How to Prevent Micromanaging in the Workplace

In a healthy work environment, employees feel that management trusts them to do their job effectively. Employees appreciate a sense of autonomy, which is why it’s important to prevent micromanaging in the workplace. Learn more about the concept of micromanagement and how to detect it in your workplace.


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What is micromanaging in the workplace?

Micromanaging in the workplace is a management style where a manager closely oversees employees and everything they do. Managers who micromanage prefer to stay in control rather than empower their employees to innovate and create. They also tend to excessively look at details even though their main focus should be on the bigger goals of their team. Since many employees prefer a bit more freedom at work, micromanagement may decrease employee morale in the workplace. 

Related: What Does “Good Management” Even Mean?


How to identify micromanagement

Follow these steps to determine if there is micromanagement going on in your workplace:


1. Send out an anonymous employee survey

Employees may prefer to keep their opinions of their managers anonymous, which is why you should send out anonymous employee surveys periodically. This gives your employees a chance to express their honest feelings about their managers. Along with giving employees blank space to write their thoughts, ask them the following questions:

  • Is your manager open to your team’s ideas or insights?
  • Does your manager provide feedback that you find helpful?
  • Is your manager using their authority appropriately?
  • Do you feel comfortable sharing your opinion with your manager?
  • Does your manager explain their decision-making process?
  • Does your manager clearly define the company’s goals?
  • Is your manager’s communication style effective?


2. Observe your managers

Pay attention to the way your managers treat their team members. If you notice that they encourage open communication and group brainstorming, then you’re likely to have a manager who uses their leadership effectively. If you notice that your manager prevents the free flow of ideas and is hyper-focused on minor details, they may be micromanaging. 

Related: 7 Manager Interview Questions and Answers


3. Look at your manager’s reports

Those who micromanage may frequently create unnecessary reports about their employees’ progress on projects. Although employee evaluations are helpful, constant reports without any positive feedback may decrease productivity. Likewise, if a manager is often asking for progress updates, this could also be a sign of micromanaging. Your employees need a chance to get their work done before reporting on what they are doing.


4. Determine if employees are growing 

When employees work under a micromanaging supervisor, it can be challenging for them to take new chances and learn more skills. Micromanagers tend to keep their knowledge to themselves so they can continue to hold control over certain tasks and responsibilities. In a healthy work environment, the manager encourages employee growth and may even serve as a mentor to lower-level employees. Good managers understand that it is their responsibility to help employees reach their highest potential. 


5. Take note of innovation

Some of the best ideas come from employees who have a chance to sit and think through different possibilities. If you notice innovation is at a standstill, look into how your managers act when an employee brings forth an idea. If you notice that team members have little input on projects, you can encourage employees of all levels to share their ideas and opinions. When you have more perspectives on your projects, they tend to be more innovative.


Tips to prevent micromanagement

Create a positive work environment by following these tips:

  • Offer learning opportunities. When all employees have the chance to learn new skills, they can offer more input into your company’s projects and initiatives. Instruct managers to hold regular training sessions and learning seminars for their team members.
  • Allow employees to move up. Create a work structure where employees of all levels have a chance to take on more responsibilities. When authority is more distributed throughout the workplace, you can prevent one manager from having excessive control. 
  • Give positive feedback. Although constructive criticism can help employees learn from their mistakes, positive feedback is an important part of helping all employees feel valued. When an employee does something well, communicate that you are happy with their efforts.
  • Set goals for all employees. Managers may be responsible for helping their team meet the company’s objectives, but employees also hold some of this responsibility. Create regular company-wide meetings so all employees can learn what the company is working toward.
  • Trust employees. As long as employees are getting their work done, you can trust that they are being productive. If you are noticing less productivity, take a moment to discuss expectations with employees and learn their perspective. You may find that their manager could improve in certain areas to help their team be more efficient. 
  • Create simple rules. A more laid back work environment can help employees learn to be responsible on their own. Make your company rules straightforward, brief and easy to understand. 


Frequently asked questions about micromanagement

Here are commonly asked questions about micromanagement in the workplace:


What are the signs of a micromanager?

You can spot warning signs of micromanagement throughout the interview process. When interviewing for a manager position, ask behavioral questions to learn how you can expect candidates to act in certain situations. If they answer with responses that show they want to support employees and offer guidance, they may be a good fit for the role. Likewise, if a candidate speaks about reprimanding employees or noticing insignificant errors, this could be a sign of micromanagement. 


If you already hired a manager and suspect micromanagement, you may notice similarities between their management style and these examples of micromanagement:

  • They keep high-level tasks to themselves. Good managers know how to effectively delegate work based on their employees’ qualifications and talents. They trust employees to be able to try new things and effectively complete their tasks. 
  • They focus on an employee’s minor errors rather than their accomplishments. Learning from mistakes is helpful, but it is also important that managers boost their team’s confidence by offering praise for good work. 
  • They rarely implement employees’ ideas. This can prevent productivity and innovation. Effective managers give employees room to work on their projects and come up with their own ideas for a project. 
  • They require consistent updates from employees. This behavior shows that the manager lacks confidence in their team. The correct management practice is to trust that employees get their work done, and you can tell their level of hard work based on their final product.

Related: How to Hire a Manager


How should I address micromanagement?

If you start to notice micromanagement in your workplace, address it immediately. Set up a meeting with the manager who is practicing this management style to discuss ways to create a better work environment. Reiterate their responsibilities as a manager. Make it clear that it’s their job to work toward the company’s goals rather than keeping track of minor details. Remind them that it’s their role to offer their team support, guidance and leadership. Highlight specific instances of micromanagement so they can learn to prevent these behaviors in the future.

Related: How to Write a Manager Job Description


What are the negative impacts of micromanagement?

Micromanagement can make employees feel a loss of autonomy in the workplace. When employees feel a sense of freedom at work, both they and the company benefit in the following ways:

  • When employees feel admiration and respect for their managers, they may feel more loyal to your company. This is because treating employees well and hearing their opinions can help them feel more valued in the workplace. 
  • Employees with a sense of control tend to feel better about the work they do and have increased morale. This positive energy can spread among all employees and create an upbeat atmosphere at your business. 
  • When employees have time to work rather than filling out unnecessary reports or meeting with their manager, they can be more productive. Likewise, when they can focus on their goals rather than minor details, they can complete their work in a more timely manner. 

Without a sense of autonomy, your company and employees may not experience these benefits. Instead, micromanaging could increase your employee turnover rate and lead to less effective work among employees.  

Related: How to Reduce Employee Turnover


By learning the signs of micromanagement and how to prevent it, you can create a better work environment for everyone. Since your manager may not even realize this behavior, meeting with them to discuss their role can help them adjust their management style. Addressing micromanaging in the workplace can help you increase employee morale and retain more talent.


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