22 Signs of a Micromanager (Plus How To Cope With One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Micromanagers manage their team members with a top-down, authoritative leadership style. While they usually have the best of intentions, the approach may limit others from taking ownership of their work and hinder their development as a professional. Understanding the common signs of a micromanager can help improve your work habits so that your team can produce more profitable outcomes. In this article, we discuss what a micromanager is, the side effects it has on the workplace, the signs of a micromanager, how to cope with one and tips on good leadership qualities.

Related: 12 Leadership Examples For the Workplace

What is a micromanager?

A micromanager is a supervisor or manager who oversees their team members excessively. They may resist delegating tasks and try to do them themselves so that they can have complete control over a project. Often, micromanagers are extremely passionate about their work and want to bolster the success of an organisation. However, other team members may bear the consequences of their behaviour. Those working under a micromanager may start to feel insecure about their contributions, making them more reliant on the micromanager's guidance and feedback in the long term.

22 signs of a micromanager

Being a leader takes an enormous amount of responsibility. However, it's important for managers to scrutinise their own behaviour regularly to remain accountable and to ensure they're sending the right message to their team. Consider the following 22 signs of a micromanager so you can understand if your manager is behaving in this way:

  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 regularly

  6. Look at unimportant details rather than focusing on the bigger perspective

  7. Prefer to be copied on every email

  8. Have an unusually high turnover of employees

  9. Find themselves rarely satisfied with deliverables

  10. Suggest unrealistic deadlines

  11. Ask co-workers to stop their work to take care of emergency work routinely

  12. Become irritable when team members make decisions independently without their input

  13. Find that their team appears demotivated or disinterested in their work regularly

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

  15. Take on the role of the project manager, even when the role was assigned to someone else

  16. Tell employees exactly how they should carry out their tasks, leaving no room for creativity or initiative

  17. Monitor the behaviour and activities of employees excessively

  18. Insist that team members document all work processes

  19. Re-do the work of employees after they have completed the assignment

  20. Communicate with employees outside of business hours via text

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

  22. Their co-workers may never attend meetings on their behalf

Related: 18 Good Leadership Qualities for Career Success

Side effects of micromanagement

Allowing micromanagers to go unchecked in an organisation can have prolific side effects on their team members and the quality of their work. It's important that every individual has their own input during the span of a project as it pushes the boundaries of innovation. Micromanagement can have severe side effects on the motivation of your co-workers, making it more difficult for them to achieve organisational objectives. Here's a summary of the side effect you need to look out for:

Wastes valuable time

If you notice that small tasks take a long time to complete, this could be a consequence of micromanagement. Usually, micromanagers feel the need to take responsibility of minor details and even re-do tasks that don't comply with their requirements. This behaviour slows down the output of work being produced, a side effect that could hold up work in other departments and bring down the overall productivity of an organisation.

Reduces employee job satisfaction

Typically professionals feel satisfied with their work when they're being challenged, given more responsibility or working towards a greater mission. Micromanagers tend to take away responsibility and leave their team members with the more tedious tasks. This could create tension between colleagues and bolster a toxic work environment. You might notice these side effects through other means, such as anger or frustration among your co-workers and even a falling employee retention rate.

Dampens creativity

When a company hires you, it's because of the unique skills you bring to your team. Often, micromanagers fail to identify and nurture these talents. Not only does this behaviour reduce productivity, but it also dampens creativity. Organisations need to sustain their relevance to continue business in the future, therefore they need to rely on every mind on their team to share their opinions, even if they're countercultural.

Reduces motivation within the organisation

If you notice an increasing employee turnover rate within your organisation, it could signify a demotivated workforce. Even though micromanagers have the best of intentions, they might not realise the side effects of their behaviour. Thus, if you find that your co-workers seem less enthusiastic about their work, it might be time for a change. The more you motivate your team, the more you encourage them to go beyond set expectations, a desirable outcome that helps people and profits grow simultaneously.

Advantages of a micromanager

When used for the right reasons, there are a few traits of micromanagers that can be beneficial to the growth of an organisation. Their dedication to their work can help employers achieve outstanding results. Here's a summary of the major benefits of a micromanager:

Highly engaged

Micromanagers have a hands-on leadership style. They have a high degree of awareness, whereby they keep a close eye on their project deadlines and the performance of their team members. This approach can be highly beneficial for employees that need extra attention, such as interns or new hires. Often, micromanagers have exceptional communication skills that can help minimise errors and delays.

Adheres to standard practices

Micromanagers like structure, a quality that also translates into how they run their team. Companies that have rigid policies or strict quality control measures may benefit from their work style. These leaders rarely depart from the original plan, preferring to achieve organisational goals within the expectations and timeframe set by their employers. Thus, a micromanager can add value to a company's gatekeeping process, encouraging others to comply with set standards.

Develops a high functioning team

Micromanagers are extremely detail-minded. They know exactly what they want to achieve and that's why they can spot errors and issues quickly. This leadership style encourages those around them to be equally vigilant about the work they turn in. Micromanagers train their team members to deliver high-quality work. Since their co-workers are aware of their requirements, they also become more self-critical in an attempt to uphold these standards.

Related: How To Be a Good Supervisor (With Steps and Tips)

How to tell a micromanager to stop

Now that you have recognised the side effects of micromanagement, it's important to determine whether your manager is using their authority responsibly. If you feel overwhelmed or see your productivity suffer, it's probably time to have an open conversation with them regarding their behaviour. However, since they are your superior, try to remain as professional as possible. The following is a step-by-step guide detailing how to tell them to stop micromanaging your work:

1. Reduce their insecurities

Identify the source of their behaviour. For example, their behaviour be because of their own personality or a lack of trust in you. Examine whether you have missed deadlines, delivered work that's below standard or appear distracted by your personal life. Try to understand the reasoning behind their leadership style, then change your approach so that you reduce their insecurities. Before you confront them about their management style, it's best to make the changes they would like to see first.

2. Invite open communication

If you feel that you still can't reduce their micromanaging behaviour through your own actions, it might be time to have an open conversation with your supervisor. Schedule a meeting with them so that they can create time and space to accept your feedback. Usually, micromanagers who desire the best for their team will feel comfortable enough to accept this invitation.

3. Plan your points

Before you attend your scheduled meeting, think about what you want to say to your supervisor. The key to a productive conversation with them is to keep your emotions aside and to maintain a professional tone. Instead of accusing them of things or blatantly telling them to stop, try to express yourself in terms of what support you need. For example, you can say "I work better when I can minimise interruptions and concentrate solely on my work" or "I would like to handle [project] on my own and then check with you after for feedback".

Since micromanagers want frequent updates on your work, it may be best to plan a feedback schedule that suits you. Share this with your supervisor during your meeting to give them confidence in your ability to work independently. Essentially, you want to take back control of your work while still making them feel involved.

4. Show appreciation for your supervisor

As your meeting comes to a close, remember to thank your supervisor for their care and attention. When people feel appreciated, they are more likely to use the desired behaviour. You can also make a habit of positive reinforcement in your daily interactions with your supervisor to support their behaviour change.