What is micromanagement and how do you deal with it?

In this blog we'll look explain what micromanagement is, how it affects both employees and managers and discuss the signs of micromanagement you should keep a look our for.

15th May 2024

Ok, let's talk about the elephant in the room (or should we say, the hovering manager?): micromanagement. It's management style where your every move is scrutinised, your autonomy is thrown out the window, and your motivation takes a nosedive faster than a skydiver without a parachute.

But here's the thing - micromanagement isn't just annoying; it's pretty detrimental to employee morale, productivity, and overall success. And it’s not ideal when it comes to creating a thriving workplace.

In this blog post, we're going to look at what micromanagement is, how to handle being micromanaged, and how to avoid it if you are a manager. 

What is micromanagement? 

Firstly let’s break down what exactly micromanagement is. Micromanagement is when your manager is constantly breathing down your neck, checking every little thing you do, and doesn't trust you to do your job properly. It's like having someone watch over your shoulder while you work, making you feel suffocated and undervalued. Instead of giving you the freedom to do your tasks in your way, they want to control every step of the process. It can be frustrating and demoralising, and it often leads to employees feeling stressed out and micromanaged.

5 ways micromanagement impacts employees

1. Motivation? What motivation?

When employees feel like they're under a microscope 24/7, their motivation to go above and beyond tends to fizzle out faster. Constant scrutiny sends the message that you don't trust their abilities, leading to disengagement and a serious case of the "bare minimums."

2. Creativity, interrupted.

Micromanagers often insist on things being done their way or the highway, leaving little room for employees to flex their creative problem-solving muscles. When you're always told exactly what to do and how to do it, innovation takes a backseat to "just following orders."

3. Productivity takes a downfall

All those constant check-ins and status updates? They're not just annoying; they also waste a lot of time. When employees are spending more time reporting on their work than actually doing it, productivity takes a serious hit. 

4. Stress levels: through the roof

Working under a micromanager is like being stuck in a pressure cooker with no release valve. The constant need to meet unrealistic expectations and the fear of making mistakes can lead to sky-high stress levels, burnout, and even health issues.

5. Turnover, and not the delicious pastry kind

When employees feel suffocated by micromanagement, they're more likely to start eyeing the exit signs and looking for a new job. High turnover rates are costly and disruptive, and a big red flag that the management style might be the problem.

Signs you're being micromanaged

How do you know if you're being micromanaged? Here are some common signs:

  • Your manager constantly checks in on you and wants to know every detail of your work. 
  • You're given little to no autonomy or decision making authority.
  • Your manager frequently changes or criticises your work, even for minor details.
  • You feel like you're walking on eggshells around your manager, afraid of making mistakes.

How to deal with being micromanaged

When it comes to dealing with micromanagement, it's often challenging to know what to say or if you should say anything at all. You might fear saying the wrong thing or worry about how it could affect your role in the company. Here are some strategies to help you:

  1. Talk it out: Have an honest chat with your manager about how you're feeling. Find common ground and see if you can work things out. It’s best to address these issues sooner rather than later. Don’t let it build up!
  2. Set boundaries: Politely push back when micromanagement crosses the line, and assert your independence where you can. It’s always good to have boundaries and communicate these with your manager and team. 
  3. Lean on your network: Speak to a trusted coworker or friend. Knowing you're not alone can make it feel more bearable. If you’re not comfortable talking to your manager yet, speaking to other people can be a good sounding board. 
  4. Take a breather: Don't forget to take breaks and make time for activities outside of work that make you happy. Remember that work is just one part of your life. Being in this situation can be frustrating but try not to let it impact your life outside of work. 

How to break free from the micromanagement trap

If you’re a manager who is finding themselves micromanaging more and more it’s not too late to stop. Here are some tips to help you ditch the micromanagement mentality and create a workplace where your team can thrive. 

1. Set clear expectations

Make sure your team knows what's expected of them, but don't dictate every single step of the process. Give them the autonomy to find their own path to success.

2. Trust your team

You hired them for a reason, right? Show your employees that you have faith in their skills and judgement by giving them the space to deliver results. 

3. Let them work how they want

Be flexible with working arrangements so your team can work in a way that suits them. Look at options like hybrid, flexi-hours, part-time, and compressed hours. Having the autonomy to work in a way that suits them means they will be more productive and motivated. 

3. Focus on results, not hours

Instead of obsessing over how many hours someone spends at their desk, focus on the actual outcomes they're achieving. Results are what matter!

4. Encourage growth

Invest in your team's development by providing opportunities for learning, mentorship, and career advancement. When your employees feel supported and valued, they're more likely to stick around and give their best.

5. Lead by example

If you want your team to be autonomous and trust-driven, you need to walk the talk. Model the behaviour you want to see, and create a culture where micromanagement is a thing of the past.

Micromanagement is common in most workplaces, but it can easily be avoided. By communicating openly, setting clear expectations, and focusing on results, managers can break free from micromanagement and manage a team that is trusted to thrive in their roles. And if you’ve fallen victim to micromanaging, remember you deserve to work in an environment that trusts and respects your abilities.