11 Signs You’re a Micromanager And How To Fix It

Amanda Scherker

Your management style has a huge effect on your team’s culture, work process, and overall success. It can define the mood of the office, your relationship with your employees, and your team’s sense of cohesion. To be an effective manager, you must be able to objectively take stock of your management style, and assess what aspects of it are working or not working.

But first, it’s important to know that there are essentially two main approaches to management:

  1. Hands-off manager — You prefer to instill a sense of autonomy in your employees. This approach comes with its own risks and rewards, which are subjects for another post.
  2. Hands-on manager – The typical hands-on manager prefers being fully immersed in the day-to-day activities of each of their employees. This approach can be highly effective, if done with care and tact. Hands-on managers can be like great coaches: They give constant, meaningful feedback and take the time to nurture their employees’ career growth.

Hands-on Managers vs Hands-off Managers

But there’s one big risk of being a hands-on manager…

Even the best hands-on managers may fall into patterns of micromanagement. When you micromanage, you squander your own time, and that of your entire team. You also risk instilling a culture of distrust and malaise.

If this sounds like you, don’t despair! Even serial micromanagers can change their ways with a little bit of strategizing and a whole lot of self-awareness. Here are 11 signs that you’re micromanaging, and ways to stop these negative behaviors:

Sign 1: You can’t see the forest through the trees

  • You’re constantly drowning in low-priority tasks, or meetings about minutia.
  • You get so focused on managing one group of employees that you completely forget about the rest of your team. For instance, as a marketing manager, you spend too much time reviewing the work of your data team, and start neglecting your public relations team.

Consequence

  • If you’re getting bogged down in the window dressing of each project, you’re not making the best use of yourself as a resource.
  • You’re losing sight of the big-picture strategizing that you need to do to help your team succeed.

Cure: Reassess your priorities

  • One of the most important skills of a successful marketing manager is knowing when you need to be involved, and when you need to take a step back.
  • Take the time to genuinely assess your goals and priorities as a manager.
  • Keep a week-long calendar. Review it at the end of the week and see how much time you spend truly pursuing those goals and priorities. Note the areas where you waste time.
  • Start scheduling your day to revolve around the big-picture work.

Sign 2: You’ve become the bottleneck, with every task waiting on your approval

  • Your employees are frequently stalled, waiting for your go ahead before they move on to the next phase of their project.
  • You’re overwhelmed with status reports and updates, and spend most of your day approving your employees’ work.

Consequence:

  • Wasted time, for you and your employees.

Cure: Remember: Hyper-involvement does not equal worth.

  • Before you can stop micromanaging, you need to assess why you are doing so in the first place. According to the Harvard Business Review, the two main reasons managers micromanage are: 1. They want to feel more connected with lower-level workers, and 2. They feel more comfortable doing their old job, rather than overseeing employees who now do that job.
  • Remind yourself that your role as a manager is to be the team leader, the decision maker, and the coach, not to oversee every step your employees take.

Sign 3: You require regular updates from every employee

  • You spend most of your day monitoring the progress of each employee’s work.
  • Your employees dedicate substantial time to drafting progress reports or email updates that explain or justify their every move.

Consequence:

  • You’re not giving your workers the personal autonomy they need. And that’s vital to building a solid team: According to an article in Health Promotion International, workers who have more autonomy in their job express greater work satisfaction. They’re also less likely to show intentions to transfer or leave their current position.

Cure: Just let it go.

  • Once you’ve reassessed your managerial priorities, you need to set up a meeting with your employees to outline your new approach.
  • Work with them to create new concrete boundaries that will identify exactly when your employees should bring you in on a project.

Sign 4: You have difficulty delegating work.

  • You frequently think to yourself, “Why should I delegate this task if I’m going to do it better?”
  • Even when you do successfully delegate, you don’t trust your employees’ work, and check every step of it.

Consequence:

  • You end up overwhelmed with work that doesn’t really fall under your purview as a manager.

Cure: Trust, trust, trust.

  • Assign tasks to your employees, and express trust and confidence in their ability to do the work.
  • As Muriel Maignan Wilkins, co-author of leadership advice book, “Own the Room,” tells the Harvard Business Review that managers should, “Acknowledge this is a growth opportunity for the person and say that you know in your heart of hearts he or she will rise to the challenge… Say, ‘I fully trust you can make this decision.’ And then, walk the talk.”
  • Be patient if an employee makes a mistake: They’ll learn from it, and do better the next time.

Sign 5: You don’t like it when your employees make decisions without consulting you.

  • Your employees consistently wait on your approval before forging ahead on the next step of their task.
  • You can’t help but feel annoyed when an employee makes even a small decision without your input.

Consequence:

  • You risk stifling your team. As Wilkins explains, “Micromanaging dents your team’s morale by establishing a tone of mistrust—and it limits your team’s capacity to grow.”
  • You undermine your employees’ trust in their own judgement.

Cure: Take a step back.

