How to Manage Employees Without Managing Them

When I was working on my first marketing job for the second year, I had a long period of low performance. I lost interest in my work and didn’t feel like I was doing something exciting. My manager tried everything. Unfortunately, one of those things was micromanaging.

manage employees

He was always giving me directions, helping me track my progress and encouraging me to do more. He had best intentions at heart.


People don’t like you to micromanage them. As they tend to think that only they know what must be done to achieve their goals. For a manager to go in and say “you should do things differently,” is often met with hostility and demotivation. However, each manager knows that from time-to-time they must take the reigns and push people in another direction. How do you do this without employees understanding what is going on?

Subtle observance with weekly reporting.

The first thing you need to do is make sure you have a way of monitoring employees work without disrupting their workflow. The best way to do that is to use a subtle weekly reporting system like PPP – Plans, Progress, Problems.

Weekly status reporting consists of 3 different questions or categories:

  • Plans. What are you planning? (Future)
  • Progress. What have you done? (Past)
  • Problems. What problems are you facing? (Present)

Each week employees answer these questions (without writing long essays) and a manager can get a overview of what’s going on.

As Cleve Gibbon aptly put it, PPP is “rich in stuff, low in fluff”. His opinion is shared by the likes of Emi Gal (CEO of Brainient) and Colin Nederkoorn (CEO of, both of whom use PPP to organize and streamline their respective enterprises.

Things to avoid when you manage employees.

People who feel that they are micro- or mismanaged will suffer loss of motivation, trust and thanks to that, productivity.

So, you need to be sneaky about it. The last thing you want to do with a problem employee is making things worse. As this, in my experience, usually ends with them resigning and you looking for the next employee you need to train from the start.

When my manager first tried to micromanage me, it had an opposite effect on me. It increased my stress and made me want to give up even more.

The solution.

In the end what did the trick for me, was taking some time off and my manager letting me work this out myself. Or so I thought. A few years later I found out that this was his strategy when hard management didn’t work. And the PPP weekly reporting system we implemented helped him to always know where I was with my work.

If you want to try out weekly reporting yourself, you can do it easily in some cloud-based excel system like Google Drive. Or you can go straight for a simple a status reporting software. Either way, you’ll see the improvement in your team’s work soon.