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December 28, 2016 in Employee Management

Employee Solutions: Dealing With a Micromanager at Work

One of your managers assigns an important project to a talented and capable employee. But rather than allowing that employee to do the work by the established deadline and touch base at critical points along the way, the manager repeatedly drops by the employee’s desk and sends e-mails to check on progress. After weeks of constantly questioning decisions about how the project is being managed, the manager eventually takes the work back to complete it him/herself.

Do you recognize these classic signs of micromanaging among members of your own management team? If so, deal with the behaviors quickly or it could disrupt your business.

Spot It a Mile Away

Employees naturally need to be monitored, guided and evaluated. They may even need to be closely managed at times, such as during high-stakes projects or when they’re new to a position. But micromanagers tend to go overboard.

They take positive traits such as attention to detail and being hands–on to the extreme by giving excessive input and being overly critical. They stifle employees’ growth and cause them to question their effectiveness — and even their desire to work for the company.


Here are a few telltale signs of a micromanager:

  • Refusing to delegate or taking assigned work back at the first sign of trouble,
  • Taking over tasks and projects because it’s “faster and more efficient,”
  • Insisting on being consulted with — and getting approval on — every decision,
  • Providing overly detailed instructions with every project,
  • Offering endless and unsolicited input,
  • Controlling employees’ work or making excessive changes,
  • Questioning workers’ actions or differing work styles, and
  • Requiring constant check-ins and status reports.

If not appropriately handled, micromanagers can undermine employees by grating on their confidence, creating undue stress and impairing their performance — all of which can negatively impact morale, productivity, efficiency and, ultimately, the bottom line.

Nip It in the Bud

Once you discover a micromanager, confront the employee about the matter in a supportive way. Here are some strategies you can implement to help reverse a micromanager’s negative belief that they’re simply practicing good management.

Provide formal training. What’s important here is to focus on behaviors rather than on the people themselves. People can adapt behaviors; they can’t change who they are. Effective internal and external training and development can include participating in a mentoring program with a company leader and management effectiveness workshops. Turning to outside professionals to help pinpoint the problem to begin with may, in some instances, be the wisest approach, because work with the larger team around the same issues may be necessary.

Give one-on-one attention. Share leadership tips that have helped shape your own success as a manager. Encourage micromanagers to take time at the beginning of a project to discuss and clarify desired outcomes. Be sure to get feedback from both the manager and his or her team on how well the strategies are working. It may turn out that the employee just isn’t a good management fit.

Look Toward Prevention

Prevention can be the most effective strategy when it comes to micromanaging. So when hiring, try to weed out potential micromanagers. Ask behavioral questions during interviews to determine how a candidate has handled delegating tasks, completing projects and using staff in the past. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Validated, appropriate pre-employment assessments can help you gain insight into an applicant’s general abilities and approach to work and managing, and thus alert you to micromanaging tendencies. Keep in mind that these assessments aren’t a substitute for a well-documented and administered interview and employment process.

Keep the Peace

Ask your staff which management style most quickly stifles growth, kills creativity and hurts morale, and they’ll likely say micromanagement. If you suspect you have a micromanager on your team, be proactive to minimize the negative impact that behavior can have on your company’s productivity, retention and profitability.