Have you ever had a boss who you felt was always looking over your shoulder, waiting for you to make the smallest misstep?
That’s micromanaging in its purest expression.
Micromanagement is dangerous for your organization, and it hurts productivity.
In this article, we’ll show you exactly what micromanagement is, as well as how to avoid it in your organization.
Let’s start with a basic question.
What is micromanaging?
Micromanagement is a term used to describe a management style, often characterized by an excessive level of control and close supervision of the small details.
Some of the main traits of a micromanager may include:
- Lack of satisfaction: they never seem satisfied with other people’s work.
- Obsession with updates and reports: micromanagers use these tools to “look over the shoulders of their employees” and compulsively monitor what they’re doing.
- Rarely show appreciation: they rarely say “thank you” or “you did a great job,” but often express what you did “wrong.”
- Try to control everything: micromanagers think that “control is better than trust” and struggle delegating tasks.
- Underestimate timing: for them, everything seems to be a priority, and they often set extreme deadlines.
Micromanagers focus too much on controlling rather than empowering — which often leads to more stressed teams.
This can be truly harmful to the organization’s performance.
Research has found that roughly 4 out of 10 employees state that stress reduces their productivity.
Sadly, micromanagers are rarely aware of their nitpicking behavior and often don’t realize they’re slowing down their teams.
You may be thinking: “Well, a team leader should understand who’s doing what and when, right?”
But the problem with micromanagement lies not in supervision itself, but in the level of oversight and negative compulsive behavior involved.
Micromanagers simply don’t trust their teams.
We’ll show you specific ideas to deal with micromanagement in your organization a bit later, but first, let’s answer a crucial question.
Why do people micromanage?
You see, micromanagers aren’t bad people.
Deep down in their hearts, they want to do their jobs in the best way possible.
The problem is that they fear no one else will be able to do the work with the same level of quality they’d do it.
Humans want to control the output of their work.
That’s our nature.
When we lose that control, we feel a bit lost.
For example, let’s imagine that you start selling lemonade.
In the beginning, you control the whole process. From cutting the lemons to mixing the ingredients, and even decorating your lemonade stand.
When you start growing and hire a team, though, you lose control over your processes. Perhaps your employees might add a bit more sugar to the lemonade than you used to. Or they jazz up the lemonade stand with some decorations that aren’t to your taste.
You can’t fully control the outcome of the work anymore — and it makes you uncomfortable.
That’s when micromanagers are born.
Of course, you could standardize the way you work so that others can replicate it, but micromanagers don’t see it that way.
They live with a constant fear that others might do something wrong.
The worst part?
For a micromanager, “wrong” isn’t directly tied to achieving the objective.
Micromanagers label things as “wrong” whenever a team member doesn’t meet the exacting demands they’re making, even when such demands aren’t that relevant to the task in question.
That’s the reason they focus so much on the superfluous details, such as font type in a presentation.
Lack of trust is one of the most common reasons why people micromanage.
Other important reasons may include:
- Fear of losing control: micromanagers think that losing control is losing authority.
- An unskilled team: a brand new or incompetent team may “force” leaders to start micromanaging.
- A strong ego: managers who regard themselves as “the only trusted experts in the field” can easily turn into micromanagers.
- Inexperience in management: sometimes leaders simply think that micromanagement is how you should lead a team.
- Seeking familiarity: when competent operational employees are promoted, they often prefer to keep doing what they’re good at rather than delegating work and managing people.
6 warning signs of micromanaging behavior
Now that you understand what micromanagement is and how it can affect your organization negatively, the question becomes: how can you identify a micromanager?
Here are 6 warning signs:
1. Inability to see the bigger picture
Micromanagers spend most of their working time dealing with day-to-day administration rather than focusing on the organization’s crucial activities.
They rarely work in strategy or goal-setting because they “don’t have the time.”
They’re too busy doing somebody else’s work, reading status reports, or looking over the shoulders of their employees.
They can’t see the big picture nor how they’re affecting the productivity of their teams.
2. Paying extreme attention to superfluous details
Don’t get us wrong — it’s the manager’s responsibility to supervise their employees.
The problem is when they try to control every little step in the process.
When a team doesn’t have the freedom to explore and discover their own methods and ways to achieve a specific outcome, they’ll probably feel pretty demotivated.
Besides, when a manager constantly checks every little detail in their employees’ work, that person makes it clear that they don’t trust their employees.
With this behavior, the team might grow incompetent in the long run. They’ll depend on the manager’s instructions.
3. An obsession with reports
Since micromanagers want to control everything, they’ll want their teammates to send constant reports and updates for the projects they’re working on.
Asking for reports and updates isn’t bad, per se.
An obsession with them is.
For example, a micromanager may force their teammates to CC them in every single email.
Again, micromanagers have a compulsive obsession with control, and they’ll try to oversee and manage every detail, which can slow down the team’s progress.
4. Difficulty with setting priorities
Micromanagers struggle to define clear priorities.
For them, everything seems to be crucial and urgent. They want the work done by yesterday and don’t take into consideration their team’s workload.
This makes it difficult for teams to prioritize and classify tasks and activities.
5. Unable to set clear expectations
Micromanagers often don’t give clear directions.
Instead, they spend most of their time talking about small details or vague ideas.
This behavior isn’t only harmful to employees, but also to the micromanager.
Since the manager spends lots of time “correcting” other people’s work, they eventually become a bottleneck in the organization, which stifles productivity.
6. An ingrained belief that no one else is good enough
This is one of the root causes of micromanagement.
Micromanagers don’t trust their team. They believe no one else is capable of completing the tasks the way “they’re supposed to.”
For example, they may delegate a task to an employee. But when they experience the slightest feeling that the employee isn’t following their exact instructions or processes, they might intervene — without waiting to see the actual outcome.
