How to stop micromanaging your employees

Nobody likes or wants to be micromanaged. Here we look at the tell-tale signs, and how you can best navigate it to find the best solution for both employer and employee

First published on Monday, Oct 30, 2023

Last updated on Friday, Oct 27, 2023

Are you tempted to monitor, micromanage and oversee every aspect of the tasks you assign to your employees just so you're sure they're doing the right thing?

While this can be a successful management style in some businesses and situations, it often has the opposite effect you're after. More often than not, micromanagement results in disengaged and unproductive staff.

It can be frustrating for employee morale when their employer or manager is constantly hovering and looking over their shoulder while they work.

So, if you're guilty of, or are wondering whether you're micromanaging your employee's work or have a micromanaging manager, it's time to rethink this leadership style.

This article outlines what micromanaging and micro management really is and how to overcome the micromanagement approach to leadership.

What is micromanagement?

Micromanagement is a management style where a manager is over-involved in how employees work. Common characteristics include excessive supervision, little or no desire to delegate, and a need to control every aspect of how employees perform tasks.

It's common knowledge that micromanagement has a negative connotation, and it's even considered a dirty word in the work environment. No one wants to be a micromanager, but many managers don't even know they're micromanagers.

You may have good intentions and a genuine interest in your team's work and in helping them succeed. But if you identify with several signs of micromanagement below, you may just be a micromanaging boss.

Someone Micromanaging two employees overseeing their work

Signs of micromanagement

If you're wondering whether you or one of your managers is a micromanager, here are a few common traits of a micromanaging manager and boss.

Does not delegate tasks

A major sign of micromanagement is when a manager doesn't delegate tasks or trust their employees' skills enough to let them supervise others or complete a task on their own.

This can be because you don't trust the employees to complete the task correctly, or it could be because you aren't willing to relinquish authority to someone else.

This trait can leave you stressed, overwhelmed and overworked because you're taking on the tasks you've hired smart people to execute in addition to your own high-level duties.

Requests constant updates and status reports

It's good for employees to check in and give their managers frequent updates. But micromanagers demand excessive updates asking for what the employee is doing, what they've done and what they're going to do next.

This sign of micromanagement is often exhibited when managing remote teams. It could mean you don't trust them to use their time wisely and complete tasks on time, leading you to an excessive obsession with every project detail.

Wants to be cc'd in all emails

Micromanaging employees even goes beyond overly monitoring employees' tasks. It also involves monitoring their communication and wanting visibility over everything, even when it doesn't have anything to do with them.

It's a clear sign you may be afraid of not knowing what people are discussing or that teams are making decisions behind your back.

Focuses too much on minor details of employees' work

If you're a micromanager, you'll find that you focus on every little detail of your employees' tasks, which is often frustrating for your team.

You want to know how every hour, minute or second of their day is spent and expect detailed reports.

It's also common to pay excessive attention to and fixate on the small details and thoroughly monitor your team's work instead of focusing on the big picture. It can also mean holding frequent meetings or check-ins, disrupting your employee's day and making them miss deadlines.

Complains constantly and is difficult to satisfy

People with this management style are difficult to satisfy as they believe no one can complete tasks correctly.

If you're a micromanager, you'll frequently find mistakes in employees' work and often nag them. You may also often redo tasks an employee or team has already completed.

You might think you're pushing your staff towards perfection, but complaining about the smallest things can negatively impact your employee's job satisfaction and drain their willingness to work hard.

2 managers overly complaining at work of a frustrated employee

Overly involved in the team's work

Micromanagers are often over-involved in their subordinate's work. They always want to know what their team is up to. For example, when employees begin work, when they take a break, and other minute details about their work.

As a micromanager, wanting to know what your staff is always up to and constantly checking their work is a sign of mistrust.

While it's good to keep an eye on your employees to make sure they complete their tasks, if you find yourself needing access to your employee's calendars or requesting to know how they spend every minute of their day, your micromanagement may be frustrating and discouraging independent decision-making.

How micromanagement negatively affects employees' productivity

As discussed, micromanagement can be negative even for the most motivated and hard-working employees. This leadership style can cause a myriad of problems, including high turnover, drops in productivity, anxiety and more.

