5 Signs You’re Micromanaging (and How to Avoid It)


Every workplace has a handful of micromanagers. While they might be thorough and seemingly well versed in every possible aspect of their respective projects, the downside is they are not developing their employees.

This is highly detrimental to the long-term productivity of an organisation. Worse yet, the staff being micromanaged can be made to feel incompetent in their roles. Micromanagers have an uncanny knack of sticking their nose into everything; giving detailed instructions for the simplest of tasks and making those around them feel frustrated and incapable.

If any of the below traits sound familiar, it might be time to rethink your workplace strategy for the sake and sanity of those around you.

1. Increase in workload

Has your workload increased exponentially due to the time and effort it takes to continuously critique and scrutinise colleagues and subordinates? While your guidance might be pivotal, a clear briefing with some guiding principles upfront with a few key milestone checkpoints throughout should suffice. A head poking over one's shoulder throughout the day will pose as nothing more than an unnecessary and frustrating distraction.

2. Trust issues

Do you feel that others may not work as thoroughly, meticulously or with the same dedication or passion? Trusting others to deliver good work is part of being a good manager. Providing the tools and training for employees to do their job and do it well will only benefit the leaders in the long run. Build trust with your employees and let them enjoy some autonomy in their role when they are ready. Good employees will relish the extra responsibility and hopefully even surprise you. If an employee genuinely needs micromanaging maybe they are not right for the organisation!

3. Office eavesdropping

Are your ears pricked for conversations that might involve projects that you’re working on? Sidling into every mildly applicable discussion that may or may not involve you directly is crossing into unhealthy territory. Trust that if your input or involvement is required people know where to find you.

4. Fear of delegation

Letting go of a few aspects of a project doesn’t necessarily mean the entire thing will start to unravel before your eyes. It’s not a matter of relinquishing control but rather harnessing the strengths of the team at your disposal. Make the most of the assets around you to ensure your energy is being directed in the right places. Remember, it doesn’t matter how hard you work, you can’t be as effective as a team.

5. Are you the bottleneck?

Is everyone sitting around waiting for your approval? Proofing work prior to delivery is one thing - many co-workers seek out another set of eyes to double-check their work - if, however, you’re consistently insisting on proofing another’s email prior to sending that’s likely taking things a bit too far. There is a place for crossing t’s and dotting i’s but it certainly isn’t in the body of someone else’s email correspondence. Give staff clear guidelines so everyone is up to speed on where the responsibility lies and step in for approvals as and when required.

There is a bit of micromanager in all of us - whether it’s a love for the detail or a comfort in knowing all the facts or maybe an innate desire to see things being done in the most orderly, efficient way. In theory these are all helpful and valuable aspects to bring to a project. There is, however, a fine line between obliging and overbearing. Being a good leader and developing your employees will not only make your team more productive but also reflect well on you as a manager.

Naomi Chan

Career Coach and professional career hacker at Team Vanna

2 min read

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