10 Warning Signs of Micromanagement

Man looking through blinds

10 Warning Signs of Micromanagement

Here’s a question to ask the managers in your organization: “What kind of employees do we want to have in our workforce? Employees who think for themselves? Or workers who mechanically do only what we tell them to do, exactly when and how we tell them to do it? “What a ridiculous question,” your managers will probably say. “We need bright people who can think for themselves!”

Okay. Now ask those same managers: “Can the employees who report to you make decisions as well as you can? Could you step in at a moment’s notice and perform their jobs?” If the answer to the first question is “No,” and the answer to the second question is “Of course,” micromanagement may be quietly sabotaging you and your business.

Micromanagers often have the best of intentions. They may simply be focused on trying to meet their own responsibilities, or on protecting the enterprise from mistakes. A few managers might even argue that micromanagement is necessary to get the job done and meet organizational goals. Yet nothing is further from the truth. Micromanagement fosters employee indifference and dependency, the result of which is decreased productivity, low morale and high turnover.

Is that style of management prevalent in your organization? Micromanagement can be stealthy and sometimes it’s hard to know. If you’re in doubt about whether you or your managers are micromanaging, check out these 10 warning signs:

  1. When you assign tasks, you spell out exactly when and how it should be done.
  2. You take pride in being on top of things, which includes receiving numerous, detailed status reports.
  3. Sometimes, you ask for updates because you’re “curious” or you “just want to know.”
  4. You’re busy all the time, and employees often have to wait for your input or approval.
  5. You pride yourself on being on top of the details of every project you’ve assigned, at all times.
  6. You believe you could do a better job on most tasks than your employees.
  7. Employees sometimes receive so many instructions from you that they become confused or overwhelmed and seek help from other employees.
  8. You believe that being a leader means you should have more knowledge than your employees.
  9. You frequently step in to take over projects or re-do work.
  10. Most times, you feel there’s no one else who cares more about the organization than you do.

If these statements make you the least bit uncomfortable, it might mean you’re in danger of micromanaging. So, what can you do about it? Start by putting your efforts into hiring the best, most capable people who fit in with a culture of learning and want to take on increasing levels of responsibility.

Then, give those people the what and let them figure out the how. Set boundaries for decisions (“You can extend a discount to any of our top customers”) and support the decisions they make as long as it’s within the agreed-upon parameters. Be sure to remove any roadblocks and provide the tools they need to be more autonomous, whether it’s technology, people support, or project guidance.

Just as importantly, rethink your own priorities. Be selective about where you spend your own time and energy. Concentrate on high-value, high-risk areas that require your close attention and involvement. Ask yourself: Am I doing only those things that only I can do? As a leader, sometimes being in control really means letting go.