Let's look at some of the major effects of micromanagement on employees.

Micromanagers leave no room for creativity & discourage independent decision-making

Micromanagement can be incredibly stifling for team members and negatively impact job satisfaction.

This management technique leaves no room for free thinking and innovation and kills employee engagement. Engaged employees are more likely to develop and hone their skills, come up with new project ideas and establish their own processes for completing their tasks.

Micromanagement may lead to health problems and lower employee morale

Happy employees are healthy employees, and when micromanagement comes into play, it often leads to poor health, especially mental health.

When employees are constantly stressed and anxious, it damages their health and negatively affects their productivity, mood, and home life.

This can be a deadly combination for their physical health, which can lead to increased absenteeism and higher health insurance costs for you.

Micromanagement destroys teamwork

It's hard for team members in a micromanaged work environment to focus, bond, and build enough trust with each other and achieve their team goals.

Since a micromanaging boss wants to be highly involved in each employee's work, they tend to interact more with the manager than their colleagues, leaving no room to build a relationship, communicate effectively and deliver better results. When this happens, your business loses the benefits of an engaged and effective team.

A man Micromanaging a women employee

When is micromanagement okay?

Providing complete autonomy to employees over every aspect of their job may not be feasible in all cases, leading to situations where micromanaging becomes the only or best option.

While not every task requires a manager to constantly focus on monitoring your team's work, here are some instances when micromanaging could be beneficial.

When a company is expanding or switching to a new market

When a business is expanding, such as during a merger or acquisition, switching to a new market or during times of uncertainty, it might become necessary to use micromanagement.

If your business is going through significant change, keep in close contact and stay focused on your employees. It helps them know exactly what's going on and what they're supposed to do to support the business at this time.

As an employer, failing to share major details and keep everyone on track during times of uncertainty can be perceived as direct management failure to address the cause of whatever challenge your team is facing.

Micromanagement, in such instances, lets your employees feel in control and understand the risks the company is facing. Being transparent will also help them understand why they're being micromanaged and limit the chance of them rebelling against their micromanaging boss

When new employees are hired

People micromanage new employees when they start a job to help them learn their duties and responsibilities.

Leaving a new hire to their own devices is bad for your business and the new hire. They may panic and make mistakes that leave your business with reputational damage.

This leadership style can be put on while the new employee settles into their role and learns to fit in with their coworkers. You can then slowly pull away and give your new employees more independence as they settle into their roles.

When there is a deadline

Sometimes, your employees may need extra support when you have to meet a deadline or if there are time-sensitive tasks to complete. In such cases, micromanagement may just be what gets you over the finish line in time for that project to be completed.

Such situations aren't very common, and when you find yourself racing to meet a deadline, it's important to communicate to your employees why you need to chase them on tasks and pay attention to every detail of their work.

Discussing details of the project will help them understand the reason why you've become a micromanaging boss; it can help them work harder and be less frustrated by your excessive management style.

A Micromanager now Delegating work

How to stop being a micromanaging boss

Research shows most workers don't want to work for a micromanaging boss. As we have established, micromanagement is not the best leadership style and doesn't make for effective management.

Micromanagement should only be adopted for a specific task or situation where you need to pay extra attention to your employees in order to get key results.

Here are a few ways to stop micromanaging your workers and create a healthier workplace culture and environment.

Set healthy boundaries and realistic expectations

Boundaries are important; to help decrease micromanagement, you need to set clear and healthy boundaries.

These boundaries can be anything from giving your employees physical space by having a separate work area or less physical boundaries like not communicating, assigning tasks or asking for constant updates outside of work hours.

It's tempting always to expect 100 percent from your employees, but it's also important to be realistic. Give your team reasonable objectives and free rein to achieve them on their own.

If you take a step back, it can help them build confidence to innovate and come up with solutions on their own and decrease your micromanagement.

Practice delegation

Wanting to handle everything that happens in your company can be time-consuming, lead to low morale, and cause more harm than good.

Recognize that your own team members can handle certain tasks on their own. If you struggle with this, it can help to delegate tasks to each employee according to their skills so you have more confidence it will be executed the right way.