  • Now that you’ve delegated tasks to your employees, start to take a few steps back. Let them complete the task before you check in.
  • Assure your employees that they can come to you with questions – and trust that they will do so when your guidance is truly needed.

Sign 6: You ask to be cc’d on even the most minor of emails.    

  • Your email is full of CC’d conversations about every single detail of every single project’s progress.
  • You frequently become so overwhelmed by the volume of emails you receive, and sometimes even miss the truly important conversations in which your feedback is truly needed.

Consequence:

  • Your employees likely resent the implication of this policy: That you feel the need to monitor their every move. While monitoring every conversation might help you feel a semblance of order, it’s actually hurting your team’s workflow: According to the American Journal of Experimental Psychology, employees who believe they are being watched tend to perform at a lower level.

Cure: Institute new email policies

  • Let your employees know that you no longer need to be included on emails where your approval or feedback is not directly needed.
  • Trust your employees to handle their own email exchanges.
  • Find a project management solution that may help with updates, such as with comments and notifications

7 Management Styles: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (But Effective?)

Sign 7: You over-instruct

  • You give complex, step-by-step instructions, even for simple tasks.
  • Your employees rarely experiment with creative troubleshooting, or new ways of accomplishing assignments.

Consequence:

  • If your team doesn’t feel any incentive to be creative or innovative, they will start to feel like office drones, and consequently, feel less engaged with their work.  And that’s a big deal: According to a Gallup poll, 70% of American workers are not showing up to work committed to delivering their best performance. Gallup estimates that these disengaged employees cost U.S. companies somewhere between $450 billion and $550 billion every single year!

Cure: If you love your employees, set them free.

  • As Joan F. Cheverie, an IT manager, told Quartz Media, “Autonomy is the antithesis of micromanagement.” Tell your employees that you trust them to configure their own workflow and how they manage projects. Your employees will perform better when they feel like they have autonomy.
  • Encourage creative problem-solving, and reward your employees for their ingenuity. Your employees will put more effort into the job if they feel like their ideas and creative energy are being noticed and rewarded.

Sign 8: You genuinely feel that if you want something done correctly, you must do it yourself

  • The office rule of thumb: Your approach = The best approach.
  • You have trouble putting faith in your employees’ work.
  • You frequently work on tasks solo, rather than with the input of your team

Consequence:

  • You’re inadvertently signaling to your employees that you don’t actually trust their abilities or value their work.

Cure: Stop being so afraid of messing up.

  • Many micromanagers are simply perfectionists who fear having a single mistake attributed to their leadership.
  • You need to let go of your fear, for the sake of your team.
  • Remember: Every mistake offers opportunity for learning.

Sign 9: You’re the only one talking at weekly meetings.

  • Weekly meetings are less about productive team brainstorming, and more about you reading a laundry list of tasks, announcements and decisions.
  • You hold brainstorm meetings to help your team feel more involved in the overall direction of the project, but your employees don’t seem to want to contribute. Or when they do contribute, you frequently dismiss their ideas.

Consequence:

  • Whether you intend to or not, your meeting structure is sending the signal that your employees’ contributions aren’t valued. And that affects their work performance: As organizational psychologist Marcelo Manucci told com, “The significance of personal contribution improves the level of commitment and creativity in the task.

Cure: Institute new meeting procedures that encourage or even require your employees to contribute.

  • It’s time to stop hogging the mike. Institute new “status reports” in which your employees can update the team on various projects, or ask your employees to pick a topic for which they’d like to lead all meeting discussions.
  • By including your employees in the structure of the meeting, you’re showing that you value their contributions.

Sign 10: Your team constantly finishes projects late

  • Your tendency to fixate on each detail frequently causes team-wide delays
  • These delays can even cause your team to miss important deadlines.

Consequence:

  • When you fall behind schedule, you risk hurting your relationship with client, irking your boss, and generally harming your team’s reputation.

Cure:

Sign 11: Your team has consistently high turnover

  • You’ve noticed a troubling trend of your employees leaving after less than two years of work.
  • Overall, your employees don’t show enthusiasm about their growth potential under your leadership.

Consequence:

  • If your management style is contributing to a high turnover rate, it does so at a great cost. According to IT staffing firm JDA Professional Services, INC, the cost of replacing a single IT employee is approximately $150,000. That’s due to training time, lost work time, lower productivity, and the cost of hiring a new employee.

Cure: Offer more support, less judgment.

  • If you’re micromanaging, you probably feel highly invested in the day-to-day activities of your office. But are you actually invested in the people working for you?
  • Chances are, you may view your employees more as liabilities than as valued resources. If you’re going to become a better manager, you need to change that mentality.
  • Take the time to ask your employees about their goals. Then, assign them work that is in line with those goals, and let them do the work with autonomy.

If you have a tendency to micromanage, it’s probably because you have a genuine investment in your team’s success. This the most important asset in a manager, if it’s effectively harnessed. Going forward, you can subtly change some of your behaviors, so that you can better channel your energy into supporting and leading your team. The less time you spend in the weeds of the details, the better off your team will be.