I Think I Might Be a Micromanager
“So…I think I might be a micromanager. Hear me out. My team’s turnover rate is way north of average, and the ones that are still here won’t look me in the eye, much less hold a conversation with me. I can’t keep up with all the projects I have to juggle, so I eat dinner at my desk just to get through the day’s emails. I mean, I want some breathing room, but I also want everything to be done right. Isn’t that what a manager is for?”
Sound familiar? Maybe your friend confessed something similar over a cup of coffee, or it’s eerily similar to something you’ve thought about yourself. Whatever the case, this person’s managerial style highlights many classic symptoms of a micromanager.
Signs You Might Be a Micromanager
Put simply, micromanaging is when a manager or boss provides excessive supervision and frequent criticism of his or her team’s work.
Can’t tell if you qualify? To find out, consider if your managerial style includes one (or more) of the following behaviors:
- Details, details, details. These little guys are your raison d’être. (Hence, the micro– prefix.) You focus on the details at every step of every project, making time management a pain and leaving you no room to step back and consider larger strategic plans. You are, in a word, a perfectionist.
- Bottlenecking. Everything must go through you for approval. You want to be CC’d on every email, you require daily-to-hourly updates from your team, and you need to be present at every meeting. Because you don’t delegate, bottlenecking ultimately becomes a productivity issue for your entire team as every project stops dead in its tracks to await your approval.
- Superiority complex. You're a smart, hardworking person. That’s probably why you were put in charge. But as a micromanager, you have to do all the work because you don’t trust your team to do it right. When you do let them handle things, you're frustrated and never satisfied. Ultimately, you view your relationship as more of a babysitter than a leader.
- Work-life imbalance. Because you take on so many tasks, you have no work-life balance. You work evenings to ease projects through the bottleneck and use your weekends to get the details just right. You are stressed and exhausted, and chances are you aren’t taking the time to care for your physical and mental wellbeing.
Making things worse, these behaviors tend to proliferate with each other. Perfectionism leads to never being satisfied…and that leads to bottlenecking…and that throws work-life balance all out of whack. For a manager, this is a vicious, not a virtuous, cycle.
Fixing Your Inner Micromanager
Micromanaging behaviors stem from a desire to produce quality work, which is not a bad impulse, but they often result in the opposite of quality. Because their attention is pulled in so many directions, micromanagers make more mistakes, leading to frustration and further mistakes. This in turn creates a negative work environment that promotes low team morale.
What can be done about it? If you or someone you know have fallen victim to micromanagement, consider the following to lessen those tendencies:
- Come clean. The first step is admitting it, right? You can’t correct a problem until you recognize it by name.
- Drop the perfectionism. Details are important, but don’t make them the be-all and end-all of your existence. Rather than try to handle minutia as it appears, schedule specific points toward the end of a project to tackle the details with your team. Take the extra time to consider larger strategies.
- Delegate responsibilities. At the beginning of a project, clearly share your expectations and benchmark goals with your team. Then hand over the project’s various parts to them based on their strengths. Rather than try to dictate every step of the project, schedule specific points where you can check in and see how things are going.
- Hand over ownership. You're smart, but so is your team. Give your people decision-making power and a sense of ownership over their projects. If they feel a project is theirs, they will achieve standards they—and you—will be proud of. As a bonus, people who feel engaged at work are less likely to leave, leading to long-term employees.
- Learn to improvise. Mistakes will happen. It’s an annoying truth, and no amount of micromanaging will change that. Learn to improvise so mistakes don’t result in a negative work environment. Also, take the opportunity to help your team to learn from these mistakes. It’ll prevent future errors while lessening both your mental and work burdens.
Most importantly, if you think you might be a micromanager, don’t lose heart. You’ll find that working on one micromanagement foible has a cascading effect. If you relax on the perfectionism, it will be much easier to hand over decision-making power to your team members, which will in turn help you delegate responsibilities and improve your work-life balance. It’s a win-win. Your team will gain a sense of engagement, and you’ll get a weekend for yourself.