You'll be free to focus on your leadership role and spend your time growing your business instead of micromanaging.

Promote creativity

As mentioned earlier, creativity is stifled when you micromanage your employees. Innovation flourishes, and diverse solutions are developed when your employees are allowed to work together and develop their own solutions to completing tasks and solving problems.

It's important for your employees to know their ideas are appreciated and welcomed. Allow your team to bring their own contributions to important company projects, and you'll see them go the extra mile to achieve the company's goals.

Seek feedback and talk to your team members

A micromanaging boss considers themselves perfect and doesn't take criticism well. To become a better manager and let go of your micromanagement tendencies, it's important to ask your other team members for feedback actively.

Take what your team shares and learn from it, as it can be the key to understanding them better, increasing job satisfaction and learning new ways to improve the business.

Don't ignore their feedback, as this can discourage them from sharing more with you. So show them you value their contributions and accommodate their suggestions and concerns.

A great way to get feedback from management teams is by conducting periodic employee satisfaction surveys.

Build trust

Trust is essential in every relationship and shouldn't be overlooked in employer/employee interactions. Give your employees space and more freedom to complete their tasks using their own methods, and trust they will deliver outstanding results.

Remember you hired them because you had confidence in their experience and skills. You most likely also provided all new employees with enough training to complete all aspects of their job.

It can also help to develop a personal relationship with them to understand how they think and improve your trust in them.

Manager building trust within the team of 4 people

Get help with micromanagement with BrightHR

Micromanagement has negative effects on both employers and management. It breeds distrust and makes employees slowly lose their willingness to do their best work for your company, amongst others.

We have explored the common characteristics of micromanagers, their effects and how to overcome the need to micromanage your team all the time. But, micromanagement is complicated and overcoming it in the work environment can be challenging if you don't have the right tools.

FAQs on micromanagement

We've outlined the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on micromanagement to help you understand this leadership style better.

Why is micromanaging toxic?

When managers micromanage, it shows they don't trust their employees or that they don't think they are competent. It erodes employee creativity, discourages new ideas and dampens their morale and willingness to put in their best effort to be productive. It also often leads to disengagement and high turnover.

More effective managers use a leadership style that empowers employees to work correctly and gives them guidance rather than controlling every aspect of their teams' jobs.

Is micromanagement good or bad?

Most people agree micromanagement is bad as it can damage people's health, take away employees' autonomy, demotivate them and decrease productivity. But, as we mentioned, some level of micromanagement might be necessary in some situations, like when you have a new hire or are going through times of uncertainty.

In these situations, closer supervision can ensure employees complete their tasks to a certain standard their managers expect. It's also important to note that finding a good balance and communicating with your employees is key to making micromanagement work for your team.

What are alternative management styles to micromanagement?

Some alternative management styles to micromanagement in your company include:

Delegating and giving your team ownership of tasks to foster growth and autonomy.

Coaching your employees to emphasize mentorship and development so they reach their full potential with your support and guidance

Transformational leadership can inspire your team by setting a clear vision but giving your employees room to achieve it through their own means.

Why is micromanagement a problem in the workplace?

Micromanagement is a problem in the workplace because it shows a perceived lack of trust in employees, which can be bad for their confidence and motivation. Your team will be more focused on following strict instructions instead of thinking for themselves and coming up with creative solutions to their problems.

This can lead to a drop in job satisfaction and increased turnover in your team.

Improve your management style with the right tools

BrightHR's suite of software, tools and services makes it easier for micromanaging managers to let go of control while giving them the confidence to manage their team members efficiently.

Our 24/7 employment relations line is the fastest route to getting answers to your pressing concerns, like how to overcome micromanagement by speaking to our qualified experts.

Our library of extensive HR documents, checklists and policies provides the documents you need to properly inform your team of their duties and provide any support they need to complete their tasks.

Plus, our end-to-end software is fully equipped to let you take a step back and delegate tasks with our tools and features like the responsibility navigator, open shifts, vacation requests and more.

Interested in learning more about how we can help you? Give us a call on 188822204924 or book a demo today.

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