April 21st, 2020

How to Stop Micromanaging & Build Trust

Micromanaging is seen as one of the most damaging things a manager can do to a team, no matter the industry. It can cause physical and emotional distress for workers and leading to poorer team and business results. But the biggest problem? Most micromanagers don’t even know they are doing it.

What is Micromanaging?

While there are lots of anecdotes of micromanaging by aggrieved workers, you can simply define micromanage by looking at the dictionary: “Control every part, however small of an enterprise or activity.” Remember, it’s possible to micromanage not only in personal teams, but while managing remote teams as well.

So, a micromanager might closely watch and try to control employees, constantly reminding each member of the team about the work they need to do and how they need to do it. The micromanager also requires constant and detailed performance feedback and is obsessive about trifling procedural matters instead of focusing on overall performance, quality and results.

Negative effects of micromanagement include increased stress for workers, as well as health issues such as headaches, insomnia and high blood pressure. An Indiana University Kelley School of Business study finds that micromanaging is so stressful for workers that when looking at highly-demanding jobs, those that also took away control from workers were linked with a 15.4 percent increased chance of death.

Micromanagers also lead to demotivated employees, who don’t see their work as valued or appreciated. Workers doubt their own abilities and become unconfident.

Some micromanagement examples include managers who spend too much time on trivial or basic work instead of using higher-level skills to deal with strategic issues; refuse to let go of projects or assignments to team members; and focus on minor details instead of setting organizational priorities.

Could you be a Micromanager?

Believe it or not, it’s not uncommon to be a micromanager and not even know it. You may believe you are “coaching” or “mentoring” employees, but it’s time to look deeper and ask yourself: “Am I micromanaging?” and consider these signs:

  • You’re never satisfied with what a team member delivers.
  • You feel frustrated because you would have done a task differently.
  • You focus on details and get satisfaction in pointing out corrections.
  • You always know who is doing what and when.
  • You must have frequent updates.
  • You love to be cc’d on all emails.

Micromanaging not only hurts the team, it hurts the micromanager. Being a micromanager doesn’t help grow leadership skills and instead, micromanagers are seen as bottlenecks who hurt quality and productivity and often drive away good employees. So, they not only hurt the team, they hurt their own career.

How to Stop Micromanaging

If you fear you’re a micromanager and want to know how to stop micromanaging, consider these steps:

  • Manage expectations, not tasks.

    While it’s important that the team understands their assignments, it’s equally important to help them understand your expectations. This ensures that everyone knows the goal they need to reach and that’s what is important – not how they get there.

  • Get input.

    Some employees want to communicate their progress more often than others, or need help deciding how to prioritize tasks. A manager can ask: “How often would you like me to check in?” That way, a manager’s input is seen as making progress, not causing a bottleneck.

  • Stop over-measuring.

    Micromanagers like details and tracking everything. Figure out your key metrics and rely on your team to keep you informed of other key information.

  • Use technology.

    There are many different software programs that can track projects, daily tasks, updates and individual assignments. With that kind of information available to the entire team, there’s no need to be hanging over the shoulders of team members and nagging them about updates. This will allow workers to track their progress and that of others so that it’s clear what needs to be done and when.

Finally, micromanaging may not be an easy habit to break, so it may be best to start small. Not only does the micromanager have to learn a new way of managing, but the team may need some time to learn to think for themselves.



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