Have you ever had a supervisor assign you a project, only to continually interrupt your work to check
on your progress? If so, you’ve worked for the dreaded micromanager. Why do people micromanage?
Some may be reacting to pressure from above; others have an inherent need to control everything
they touch. One thing is certain: the micromanager is a detriment to morale and productivity.
Whether you’re a manager or you work for one, it’s helpful to know how to recognize a micromanager,
and how to deal with this problem. Ignoring a micromanager can lead to decreased employee
satisfaction and waylay the progress on impending projects.
The Traits of an Effective Manager
Before determining whether or not a person has an issue with micromanaging, you must know how
effective managers operate. Effective managers achieve their objectives through delegation and
teamwork. These leaders trust their team’s initiative and ability to get the job done. They recognize
and appreciate the talents of their staff, and respect them enough to back off and let them do their
jobs. Effective managers position their employees for success, and encourage them to reach higher and
take on more responsibility.
How to Spot a Micromanager
On the other hand, micromanagers stifle their employees’ initiative in a number of ways. They expect
people to handle problems like they would – no matter how sensible the alternative solution may be.
Micromanagers tend to focus on little details, not the big picture. They need to be involved in every
aspect of a project, because they believe no one can do it as well as they can.
Lack of trust is another trait of micromanagers. They discourage workers from making their own
decisions, and constantly check up on staff members to make sure they’re completing their work.
Moreover, micromanagers often take over when someone makes a mistake, or when tasks aren’t
completed quickly enough, or to their complete satisfaction. The negative impact of a micromanager
can be extremely harmful to any company, big or small.
The Dangers of Micromanaging
Micromanagers often cannot see the danger in their actions – even those that affect their own
performance and eventually, their futures:
• Micromanaging has a negative impact on employees’ self esteem, motivation and morale.
• By stifling employees’ ideas, micromanagers put the brakes on improvement and innovation.
• Micromanaged employees are often disengaged, apathetic and unwilling to put forth the effort
required to achieve company goals – which hurts the entire organization.
• Micromanaging can lead to low productivity and high turnover – with a negative effect on the
• A micromanager who has his hands in every aspect of his team’s projects may be passed over
for new assignments or increasing responsibilities. His supervisors see him spending valuable
time on tasks that can easily be accomplished by others, and determine he is a risk to the
It’s clear that micromanaging can be devastating to a team, a department, and eventually, the entire
company. Fortunately, there are ways to effectively deal with a micromanager.
How to Deal With a Micromanager
If you’re faced with this situation, don’t give up. You can empower yourself to handle even the most
demanding boss. First, try dealing directly with your manager. Choose your time carefully; avoid days
when deadlines are looming and the pressure is on. Your manager may be defensive, so don’t go on
the attack. Approach with a few questions, focused on your own performance. Say, “Were you happy
with the packaging project I completed last month?” Or, “Do you have any suggestions for how you’d
like it to go next time?”
Express how you feel. It’s possible your manager had no idea her actions made you feel that way. Be
sure to include tangible ways that your job performance is being affected. Though your boss should
consider your feelings, showing how the problem has a negative impact on your work should help
facilitate change. For example, “I get the feeling you don’t think I can handle this project on my own.
When you constantly check on my progress, it makes me feel inadequate. More importantly, it stops
me from doing my job and disrupts the project. If you let me know what your worries are, I will be sure
to address them.” This allows you to have one discussion about what the manager expects from you
without the constant over your shoulder disruptions.
If talking to your manager doesn’t change things, try creating your own change. When you’re assigned
a task, let your manager know how much time you’ll need to complete it and set a date for your first
progress report. Over-communicate at first, to let your boss know you’re on top of things and lessen
the need for questions. Try stepping up and volunteering for new projects. Complete them on time and
to the best of your ability. This will not only increase your own confidence, but also your manager’s
trust and confidence in you.
Finally, be patient. Micromanaging is often based in complicated emotions. It’s a bad habit that
develops over time, so it will take time to see real change. Focus on continuing to provide excellent
work. Your strong performance should help lessen the micromanaging.
Micromanaging Can Be Cured
While it’s important to stay on top of workers’ progress, some managers go too far. Micromanagement
can be very destructive to an organization, but fortunately, it can be overcome. Ignoring the issue
won’t help, so take the time to address it properly. With honest feedback and clear communication, a
manager who is willing to change can develop healthy new habits that motivate employees and make
the workplace more productive.
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