10 Things Micromanagers Do That Prevent Their Employees From Succeeding

Man in suit stands over female employee's shoulder with his arms crossed, her desk is full of work

No one wants to work for a micromanager, and, worse still, no one wants to be the micromanager. Yet one study reported nearly 60% of employees reported working for a micromanager at some point in their careers. And Forbes referred to micromanaging as “one of the most dangerous habits” one can have in the workplace.

Most people at one point or other in their careers have come across this toxic leadership style. Micromanagers conjure up a particular kind of dread in the hearts and minds of employees, who can find their own professional growth and successes being stifled by a controlling, over-involved boss who is more concerned with monitoring and criticizing than they are empowering, inspiring, supporting, and leading.

But how do you identify a micromanager? Where do you draw the line between an involved boss who has a hands-on approach to leadership and a true micromanager who can’t trust their team to get the job done without constant monitoring?

Micromanagers tend to...

Constantly correct other people’s work

Doubting the quality of their employees’ work and needing to review everything and make their own corrections is a hallmark of a micromanager. Micromanagers often feel that they ultimately know better and have a difficult time letting others’ make contributions without putting their own stamp on it.

Require constant updates, even on small tasks

Micromanagers are infamous for getting bogged down in smaller, low-stakes tasks. In fact, the most intense micromanagers can even lose sight of larger outcomes, projects, or goals because they’re so laser-focused on controlling everyday tasks.

Demand detailed time-accounting

Micromanagers demand to know how their employees are spending their time, even down to the hour. This type of over-management and over-monitoring can stifle creativity and growth, incentivizing employees to focus more on appearing busy to appease their micromanager and less on producing quality work.

Doubt everyone’s capabilities (except their own)

Micromanagers often believe their employees are slacking off, wasting time, neglecting their duties, or in general not doing a great job. With this reasoning, they then feel justified in constantly monitoring their employees time, deliverables, and performance.

Believe they’re the only one who can do a good job

Micromanaging is all about control -- the fear of losing it and the refusal to give it up. Micromanagers feel compelled to over-involve themselves in every task or every project their team is working on because they believe they likely know best. With this mindset, micromanagers have a difficult time trusting their employees, having faith in their potential, and investing in their growth and success.

Have trouble prioritizing

Micromanagers can spend just as much time -- or more -- tracking, critiquing, analyzing, and overseeing smaller, more insignificant tasks or situations than they do larger projects and KPIs. They keep track of small tasks with the same intensity and scrutiny as big projects and deliverables. As a result, micromanagers are often, in the long run, not very successful in their leadership positions or with their own goal setting because they don’t focus their energy on what matters most.

Mistrust others

A typical micromanager spends a lot of time and energy setting up checks and balances to ensure their direct reports are not stepping out of line in any way. Rather than focusing on larger goals or KPIs, they expend resources, time, and energy monitoring a team that they seem to constantly suspect of poor performance or misdeeds.

Fear failure

As HBR put it, the underlying cause of micromanaging “is a fear of failure.” Many micromanagers turn out to be driven by their own insecurities, fears, and anxieties over their own performance or capabilities. As such, they may be reluctant to want others, even their own employees, to succeed for fear it will uncover their own inadequacies.

Need to be on every business call and cc’d on every email

This behavior is a red flag for micromanagement. Managers who require their employees to loop them in on nearly every single conversation, email, or meeting, signal the lack of faith they have in their team to handle routine business tasks and their own personal insecurities at being left out of even the smallest interactions.

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