Am I a micromanager? 9 signs of micromanagement behavior

Marlo Oster
January 20, 2021
5
Minutes

Are you a micromanager? Micromanagement fuels resentment and negativity—and who wants to work in an office like that? 


It’s time to take a close look at your management style. Do you guide your team or try to do their work for them? How comfortable are you letting your employees complete their work on their own? Do you find it easier to do it yourself? 


Use our list of telltale signs you’re a micromanager and find out how you can improve your management style. 

What is a micromanager? 

Micromanagers, backseat drivers, helicopter parents—They don’t sound like complimentary descriptions, do they? A micromanager is someone in a position of authority who, instead of providing clear instructions at the outset and leaving their employees to complete their tasks on their own, hovers over their employees, dealing out constant criticisms and corrections. 



And the reason they’re always looking over their employees’ shoulders rings loud and clear to the employee, even if it’s unintentional: their manager doesn’t trust them to do the job right. 


While this management style could yield better-quality work in the short-term, managers who consistently critique their employees’ performance without granting them any autonomy will soon foster a hostile work environment. After all, no one likes to hear that everything they do is wrong, and no one can work comfortably with someone breathing down their neck. 


Micromanagement: 9 signs you're driving your direct reports crazy

Micromanagement sign #1: You don’t trust others to make decisions

Do you trust the people you work with to make decisions, or do you make all of the decisions for them? How much autonomy does your team have? Can they proceed with decision making when you aren’t around? 


Trust is more difficult for some than others, but it’s essential for a healthy workplace. You need to be able to trust your team, and they need to know they can trust you, too. You’ll reach fewer roadblocks, and projects will move forward more quickly when you trust others to make decisions along the way.

Micromanagement sign #2: You’d rather do it yourself than delegate

Do you find it’s easier to do a task yourself rather than have someone else do it? Maybe you worry that if someone else takes on a task, they’ll do it differently than you, or you might have a false sense of importance. Your absence might be felt less than you think. 


Are you really the only person in the world that’s capable of doing the work that you do? Or is it possible that someone else could learn? As a manager, you’re in a position to teach and guide those around you. Even if delegating may take longer at first, it will be worth it in the end as your team gains knowledge and learns new skills.

Micromanagement sign #3: You complain about small details

If you’re looking for mistakes everywhere, you’re bound to find something somewhere. Wrong font? Small typo? A sentence you would write differently? Coffee made not quite the way you would do it?



Complaining all the time is bad for your wellbeing, and it will zap your team of positive energy. Consider whether or not small annoyances are worth bringing up at all. Does it really matter what font your teammate used or how the coffee was made?


Make a habit of taking time away from the issue before saying anything about it. Don’t react in the moment. If it comes up time and time again, it could be something to talk about while giving constructive feedback.

Micromanagement sign #4: You don’t take time to give constructive feedback

Do you find yourself frequently dissatisfied with an employee’s performance? Have you let them know yet find they’re still making the same mistakes? Simply telling an employee they’re not doing a good job and then taking over that job doesn’t help anyone. It’s a short-term solution that fills you and your employee with negativity. 


Constantly criticizing your employees demoralizes and demotivates them. If you’re not satisfied with someone’s performance, take the time to provide constructive feedback—which requires emotional intelligence, tactfulness, and strong communication skills. Think about the managers, teachers, and bosses you’ve had in your own life. The ones you remember are those who took the time to offer you guidance and who cared enough to help you expand your own personal skillset. Be that manager for your team. 


📚 Read more about the benefits of providing continuous feedback

Micromanagement sign #5: You don’t trust your team to work from home

Do you trust your team to get work done when you’re not supervising every minute of their progress? Allowing employees to work remotely or from home gives them the freedom to work when and how they work best. If you find yourself wondering whether they’ll actually be productive, you likely have a larger problem on your hands.


Jason Fried, co-author of Remote: Office Not Required, says it best: if “you can't let your employees work from home out of fear they'll slack off without your supervision, you're a babysitter, not a manager. Remote work is very likely the least of your problems.” 


Micromanagement sign #6: You have trouble working asynchronously

We communicate asynchronously every day. Asynchronous communication is any communication between two or more people that doesn’t require them to be in the same physical space or communicating at exactly the same time—for example, email. 


Do you feel uncomfortable or out of control if you’re not sharing the same physical space as your employees? Do you expect your team to answer your questions and get back to you the instant you reach out to them?


Communication with your employees and coworkers doesn’t need to be synchronous—meaning you don’t need to communicate instantly to get work done. Constant interruptions may actually hinder their focus and productivity. Trust others to work in the ways that best suit them and get used to communicating asynchronously. 

Micromanagement sign # 7: You don’t provide the full context

This sign may be the toughest to spot in yourself. If you often feel like your team isn’t able to complete tasks without you, or if you worry about delegating your own tasks, consider if you’re providing your team with the full context of your goals. You may be withholding important information without even realizing you’re doing it.


You’re not an island; you’re an important part of a larger whole. You need to bring people in and provide the complete context of projects and problems so that everyone can contribute. Even if it takes a little more time, give your team all of the information they need for the best chance of success.

Micromanagement sign #8: You find it difficult to meet deadlines

This is an extension of the many problems listed above—it’s what happens if you constantly micromanage your team. Your lack of faith in your employees means productivity hits a standstill whenever a project or piece of a project nears completion. When everything waits on your seal of approval, projects get delayed, and deadlines run the risk of not being met. 


You can’t be everywhere at once, and that’s precisely why you have a team behind you. A team shares responsibilities. Delegate tasks, create an action plan, and collaborate on team goals by tasking individuals with creating their own action items. 


📚 Try goal management that’s flexible, measurable, and results-oriented with WorkPatterns. 

Micromanagement sign #9: You don’t invest in continued learning

Do you provide opportunities for your team to learn and improve? If you don’t think your team is up to your standard now, take the time to teach them. If you don’t have the time to teach them, provide resources and funds to get them the training they need to get up to snuff.


If you invest in education for your team, you’ll have more confidence and be able to let go of some of the responsibilities you usually save for yourself. Learning is an ongoing pursuit and your investment in your team will illustrate that they are important, valued employees.

Macromanagement: Your alternative to being a micromanager

Macromanagement is just the opposite. Where micromanagers can’t keep their hands out of an employee’s work, macromanagers provide minimal supervision, preferring a hands-off approach that grants their team autonomy. Macromanagers trust their team; they delegate the responsibilities and then get out of the way—but they’re always there to offer guidance if an employee seeks it out. 


The best leaders inspire their team and every individual in it. They create an environment that fosters trust and welcomes innovation, creativity, and inclusivity through their own enthusiasm, dedication, and excitement for the work. This kind of transformational leadership is something all managers should aspire to and can achieve by articulating their vision, supporting their team, and by never forgetting their role within it. 


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