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Don’t Be a Micro-Manager – It’s Bad For Business!

Some owners or managers believe that the only way to maintain “control” is to be on top of every business aspect, down to the smallest detail. This style of management may give a sense of “assurance” that everything is being “correctly”, but it is actually a manifestation of management mistake. It is called “micro-management” and research shows that as a business method, it is organizational-limiting and profit-inhibiting.

Still unconvinced? That’s not surprising since overzealous bosses rarely see themselves as contributing to the problem. We can show you who’s making things worse – and how to make positive change!

What are the symptoms exhibited by a micro-manager? Here are the most common:

  • You’re always swamped with more than you can handle even after you tell others exactly how you expect them to do the work.   (This is a clear sign that you’re not delegating effectively).
  • You believe that you’re smarter, faster, and more skilled than the people who work for you.  (Either you didn’t hire competent people or you’re not seeing the real problem!)
  • You think you possess the highest quality standards, perform tasks seamlessly, and never miss a deadline. (You may be brilliant, but you can’t truly believe you’re alone in a crowd!)
  • You frequently assign work, then take it back because it’s not getting done the way you want it done.  (Didn’t you tell them exactly what the objectives were? Is this a communications problem or something else?)
  • You tell your team exactly how you want things done and you tell them that they’re “wrong” if it varies from your instructions. (You’re leaving them no room for them to take initiative and they just might not appreciate it!)
  • You continuously take on project manager roles, even when there already is a project manager.  (Do you have the feeling that you need to do everything?)
  • You rarely complete projects on time because you can’t get past the details. (In your mind, you have the recurring thought “if I only had decent help . . .” and secretly harbor some resentment about paying your staff!)
  • You need to know what everyone else is doing, all the time. (Either this is evidence of compulsive behavior or you have hired under-age workers because you’re not treating them as mature adults!)
  • Your team avoids you and when they do engage with you its rarely a one-on-one conversations with you. (Your reactions are that they must not “like” you because you’re the boss and that just the price a person pays for being in charge!)
  • You re-question the processes followed, work completed and proposed next steps at every status meeting. It always seems to you everyone is always waiting for your approval on everything. (You can’t understand why there’s a bottleneck, you’re already going full speed on everything! You’re thinking, “why can’t these people get it done right?”)
  • You feel that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. (Feeling lonely at the top? Read our discussion on hiring!)
  • You feel a need to frequently assert your authority — and you do, because you can. (Deep down, you’re afraid of failure! You will need to recognize that you’re hooked on controlling others to avoid it!)
  • You keep “losing” people to resignations, terminations and transfers. You understand that  your “team” has high turnover but the reasons seem elusive. (Hint: they are not staying because they’re stifled and resentful of . . . guess who?)
  • Your staff members appear timid, tentative, and semi-paralyzed when performing even the most mundane tasks. (You’re mystified? Here’s a clue: it’s because you get irritated when they make decisions without consulting you first!)
  • Your people often make up excuses to avoid meeting with you. (Big clue: they’re unhappy and are tired of seeing your red pen marks on their work product!)
  • You’ve heard some people say you’re a micro-manager. (Not all gossip is untrue!)

Did You Find Yourself Relating to Many of These Situations and Team Characteristics?

If a majority of these seem to describe you and your situation, you are probably a micro-manager. We assume that you accept the diagnosis but you’re probably thinking about whether it really matters? The answer is YES and we’ll show you why.

How Micro-management Can Hurt Your Business

If unsure that micro-management is actually a serious issue, consider these:

If you’re a micro-manager  – you’re actually communicating a negative message to your team which is that you don’t trust them or respect their work.

If you’re a micro-manager – you take away all their sense of ownership or responsibility they might otherwise have for their work.

If you’re a micro-manager – you make it difficult to grow your business because you can’t make enough time to look ahead and plan. Also, since you’re a group of one, you have no extra capacity to tap into.

If you’re a micro-manager – you are causing work to be redone over and over, wasting time that could be spent much more productively. Repeating work costs time and money.

If you’re a micro-manager – you can make your team members lose confidence in themselves and their ability to get the job done. This slows work processes – lost time translates into lost earnings.

If you’re a micro-manager – you cause people to feel frustrated and resentful. Negativity breeds contempt.

If you’re a micro-manager – you are causing delays, work avoidance and time wasting.

If you’re a micro-manager – you limit team members in their development of skills and knowledge they need to work autonomously.

So, micro-management happens when a business owner or manager insists on excessive control over the work process and it leads directly to lowered sales, earnings and productivity. When  delegation of work is undermined and the boss is involved with every single detail of the work, you business will suffer from delays and your team will experience frustration.

The notion of micro-management can be extended to any social context where one person takes a bully approach, in the level of control and influence over the members of a group. Often, this excessive obsession with the most minute of details causes a direct management failure in the ability to focus on the major details.

What Should You Do?  You Don’t Really Intend to Be Self-Destructive!

We get it and you not wrong that careful scrutiny isn’t always a bad thing. It is true that work conditions often demand it, such as when a new product launches, your customers are complaining, or projects languish on certain employees’ desks.

In most situations, however, you need to see the difference between effective and ineffective managers. Effective managers give employees clearly demarcated realms of autonomy and trust their abilities. They communicate clear, specific, time-sensitive expectations, allowing employees multiple paths to successfully complete a project. In other words, you need to start “letting them go on their own”, to some degree.

Understand and transmit your belief that employees can’t grow into a functioning team if they can’t make decisions and deal with the consequences.

Effective delegation is a key management skill. You need to understand that you will need to change your version of delegating which more than likely involves hoarding all the creative, “important” work for yourself, while doling out the easy, boring scraps to your subordinates.


Try these tips:

What we’re saying is that you need to “tune in” to your own behavior. Recognizing a tendency to strong-arm employees is a productive first step.

You will need to find a mentor or a close friend and tell them that you’re trying to change your management style. Ask for ongoing feedback. This will keep you accountable.

Start off with small tasks. Tell your employees what to do without giving them step-by-step instructions, remaining available for any questions that might pop up.

Practice listening to pick up special concerns or insights from your staff. Be mindful of company objectives—suppressing employee initiative can lead to a stagnant business environment.

Show more trust among employees by waiting for them to complete stages and them spend time reviewing their results and productivity – this shows them that their efforts are personal and recognized.

Arrange for success by supporting their efforts. When they succeed, so do you!