Do You Lead or Manage? 6 Symptoms of a Micromanager

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The line between an effective leader and a micromanager can be thin. Where does the line between being detail-oriented or obsessive lie? Or between being overly controlling or sufficiently constructive?

Although the line can seem hazy for you, chances are your employees easily recognize micromanagement. Yet, managers rarely view themselves as such. According to a survey 79% of employees claimed they’d been micromanaged at one point or another. What is more, 91% of managers were unaware of employees changing their job due to their micromanagement behaviors.

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What is micromanagement anyway?

Taking the easiest definition into account, micromanagement is a management style whereby a manager closely observes the work of employees. I am not trying to say that micromanagement is all bad. Micromanagers usually have all the best intentions, but they just drive their people crazy. They usually try to be perfect, which makes them over-controlling and prevents them from using empowering leadership behaviors.

According to Robert Hurley’s research paper 30 to 35% of executives succeed as managers but stumble when they find themselves in a higher-level position that requires leadership, but they respond with management.

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Taking together these recent surveys, it is evident that  a lot of managers are unaware of their micromanagement behaviors and their employees are too shy to give feedback. How do you improve something you have no idea about?


6 symptoms of a micromanager

Summing up various surveys and researches, here are 6 symptoms of a micromanager and their cures. Are there any familiar behavioral patterns you or your manager might use every now and then?

Avoids delegation

A micromanager often believes no one could do a better job, which is why they find themselves doing the work of others. They might be successful in short-run, but over time the workload keeps growing and everyone’s performance suffers.  As a result, good people leave or stop taking initiative and the manager will feel overwhelmed.

48% of companies surveyed were concerned about employees’ delegation skills, but only 28% offered any training. Delegation is a skill like any other. It demands time and practice to be mastered. Our Weekdone progress report users have been able to assign tasks to each other with just one click. Although delegating tasks this way is effortless, it still demands letting go of the control.

What could be the cure? Assigning one full task, not just pits and parts, but the full task. It might be painful, but it’s necessary.


Another symptom that signals you might be dealing with micromanagement is if a person feels constant urge to send countless emails to check employees progress. After delegating a full task to someone, it’s natural to feel the need to keep checking on the status. Everything has its limits. What is more, micromanagement is believed to be one of the most significant barriers U.S workers face in completing most important tasks.

How to control the control-obsessed behaviors? There are smarter ways to keep an eye on the progress. Hassle-free ways that give the micromanager a full picture of what’s going on without having to send several emails or keep dropping by the desk. One such clever method is the PPP process – weekly reporting on progress, plans and problems.

Dictate everything

Micromanagers also love to give exact directions on how to complete a task. I recently happened to read an amusing blog post how one employee found a task list that was pages long on her table, each morning. It’s easier and probably takes as much time to finish the task than write exact directions. According to a survey, 55% admit micromanaging decreases productivity, 68% say it decreases morale.

What could be the solution? It’s difficult to change something you’re not aware of. That’s why reflection is important, take the leadership assessment test in

Suffers from reportomania

What in the world is “reportomania”? No worries, it’s not a deadly diseases, but it’s an annoying habit to request unnecessary and overly detailed reports. It’s closely connected to being control-obsessed and needing to possess every information detail. Although it might be doable with a team of 5 people, it gets overwhelming with a team of 15. There is always more information out there, than one can possibly consume.

Fun fact: 38% of employees would rather do unpleasant activities than sit next to their micromanaging boss.

What to do? Well, this solution is quite evident, try Weekdone and start receiving reports that include the information connected to long-term objectives.


A typical micromanager corrects tiny details before seeing the big picture. This in return will lead to losing site of the larger strategic issues. 9 out of 10 managers admit decisions made in the past three years would have been better if they’d let in more information. It’s impossible to let more meaningful information in, if you’re stuck with details.

What’s the easy fix? It’s important to admit that mistakes do happen and sometimes bad decisions are made. But it’s not okay to loose your focus from long-term objectives. Publishing your objectives and key results is a step towards the right direction.

Discourages independent decision making

A micromanager is usually irritated when an employee makes a decision without consulting them first. That’s true even if the decision is within their level of expertise! A good percentage of employees feel that managers don’t help them perform at their best. Discouraging people to make decisions and take responsibility is demotivating.

The cure? Giving employees the autonomy they deserve. If a person was hired to do a certain job, let them shine.

Here’s a slideshow we put together to help as well:

Now more than ever, employees desire empowerment, inspiration, and autonomy. Although it’s difficult to give up control and fully trust someone else to get the job done, it’s absolutely necessary. Failure to delegate and empower can lead to unwanted employee turnover and under-developed staff. Let these 6 symptoms guide the way to self-reflection and a happier workplace.

Tips For Micromanagers

1. Refrain from meddling

The best way to avoid meddling in the middle of your employees’ work is to assign tasks based on your employees’ strong suits. Maintaining self restraint and avoiding over-managing and frustrating employees is far easier when you can trust that your employees are doing work in their best fields. It’s easier to admit that, in those circumstances, they probably know better than you and will come to you if any problems emerge.

2. Focus on employee projects and KPIs, not expected tasks

Second guessing low-risk decision making is a one way ticket for employees to perform worse. On the one hand, if your employees are independent and understand their work, they’ll be frustrated that you don’t trust them. In the case of those who are more insecure of their work, they’ll become more disheartened and aquire a defeatist attitude even with the most basic or mundane of tasks.

Focus on big picture ideas when meeting with employees. No one benefits if you fret over the font size used in private correspondance, for example. You don’t need to monitor how and when your employee answers emails as long as they give you consistent project updates and are making good time on their deadlines.

Don’t search for problems, wait for your employees to come to you with their problems first.

3. See the forest through the trees

This old turn-of-phrase highlights the key problem with micromanagement. Being detail oriented is fine, obsessing about details hurts you as well. Not only should you be focused on employee projects instead of tasks, but you, yourself, should focus closely on connecting everything to larger team and company goals.