5 ideas to stop micromanagement in your business
Micromanagement is a real issue within modern organizations.
The good news is that you can prevent or reduce it.
Some ways to do so include:
1. Centralizing your workspace
By centralizing your collaboration channels, you reduce the need to be constantly checking updated statuses or sending frequent reports.
In a centralized workplace, the manager can oversee the progress of every project with precision and ensure everything’s on schedule.
The best part?
Managers can do it without disturbing their employees, which can increase productivity.
For example, with monday.com, you can bring in your entire team from the start, assign responsibilities to each team member, and see how things are going in a single place.
This way, you can avoid disparate information and keep everyone updated in detail along the way.
Thanks to our advanced reporting dashboards, managers can understand who’s doing what and when, as well as keeping track of quality standards with ease.
These dashboards are fully customizable, and you can visualize the information that’s most relevant to your team.
For example, if you’re a sales manager, you could “build” a dashboard that tells you the exact revenue specific sales reps have generated, how many sales conversations they’ve had, and even the top lead sources.
Or, if you’re an HR manager, you could create a dashboard that helps you measure things like “employee satisfaction” or “cultural needs in the organization.”
This level of detail helps managers better understand the performance of their teams and reduces the need to micromanage.
2. Setting deadlines with quantifiable, actionable deliverables
One of the best ways to reduce micromanagement in your organization is to get rid of situations that evoke this type of behavior.
By setting deadlines with quantifiable, measurable, and actionable deliverables, you help your team better understand what they should be doing to achieve the goals you’re looking for.
For example, instead of saying “we need to ramp up our content production,” say “we need to produce 3 long-form pieces per week, starting next month.”
This will help the team complete actual tasks instead of guessing what you want.
Comprehensive project management software can be helpful to achieve this.
For example, with monday.com, you can structure your organization into projects. Each monday.com board would represent a project, and each “item” would represent a deliverable.
Then, you can add a “Status” column to track the status of each deliverable and a “Progress tracking” column to oversee the progress in a percentage format.
This can help managers get a more complete picture of what’s going on with each project and make sure everyone’s working properly.
3. Setting clear communication channels
Email can be enough to manage short conversations with 1 or 2 people, but when you’re dealing with a large team, email falls short.
To increase your efficiency, you need to remove silos between departments and establish a single channel for communication — one that helps you communicate in context and centralizes your information into a single place.
With monday.com, for example, you can not only manage your entire team in the same workspace but also add context to each item and communicate in real-time, which helps you stay in the loop on every detail.
Some of the top monday.com’s communication features include:
- Built-in messaging: add context to each item and brainstorm ideas with your team with more ease.
- Video conferencing: integrate video conferencing apps like Zoom and turn meetings into items to increase attendance.
- Tagging: tag specific team members within items and make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
- Notifications: notify team members whenever a task is completed and receive notifications for important events in your organization.
Besides, thanks to our “Activity Log” feature, you can visualize the entire history you’ve had with a specific teammate or client.
This can help you have even more context of every situation and better handle your team.
4. Using automations to streamline updates and repetitive tasks
Sending constant reports and updates can be time-consuming and challenging for most teams.
Here’s where automations can help.
Recent studies from McKinsey, a leading management consulting firm, suggest that 3 out of 10 activities can be fully automated in 60% of all occupations, including reports and status changes.
With monday.com, streamlining the reporting process is pretty straightforward.
Thanks to our automations center, you can build “If this, then that” automations that help you automate any type of status change or report.
For example, you could set an automation so that every time a task is completed you receive a notification straight to your email.
Or you could set an automation that tells you whenever a task is stuck.
Other things you can automate include:
- Task creation: create any type of task automatically.
- Dependencies: set dependencies between activities and define clear priorities.
- Recurring activities: automate recurring tasks and repurpose that time into more productive initiatives.
- Custom: build custom automations to streamline any type of process or workflow.
This way, you can reduce the need to micromanage and still oversee the progress of your team’s work with ease.
In fact, monday.com helps you automate over 250,000 human actions, so the sky’s the limit.
To get a better understanding of our automations center, we suggest you watch this short video overview.
It’ll give you a taste of what to expect.
5. Embracing a Work OS to better manage your team
Finally, the best way to reduce micromanagement in your organization is by adopting the right technology.In this day and age, there’s no need to manually oversee your team or waste time assigning tasks or measuring performance. The right Work OS can increase your efficiency through a centralized workspace where you can “do it all.”
Here’s where monday.com comes in handy.
monday.com is a true Work OS used by more than 100,000 teams to manage their work.
With monday.com’s fully customizable interface, you can design a platform to streamline any type of process and manage any type of team, regardless of its size or complexity.
To be precise, here’s what monday.com brings to the table:
- Project management: manage projects with ease, assign tasks and responsibilities, and track progress in a single place.
- Templates: get over 200 customizable templates for any use case or industry.
- Reporting: get access to your most valuable data and streamline your reporting process.
- Integrations: seamlessly integrate over 40 of your favorite apps and tools.
- Security: protect your information with enterprise-level security features.
- Collaboration: centralize your communications and collaborate with your team in the most effective way possible.
And many more.
All these features will help you better manage your team and get the most out of your resources while reducing friction and misunderstandings.
Ready to get rid of micromanaging?
Micromanagement can be dangerous for both employees and managers.
By identifying some of the warning signs outlined in this post and implementing some of the recommendations, you’ll be able to reduce micromanagement and improve the way your organization works.
To get started, look for a system that streamlines your communication and gets rid of the need to constantly oversee teammates.
We suggest you try out our fully customizable team task management template. It’ll help you better organize your work and improve your collaboration.