What Are the Symptoms of a Micromanager?

What Are the Symptoms of a Micromanager?

What is the difference between a hands-on manager and a micromanager?  At what point are you diving into the weeds a bit too far? Are you helping guide your personnel or just simply being demanding?  The line between being an effective leader and being a micromanager can be extremely hard to define and is often quite fuzzy.
While you may seem to think you’re doing a great job with leading your team, your employees may seem to think otherwise.  Micromanagers usually have nothing but good intentions, but still tend to drive employees crazy. This relationship often goes on for extreme lengths of time due to direct reports being shy or timid to provide direct feedback to their superiors.  How can you improve if you don’t know that there is an issue? These are the reasons why it is important to take the time to self-reflect and identify yourself as being an overbearing leader before you lose the motivation, productivity, and loyalty of your team!  Below, we want to help you through this exercise of self-reflection by giving you some common symptoms of a micromanager so you can assess and make any necessary changes to your methodologies as a leader.


What is the Definition of a Micromanager?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the verb to “micromanage” means to manage especially with excessive control or attention to details.  Thus, a micromanager is someone who needs to have excessive control over their staff and their work, while also needing to know every detail and decision being executed throughout the process.  As you know, the term micromanager usually has a negative connotation to it in the workplace and rightfully so. Micromanagement is notoriously known to result in reduced employee motivation, increased stress-levels, and overall reduced productivity.


5 Symptoms of a Micromanager


1. They Struggle with Delegation

Micromanagers often find themselves struggling to hand over tasks to their subordinates and they also frequently second guess themselves if they do.  These individuals have a hard time instilling trust and giving members of the team a chance to take on new, important work. This can lead to a manager taking on too much work themselves, running a “one-man show”.  It is also apparent in those who seem to redline EVERYTHING that’s put on their desk, never being satisfied with the delivered results. This behavior could stem from selfish reasons (wanting to get credit for the important work) but is more likely due to a lack of trust and lack in their ability to delegate correctly.  Luckily, being able to delegate is something that can be improved upon, see our tips and tricks on how to delegate properly here.

2. They Dictate Everything

Being control obsessed or scared of losing control is an obvious sign that you are micromanaging your subordinates.  Discouraging independent decision making, having to be involved in every decision, and making them yourself is a great way to demotivate employees and reduce productivity.  A leader is already busy enough, being able to choose his/her battles is extremely important so that their time is managed appropriately. Being involved in every decision simply is not the answer.

3. They Desire to Know Every Detail

Identifying the right amount of detail a manager should have access to can be very tricky, but is of utmost importance from the viewpoint of your employees.  The desire to be aware of every detail of every task steals all autonomy away from your team, thus reducing their ability to have open communication and deteriorating efficiency.  Most managers are detail-oriented, and that’s a good trait to have, but understanding what is going too deep is an even better trait. You will see individuals who micromanage do all sorts of things to stay in the loop like: ask to be cc’d on every email, organize a ton of pointless meetings, and ask for weekly or daily status reports.  Doing these things does nothing but keep your team from staying focused on their tasks at hand.

4. They Believe Their Way is the Only Way

This symptom is often found in conjunction with a leader who wants to dictate everything.  This is someone who is not open to other individual’s ideas, strategies, or ways of addressing problems.  It is “their way or the highway” as some might say. These individuals can be stubborn, but if you are a manager and you find that everything is going your way, just as you planned, it may be time to look back and see what other’s had proposed during the process of getting where you are today.

5. They Have Suspicion of the Worst

Last, but not least, a leader with suspicion is a leader with no trust, and that is obvious.  This symptom lays the foundation for what most micromanagers lack, a sense of trust that their group is capable of executing on what needs to be done.  If there is continuous suspicion that your employees are wasting resources, not prioritizing, etc. then there will never be that trust established between manager and employee.  This is the foundation, because it drives autonomy, motivation, and thus productivity within a team. Looking over one’s shoulder is a great way to halt productivity and cause resentment to stir within your group.  Take a close look to better understand how trust is established within your team or company, its definitely worth the time due to the risks involved.


Final Words

Employees need and desire autonomy and ownership.  As we mentioned countless times above, it’s of utmost importance to give, instill, and show trust in your employees.  Failure to do this can (and will) lead to reduced team morale, reduced motivation/productivity, and a noticeable spike in employee turnover.  We hope that laying out these common “symptoms” of micromanagers will allow you to take a step back and properly assess the way you are going about working with your team on a daily basis.  This is something that is very common, so don’t get upset if you see a lot of applicable traits listed above. What is important is that you ACT on this self-reflection and work to correct your gaps in this never-ending journey of learning to become a better leader.  We hope this helps and please leave a comment below if you have any additional symptoms or traits that you’ve seen of micromanagers in your workplace!

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