Are You a Micromanager? How to Find Out & What to Do About It

Are You a Micromanager? How to Find Out & What to Do About It

A Micromanager in ActionHow do you know if you’re a micromanaging boss?

  • Do you give detailed directions to your employees on how to do their jobs, leaving them with little room for creativity?
  • Are you afraid to delegate responsibility because those around you may not carry out the work as you would?
  • Do you require your employees to report to you frequently on what they are doing?
  • Do you find yourself checking up on minutiae, such as wording in employees’ emails and letters?
  • Are you afraid to let employees hold meetings and make decisions without you present?

If you can answer yes to several of these questions, we hate to break it to you, but you are probably a micromanager!

Perhaps you see it another way.  When you are the owner of the business, or the person responsible for its success, it’s a lot of responsibility.

You may believe that your employees welcome guidance, and that you are providing mentorship to them.  From your perspective, you are working with them as a team to ensure theirs and the company’s success.  Perhaps not everyone in your organization is as motivated and caring as you are, and in order to manage them you have to stay on top of them.

As logical as your reasons might seem to be, if you’re micromanaging your employees, the odds are good that it’s bad for them and bad for your business.

What is micromanagement?

Wikipedia defines it as “a management style where a manager closely observes or controls the work of his or her subordinates or employees.”  Webster’s defines it as managing with “excessive control or attention to detail.”

We get the concept quickly when we hear the term control freak!

The negative consequences of micromanagement:

Overall, studies show that micromanagement of employees has a negative effect on the workplace.

It communicates a lack of trust to the employee and stifles their initiative and creativity.  If the boss is going to dictate every detail of what they do and how they do it, why bother thinking for themselves?  If their ideas are ignored, why make suggestions?  If the boss redoes all of their work, why even do it in the first place?

A culture of micromanagement can create an office of helpless employees.  Pretty soon they are afraid of doing anything without checking first with the boss.  They cannot and will not make decisions.

Initiative isn’t appreciated, so it’s left at home.  A vicious cycle is created wherein the boss is less and less able to depend on the employees and the employees become increasingly helpless and unmotivated.

How can you tell if you’re micromanaging your employees?

Are you wondering if you’re micromanaging your employees, but don’t know how to confirm this?  There’s one easy way to answer this question:  ask them!

Give your staff the opportunity to review your performance as you review theirs.  Get feedback from others that have the opportunity to observe your management style.  (If you’re worried that you won’t receive honest answers, allow your staff to provide anonymous responses.)  Large organizations call this 360º feedback.

But remember, if you ask for the feedback, you must make a commitment to really listen to it!

Can you kick your micromanaging habit?

If you are a micromanager, is there hope for you?  Yes, indeed!

Ask yourself one important question:  What drives my need to micromanage?

Do you fear for your own job security, is your boss always on your back, are you overly detail-oriented, does the company itself have a micromanaging culture, are you driven by fears of business failure due to the poor economy, or do you have employees who are not capable of performing their duties?

Understanding the underlying causes will help you make changes.

How to change your micromanaging ways:

If you determine the problem is you, and not your employees, then you’re ready to make some changes.

(If you’ve come to the conclusion that you have to micromanage your employees because they’re not capable of performing properly unless you do, it’s probably time to get some new employees!)

  • Start by ensuring that when you do give directions for projects or tasks, you are clear about what you expect.  If you are clear in the beginning, you should not need to constantly check up on your employees.
  • Open up the channels of communication.  Micromanagers are generally one way communicators, and that’s top down.  Start really listening to what your employees have to say.  Ask their opinions.  Be open to their suggestions.  It will take some time, but eventually you’ll establish two way communications.
  • Stand in front of your employees, close your eyes, and fall backwards, knowing they’ll catch you – figuratively speaking.  Start to trust them.  They want to succeed on the job and they want the company to succeed.  If you start building trust between you and them, they’ll have your back when you need them to.
  • Stop sweating the small stuff.  Just as no two snowflakes are alike, no two employees are alike.  All of us will do things a little bit differently.  That doesn’t necessarily mean one way is wrong and the other is right.  Figure out when it is really important that processes be followed to the letter, and let the rest go.
  • Don’t go it alone.  Committing to change and following it through is challenging.  There are some good books available about management styles that are helpful.  Hiring a business coach to assist with a style transition is a good way to go.  Also, having a work partner provide feedback and guidance as you improve your management abilities will enable you to judge your progress.

Don’t be afraid to get feedback from your employees as well.  It make take a while for them to believe you’re changing and regain their trust, but consistency will eventually provide that.


One last thought:  Don’t be afraid to manage your employees!

Giving up your reliance on micromanaging does not mean that you won’t still manage your employees.  You’re the boss, and they are the subordinates.  It is your job to delegate, guide, mentor, critique, correct and review their performance.

It’s just a question of finding the right balance between being a masterful manager and a micromanager!