Six Signs You Might be a Micro-Manager


by Jane Flaherty | February 4th, 2013

Despite evidence to the contrary, no leader that Peter or I have ever coached has admitted to being a micromanager. Often, when we’re analyzing their 360 degree feedback, both the quantifiable data and open-ended comments written by employees and peers indicate that this particular leader–for whatever the reason–exhibits an excessive need to be in control, requiring their employees to give them timely updates on all aspects of their job. Recently, one employee described her boss as a reportomaniac. Not only did her boss have a strong need for all the details, this boss required employees to write multiple reports, detailing what they were doing on a daily basis.

Micromanaging has various definitions, but most agree that micromanagement is a management style whereby a manager has a strong need to observe and control the work of subordinates or employees. Although some leaders try to defend their micromanagement style, micromanagement generally has negative connotations. Since no one ever admits to being a micromanager, here are a few hints that you might be one:

  1. You rationalize your close working relationship with your team because they keep messing up and need your help. It’s not that you’re micromanaging, just supervising closely to ensure your employees’ success
  2. No one works as hard as you do. Some of the people on your team just don’t get it, nor do they take things as seriously as you do
  3. You justify your strong need for knowing all the details about your employees’ work as needing to be fully informed at all times
  4. You’re only asking employees to do their work the right way, as your way is proven . . . after all, doing the work your way earned you your current position
  5. You don’t delegate, knowing that you can do everything your employees do better and faster
  6. When you take a vacation, you check in with your team several times a day, just to ensure that they are on the right track and offer your support

If you thought, “I do that, but only sometimes . . .” don’t despair. Most of us cross the line and get too involved in our employees’ work from time to time. It’s only those leaders who consistently cross the line that earn the title micromanager. Read on for some tips on how to recover if you find yourself occasionally slipping and getting way too involved in the doing part of your employees’ jobs.

Clarify Your Expectations In order for you to have the confidence that your employees can consistently be successful in their various roles, they first have to be crystal clear about your expectations. Make time to thoroughly explain your goals and objectives for each job, allowing time for questions, and frequently re-articulate your expectations to ensure clarity. In all of your interactions with employees, your words and actions must convey your belief that your team members have what it takes to consistently meet or exceed your expectations.

Hold People Accountable Once people are clear on your expectations, hold them accountable. Typically, once you have clarified your performance expectations, you should not take on an employee’s responsibility as your own when performance does not meet expectations. Instead, reiterate you expectations. Provide training, if needed. If re-clarifying your expectations and providing training does not work, it may be time to begin the process of cutting your losses and sharing this employee with a competitor.

Be a Coach and Mentor One of the characteristics of great leaders is a strong belief in their employees’ abilities to be successful in their various roles. They trust their team members and invest in helping them continue to grow and learn. They care about their employees, both professionally and personally. To further build levels of trust with your employees, take time to meet with them, one-on-one. Ask them what is going well for them, and how you can support them in achieving their goals. Commit to providing them with the coaching and resources they need to achieve their career goals.

Hire Wisely We once heard an employment attorney say, “There are very few wrongful terminations, but a huge number of wrongful hires”. Invest time up front to make sure you are hiring a competent, well-qualified employee that will be a great addition to the team. If you do (as most of us have done at least once in the past) make a bad decision and hire someone who, for whatever the reason, won’t or can’t carry their load, cut your losses quickly.

Stop Solving Employees’ Problems Give employees decision making power to resolve their own problems. Employees are much more likely to be accountable and “own” their work when they have a say in how it will be accomplished. Give away power. Your role is to give your team members the resources and tools they need to make good decisions on their own. Over time, those leaders that routinely give away power actually end up with more, not less power. Because they have trusted employees to make good decisions, they not only grow a highly successful team, but, in addition, are well-liked and have followers throughout the organization, which is powerful.

Accept Mistakes If people on your team are not occasionally making mistakes, there’s a good chance that they’re not working to their full potential. Despite best efforts, mistakes will happen. When mistakes happen, routinely respond with, “What do we need to do to fix this?” When the problem is resolved, ask, “What did we learn from this?” End the conversation by saying, “What do we need to do differently so this doesn’t happen again in the future?”

Delegate As you rise in your organization, your responsibilities should shift from less responsibility for “doing” tasks, to much more emphasis on the leadership aspects of your job . . . managing people, planning and leading. Getting bogged down in the doing aspects of the job is a major pitfall for leaders who are described as micromanagers. Have the confidence to part with some of the routine, day-to-day aspects of your job. Look for someone you can mentor, then do a great job in describing your expectations for the task. Once you’ve made the delegation, confidently display trust in your employee’s ability to successfully assume responsibility for the task.

Recognize Success On a daily basis, look for opportunities to genuinely recognize employees who are taking the initiative to solve problems on their own, ensuring your success and happy customers.


Peter Barron Stark Companies is a nationally recognized management consulting company that specializes in employee engagement surveys, executive coaching, and leadership and employee training. For more information, please visit

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