Micromanaging: Why is it Bad & How to Deal With Micromanaging

BY Kathy Crosett
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How do you know if you’re micromanaging your team? Art Markman says, “you’re micromanaging your team when you check in with your direct reports once a day or more to find out what they’re working on.” Other symptoms of micromanagement, according to an indeed​.com post, include never being satisfied with the work an employee has done, focusing on unimportant details and reaching out to employees during non-​work hours. Most employees don’t appreciate this level of micromanagement. While you may believe you’re helping your team, you are actually driving them to drop their engagement. Here’s why micromanaging is so bad and a few tips on how to deal with it if you’re receiving too much scrutiny from your supervisor.

Micromanaging: Why is it Bad & How to Deal With Micromanaging

We all want to avoid a micromanagement situation. But there are some exceptions to the rule. If you’re training a new hire, you’ll need to reach out on a daily basis until they have grasped the details of the position. In an emergency, you may need to reach out to an employee who’s on vacation to get an answer to an important question.

Other than that, the general consensus about micromanaging is that employees feel you don’t trust them to get the work done. Sales reps we surveyed told us what they like best in a boss. They loved seeing a manager who was inspired by the company and the product they were selling. And they also said the best bosses were “there to help me grow without micromanaging me.” 

How to Not Micromanage

The best way to understand how to not micromanage is to realize what drives your behavior. You also need to own up to it and recognize when you're engaging in interactions that employees don't appreciate.

Some managers will review every work product from team members who are unskilled. They know that mistakes reflect poorly on the organization, and in some cases, could lead to serious injury. To fix that issue, you’ll need to provide additional training. When the training is complete, review what you expect from employees and step back. If they aren’t able to work to expectations, find a different position for them in the organization or develop an exit plan.

Other managers, especially those who are new to their role, may doubt their ability in their position. To assure themselves that they look great in their new position, they’ll hover over their employees. If this sounds like you, consider a different approach.

You could follow the advice of Rebecca Knight who writes about bosses who want to stop micromanaging. Instead of giving advice to your employees, Knight encourages you to turn things around. Ask your team for feedback on your management style. Then use the feedback to change your behavior.

Some bosses joke about their control freak nature. Your team members might find that approach amusing at first, but if you keep hovering, they won’t. Figure out which details are most important to the success of your group and focus on them, instead of asking to be copied on every email.

Accept that each person has specialties and strengths. If you are able to finish a task faster than one of your team members, remember that isn’t the point. A key responsibility as a manager is to develop your team members’ skills and give them needed experience so they can succeed.

How to Deal with Micromanagers

It’s not fun to work for a person who’s always looking over your shoulder and nitpicking about every comma. Or maybe your manager brags about working late on a huge project that you completed. Turns out your manager wanted it done "their way." Do you know how to deal with micromanagers who engage in these frustrating practices?

Before you take action, assess your situation. Have you done anything in the past to cause your manager to worry you won’t get a project done? Do you consistently turn in reports visible to clients that contain spelling and grammatical errors? Be sure to correct the performance issues your manager has previously pointed out.

If your manager still insists on constant updates, try to get ahead of what they’re looking for. Email them with progress updates, especially on important projects.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in your day-​to-​day tasks and lose sight of the bigger picture, especially if you work for a micromanager. To excel in this situation, stay a step ahead of your manager. What is it that they worry about? If they come across as insecure, what can you do to help them look their best when the senior leadership team is checking out your department?

Some employees will obsess about how to get even with bosses who micromanage. Don’t go there. Retaliation will do little to further your career. Once you recognize your boss’ work habits and patterns, plan ahead. Allocate a little time each day to this task. Over time, you may be able to build a relationship based on trust.

Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplashed.