take action. When we do step in, we need to explain what was done, what needs to be done differently, and what we expect in the future. Then our colleagues will understand why we need to be involved. 

When we are clear with staff what we expect and then delegate that work, we can then confidently monitor that work and be drawn in when absolutely necessary.


Steve Marr, Your Christian Business Coach

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