What Is a Micromanager? Definition and Signs

Let’s face it. Paying attention to details and making sure the work is getting done are important. So it’s easy to chalk all of the above up to a necessary part of managing. But they aren’t necessary all the time. The problem with micromanagers is that they apply the same level of intensity, scrutiny and in-your-face approach to every task, whether warranted or not. The bottom line is: you need to stop. It’s harming your team’s morale and – ultimately – their productivity.

While micromanaging may get you short-term results, over time it negatively impacts your team, your organization, and yourself. You dilute your own productivity and you run out of capacity to get important things done. You stunt your team members’ development and demoralize them. You create an organizational vulnerability when your team isn’t used to functioning without your presence and heavy involvement.

2. Let it go. The difference between managing and micromanaging is the focus on the “micro.” At the core of moving away from micromanaging is letting go of the minutia. This can be hard, but the key is to do it a little at a time. Start by looking at your to-do list to determine what low hanging fruit you can pass on to a team member. Engage in explicit discussions with your direct reports about what level of detail you will engage in and where they will need to pull you in. You should also highlight the priorities on your list — the big ticket items where you truly add value — and make sure that is where you are spending most of your energy.

3. Give the “what,” not the “how.” There is nothing wrong with having an expectation about a deliverable. But there’s a difference between sharing that expectation and dictating how to get to that result. Your job as a manager is to clearly set the conditions of satisfaction for any task you assign. Articulate what you envision the final outcome to look like, but don’t give blow-by-blow instructions on how to get there. When in doubt, share the “what” and ask (rather than tell) your team member about how they plan to get there. You might be surprised that their approach, while different, may yield excellent results.

4. Expect to win (most of the time). Underlying your need to micromanage is a fear of failure. By magnifying the risk of failure, your employees engage in “learned helplessness” where they start believing that the only way they can perform is if you micromanage them. It’s a vicious cycle. Instead, focus on setting your direct reports up for success. Be clear on what success looks like. Provide the resources, information, and support needed to meet those conditions. Give credit where credit is due. Over time, you’ll realize that a loss every now and then helps build a strong track record in the long run.

A micromanaging boss is someone who closely observes and controls the work of their direct reports. In this management style, managers excessively supervise their employees. A micromanager tells you how to do your tasks (and probably shows you, too) rather than just telling you what output is expected.

MY BOSS IS A MICROMANAGER | How to deal with micromanagers

25 signs of a micromanager

Below is a list of the most common characteristics of a micromanager and signs that you or someone you know may be one:

What is a micromanager?

A micromanager is a manager who closely observes the work of their team members. They often have good intentions and micromanage to improve the performance of everyone on the team. However, their behavioral tendencies can impact their teams ability to develop their own strong leadership behaviors.

Advantages

Since micromanagers usually have the best of intentions, there are some advantages to micromanagement. Here are some positive characteristics of micromanagers:

Highly-involved and highly-engaged

By having a very hands-on leadership style, your employees are more likely to perform the tasks as you want them done. This can even be a necessary leadership approach with employees who prefer direction in their work. Micromanagers know their people and the work they do and often have exceptional communication skills to provide guidance and ensure outstanding results.

Influence business-critical tasks

Staying closely involved with tasks and processes allows you to ensure things go according to plan, especially with business-critical tasks and key clients. They can also take care of details and prevent possible negative outcomes.

Get the best out of their team

Micromanagers generally behave the way they do to control the outcome, not their team. They want to ensure everything is taken care of and at the same time, teach, mentor and enhance the skills of their teams.

Add value to any department

Any micromanager will generally go over every detail, investigating a situation until they discover the root of a problem. Then, they take whatever steps necessary to resolve the problem. Good micromanagers can be an asset to any department.

Know to whom they should delegate

Micromanagers usually know their team members better than anyone and when they recognize that work must be delegated, they know exactly who they should delegate to have the work completed. In many cases, the manager has also done the tasks before themselves, which means they know who has the skills and abilities to see the task through to the end, successfully.

Develop empathy naturally

Since they usually know the work thats involved to get a task done, they can very successfully empathize with other people. They usually understand the strengths, weaknesses and skills of others and can use this understanding to know when they should push each person and when they should take a step back.

Disadvantages

Here is a look at some negative characteristics of micromanagers:

Waste time

Micromanagers spend a significant portion of their time overseeing the work of others, time that could be spent on more productive endeavors, such as developing systems or creating new processes. Micromanagers often inundate themselves with details that their team members are often capable of handling independently.

Reduce job satisfaction

Micromanaging can create stress for both the manager as well as the employee. The micromanager can become frustrated by employees who arent completing tasks as they were instructed and the employees can feel that they are not trusted to do their jobs. This can create a self-perpetuating cycle, where managers become increasingly frustrated and employee performance decreases because they are unhappy in their roles.

Lower creativity and efficiency

Micromanagers often give specific directions about how they believe tasks should be accomplished. While this can work well with new employees or those who are not comfortable self-directing, it can also limit the employees ability to develop new, efficient, creative ways of performing the tasks associated with their roles. Employees are also denied the sense of accomplishment that accompanies finding better ways to do their jobs.

Reduce employee motivation

Since micromanagers struggle to let go, employees can become demotivated and less confident in their own abilities. They feel their work will never live up to standard and so they become less productive and create a less successful product.

FAQ

What are the signs of a micromanager?

7 signs of micromanagement
  • Not seeing the wood for the trees. …
  • Every task needs approval. …
  • An obsession with constant updates. …
  • Difficulty delegating. …
  • The need to be cc’d into every single email. …
  • Over complicates instructions. …
  • The belief that no one is else is capable.

What does it mean to micromanage someone?

transitive verb. : to manage especially with excessive control or attention to details. intransitive verb. : to direct or conduct the activities of a group or an enterprise by micromanaging them.

How do I tell my boss to stop micromanaging?

Begin with, “I’ve been tasked with completing this project, and I feel like you don’t trust me to do it.” If they confirm, or continue their micromanaging behavior, tell them, “this is the job I’ve been hired to do, and I deserve the chance to do it–my way–without interference.

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