What Is a Micromanager? Definition and Signs

By Indeed Editorial Team

September 7, 2021

While micromanagers usually have the best of intentions, their behavior can impact team morale and performance. It can also slow down productivity because a manager doesn't fully trust their team to perform their jobs. Recognizing whether you are micromanaging your team requires an honest and thoughtful self-assessment of your own behavior. In this article, we discuss 25 signs that someone may be a micromanager and share the benefits and disadvantages of micromanaging a team.

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What is a micromanager?

A micromanager is a manager who closely observes the work of their team members. They often have good intentions and micromanage to improve the performance of everyone on the team. However, their behavioral tendencies can impact their team's ability to develop their own strong leadership behaviors.

Related: Guide to People Management: Definition, Tips and Skills

25 signs of a micromanager

Below is a list of the most common characteristics of a micromanager and signs that you or someone you know may be one:

  1. Resist delegating work

  2. Become overly involved in the work of their employees

  3. Discourage independent decision-making

  4. Ask for frequent updates

  5. Expect overly-detailed reports on a regular basis

  6. Look at every detail rather than focusing on the bigger perspective

  7. Prefer to be cc'd on every email

  8. Have an unusually high turnover of employees

  9. Are rarely satisfied with deliverables

  10. Suggest unrealistic deadlines

  11. Routinely ask employees to stop their work to take care of emergency work

  12. Become irritable when decisions are made independently without their input

  13. Find that team members are usually demotivated

  14. Feel that if a task is to be done right, you/they should do it themselves

  15. Take on the role of the project manager, even when a PM has already been assigned

  16. Tell employees exactly how tasks should be done, leaving no room for creativity or initiative

  17. Continually monitor the behavior and activities of employees to see what they are working on

  18. Focus on unimportant details

  19. Insist that all work processes are documented

  20. Re-do the work of employees after it has been finished

  21. Communicate with employees outside of business hours via text

  22. Require weekly and monthly activity reports from every employee

  23. Believe that team members never take initiative or come up with new ideas

  24. Their/Your employees are never allowed to attend meetings on your behalf

  25. Measure and monitor everything

Related: 6 Management Styles To Lead Effectively: Overview and Examples

Advantages

Since micromanagers usually have the best of intentions, there are some advantages to micromanagement. Here are some positive characteristics of micromanagers:

  • Highly-involved and highly-engaged

  • Influence business-critical tasks

  • Get the best out of their team

  • Add value to any department

  • Know to whom they should delegate

  • Develop empathy naturally

Highly-involved and highly-engaged

By having a very hands-on leadership style, your employees are more likely to perform the tasks as you want them done. This can even be a necessary leadership approach with employees who prefer direction in their work. Micromanagers know their people and the work they do and often have exceptional communication skills to provide guidance and ensure outstanding results.

Influence business-critical tasks

Staying closely involved with tasks and processes allows you to ensure things go according to plan, especially with business-critical tasks and key clients. They can also take care of details and prevent possible negative outcomes.

Get the best out of their team

Micromanagers generally behave the way they do to control the outcome, not their team. They want to ensure everything is taken care of and at the same time, teach, mentor and enhance the skills of their teams.

Add value to any department

Any micromanager will generally go over every detail, investigating a situation until they discover the root of a problem. Then, they take whatever steps necessary to resolve the problem. Good micromanagers can be an asset to any department.

Know to whom they should delegate

Micromanagers usually know their team members better than anyone and when they recognize that work must be delegated, they know exactly who they should delegate to have the work completed. In many cases, the manager has also done the tasks before themselves, which means they know who has the skills and abilities to see the task through to the end, successfully.

Develop empathy naturally

Since they usually know the work that's involved to get a task done, they can very successfully empathize with other people. They usually understand the strengths, weaknesses and skills of others and can use this understanding to know when they should push each person and when they should take a step back.

Disadvantages

Here is a look at some negative characteristics of micromanagers:

  • Waste time

  • Reduce job satisfaction

  • Lower creativity and efficiency

  • Reduce employee motivation

Waste time

Micromanagers spend a significant portion of their time overseeing the work of others, time that could be spent on more productive endeavors, such as developing systems or creating new processes. Micromanagers often inundate themselves with details that their team members are often capable of handling independently.

Related: Time Management Skills: Definition and Examples

Reduce job satisfaction

Micromanaging can create stress for both the manager as well as the employee. The micromanager can become frustrated by employees who aren't completing tasks as they were instructed and the employees can feel that they are not trusted to do their jobs. This can create a self-perpetuating cycle, where managers become increasingly frustrated and employee performance decreases because they are unhappy in their roles.

Lower creativity and efficiency

Micromanagers often give specific directions about how they believe tasks should be accomplished. While this can work well with new employees or those who are not comfortable self-directing, it can also limit the employee's ability to develop new, efficient, creative ways of performing the tasks associated with their roles. Employees are also denied the sense of accomplishment that accompanies finding better ways to do their jobs.

Reduce employee motivation

Since micromanagers struggle to let go, employees can become demotivated and less confident in their own abilities. They feel their work will never live up to standard and so they become less productive and create a less successful product.

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