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Micromanagement: Are You Guilty?

I often get comments from readers of my blog about being micromanaged. Oddly, I don’t get many from people who worry they are guilty of micromanagement themselves.

The truth about micromanagement

Micromanaging is one of the most corrosive workplace behaviours a boss can demonstrate. Some bosses can’t even recognize that they micromanage. Most would never admit it.

(With that in mind, there ARE some scenarios when micromanagement is a good thing. Particularly in these two situations)

It is entirely possible that the employee is not good at their job. Instead of constructively confronting the poor performance, the boss grinds the employee down and maybe out.

Most employees would never understand the pressures of leadership. Unfortunately, that pressure may show itself in unhealthy behaviour – like micromanagement.

The four drivers of micromanagement

From the boss’ perspective, there are four drivers of micromanagement. If you ask a boss to reflect on why they feel the need to micromanage, it will likely come down to one of these:

Fear

  • Of someone else getting credit
  • Of getting blamed if something goes wrong

Insecurity

  • People who obsessively micromanage often aren’t sure they’ve got what it takes. They step on other people to make themselves feel better.
  • They worry others cannot see their worth/work.

Power

  • Ego, bravado, bullying
  • Assert authority
  • Demonstrate pecking order or dominance

Trust

  • They feel those involved can’t do the job.
  • They think things are not going to get done “properly.”

Micromanagement is one thing, but here are some other signs you might be on the Naughty Boss List and how to get off of it.

Are you being micromanaged?

Now we’ve covered what might be driving your own micromanagement if YOU are the boss. But what if you’re the one being micromanaged?

Here’s the first and most important thing to do:

Do your job well!

How to remove the perceived need for micromanagement

Next, it’s time to work on removing anything giving your boss the feeling (real or imagined) that they need to micromanage.

It starts with these five critical factors:

  • Get to work on time.
  • Meet deadlines.
  • Be productive.
  • Make clients happy.
  • Show you’re trustworthy, thorough, and on top of your work.

Ask how you’re doing.

Now, it’s time to give your boss the opportunity to discuss your performance at work. Complaining to your friends and spouse won’t get you very far.

Gather up your courage and speak to the boss, and keep these points in mind:

  • Ask what’s expected of you and how you’re doing.
  • Make it clear you want to know how to improve.
  • Be positive and respectful.
  • Do not criticize their management style.

As enlightening as a talk like this with your boss can be for YOU, it’s also enlightening for them.

Often, once they’re asked to consider your performance, they’ll realize you have things under control, and micromanagement isn’t necessary.

Now, if you’re the boss on the other side of a conversation like this, keep these six things you should and shouldn’t communicate in mind.

Be proactive before micromanagement becomes necessary.

Often, being proactive and contacting your boss before they contact you negates the need for micromanagement entirely.

  • Keep your boss informed and in the loop.
  • Send regular messages, reports, and next steps.
  • Provide assurances that everything’s under control.

Teach your boss how to delegate

As much as your boss teaches you, you might have the opportunity to teach them a few things well. Namely, how to delegate!

  • Prompt them to give you all the information upfront.
  • Set times for check-in meetings.
  • Volunteer to take on additional projects. (This helps them see the need to delegate—and how you can handle the responsibility)
  • Discuss the process and ask for suggestions for improvement.
  • Thank them for the opportunity and the hands-off approach.

Looking for more help with handling micromanagement in the workplace? I was hoping you could take a look at my organizational consulting services here.

Did you enjoy this post about micromanagement at work? Here are three to read next:

This post was first published in 2014, and it was updated in 2021 just for you.

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