As a manager, a lot is riding on you.
When you operate in a fast-paced, competitive environment, ensuring your team produces high-quality work that meets expectations and deadlines is a big responsibility. You want to give your direct reports everything they need to succeed, including the benefit of your experience and advice.
But sometimes, support and guidance go too far. Your management style can become controlling and intrusive, impeding productivity and damaging morale. When that happens, you’ll want to learn how to stop micromanaging to ensure your team knows you trust their abilities.
Micromanagement is when managers hover over employee work and exert control over even the smallest tasks. Detail-oriented and hands-on leaders are more prone to developing this management style because they notice mistakes easier and have more touch-points on an employee’s work.
But ultimately, these actions stem from the need to feel in control of a situation because they don’t trust others’ efforts. Micromanagement isn’t rare. An Accountemps survey found that 59% of employees have worked with a micromanager.
Unfortunately, 68% said the experience decreased their morale, while 55% said it harmed productivity. And dealing with a micromanaging boss is one of the top three reasons people quit. So if you think you might be an intrusive manager, it’s time to address this behavior.
What’s wrong with being a micromanaging boss?
Because it affects your team on both a productivity and cultural level, everyone suffers from the effects of micromanagement. These include:
Limited flexibility: When micromanaged, employees must complete a task following a single specific method, even if another more efficient way does the job. They might also feel frustrated by this constriction since they can’t use preferred tactics, which might reduce employee engagement.
Little initiative or creativity: If everything requires approval, employees have little reason to solve problems independently and experiment with workflows to improve productivity. They might also keep innovative ideas to themselves if they think the ideas might conflict with a micromanager’s style.
Workload imbalance: Micromanagers typically don’t delegate well and spend too much time overseeing employees rather than focusing on personal responsibilities. They might also take on too much work if something goes wrong.
As a result, they can be left scrambling under a disproportionately heavy workload. This also means direct reports aren’t equipped to complete tasks well within their capabilities.
Lack of learning opportunities: Learning from mistakes is an excellent way to improve. But micromanagers often take over when something goes wrong, robbing employees of a valuable opportunity to develop new skills.
Dependence: If a team can’t move to the next project stage without approval, they can’t work ahead and may have to deal with constant bottlenecks. When this is a daily event, or if the manager is unavailable for an extended period, it could slow production, leading to delays and missed deadlines.
Limited scalability: It might be possible to closely supervise a team of 3–4 as a micromanager, but it’s not sustainable as the department grows. Attempting to manage 20 team members in this fashion is impossible.
Increases employee turnover: Workers want to feel trusted, which doesn’t happen when a manager constantly meddles with their deliverables. As a result, employees feel discouraged and often look for a new job. High turnover damages the organization by reducing the company’s retention rate and requiring, on average, 33% of a worker’s annual salary in recruitment costs to replace them.
Skews priorities: Because micromanagers tend to focus on insignificant details, you might fail to consider the big picture and contribute positively and constructively.
Low morale: Constant scrutiny and mistrust create a toxic culture that wears away at everyone’s well-being. Employees feel incompetent and worried about being pushed out of their job, and micromanagers juggle too many tasks. No matter where you are in this equation, the stress of the situation can lead to burnout.
Micromanagement warning signs
What micromanaging does to employees is not conducive to a healthy work environment. It limits growth, reduces productivity, and prevents people from doing their best work.
Recognizing micromanager characteristics will help you replace your behavior with healthy leadership skills before the situation becomes untenable. Here are some micromanaging signs you shouldn’t ignore:
You must approve everything: Employees must check in and inform you of every move they make, and all project deliverables go through you before moving on.
You focus on small details: You’re more concerned with correcting insignificant details than big-picture items like meeting deadlines or encouraging employee improvement.
You take over: If you find a single mistake, instead of allowing an employee to correct and learn from the error, you complete the task for them.
You discourage independent decision-making: You want to know about every move, no matter how big or small.
You overwork: Because you feel you’re the most capable person for even higher-ups’ tasks, you often work overtime to correct others’ mistakes and ensure everything’s perfect.
If you’re still unsure whether you’re micromanaging, ask for employee feedback. An anonymous survey to determine how they feel about your level of involvement is a great way to accurately appraise your leadership.
This criticism might be difficult to hear, but you must listen to your subordinate’s input and act to curb your micromanaging tendencies.
By setting boundaries on how you manage your team, you’re demonstrating trust, accountability, and a desire to make things better for everyone. That won’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.
How to stop micromanaging: 10 tips
So, you’ve improved your self-awareness and confirmed you’re micromanaging your employees. Here are 10 tips for reducing these tendencies and becoming more hands-off.
1. Nurture a trusting environment
Build trust in your team to free up everyone’s schedule and improve productivity. You won’t have to constantly approve every little thing, and employees will feel empowered to move projects forward without your review.
And when it’s time to review their performance, staff will welcome your constructive feedback knowing it comes from a desire to see them improve, not to control their work.
2. Let go of perfection
Often, managers try to overcome a fear of failure by being too controlling. Understand there’s more than one way to do a job. So long as your team delivers on project requirements, minor details aren’t important.
3. Make space for learning
Give your team the autonomy to experiment and find new ways of doing things. Adopt a fail-forward attitude by treating mistakes as growth opportunities and discussing the lessons learned openly and honestly. Your role is to guide, not steer, so only step in if you repeatedly see the same mistakes.
4. Set clear expectations
Combat error-causing assumptions by establishing clear expectations that organically limit your involvement in your employees’ work. Provide detailed instructions where necessary and let your team know when to expect your feedback.
5. Learn to delegate
A good manager assigns tasks based on each employee’s skillset, strengths, and development goals. You’re not concerned with directing the work’s completion but with ensuring each worker has the necessary resources, training, and authority to deliver.
That’s why delegation is an essential part of effective management. You’re leveraging strengths and managing weaknesses to help everyone succeed, including the company more generally, since studies show leaders who delegate well drive 33% more revenue than those who don’t.
6. Focus on what only you can do
Attend to tasks only you can complete, like establishing goals, setting metrics, and fixing deadlines. Limit your efforts to managing outcomes rather than activity.
7. Provide transparency
Use project management applications to help you stay on top of a project’s progress without being intrusive. These platforms create visibility around individual tasks, tracking them in real time and letting you see if there’s a problem before it becomes an issue.
8. Hire the right people
While perfect employees don’t exist, hire someone who comes close to having the ideal combination of qualifications and talent to deliver what you need. Once trained, you’ll be confident in their abilities and comfortable granting them autonomy to get on with the job.
9. Micromanage cautiously
There will be rare instances when you need to micromanage, like training a new employee or supporting an underperforming teammate. But the examples where micromanagement is necessary are few and far between. Remind yourself that this is a temporary measure. Once the situation rights itself, you’ll return to your original boundaries.
10. Be kind to yourself
For most, becoming an effective manager means developing a new skill set. You aren’t going to perfect it overnight, and mistakes are bound to happen. Give yourself space to learn and grow along with your team.
You’ve got a great team
When you improve your leadership skills, the benefits affect the entire organization. By learning how to stop micromanaging, you enhance the company culture and boost employee satisfaction while reducing turnover rates and the costs of replacing workers.
And everyone feels capable and trusted to do great work — that’s all a team could ask for.