4 Signs Your Boss Is A Micromanager And How To Challenge Them

While micromanagers may have good intentions, their management tactics infect the workplace culture … [+]

A common misconception about micromanagers is that they’re condescending, bad-tempered and inherently nasty individuals. The truth is, most micromanagers have the best intentions for their team but have developed poor habits resulting in micromanaging tactics. As such, they perpetuate the cycle of micromanaging as they’re demonstrating this is the way to lead others. Likewise, employees are not set up for success because they’re disempowered to make decisions on their own. Therefore, an employee’s leadership skills are limited because they’ll always rely on their manager.

For this reason, micromanagers are detrimental to the success of a business and the mental health of everyone involved. LinkedIn reported that 79% of employees have been micromanaged at least once in their career. Oxana Razumova, co-founder of Sensemakers, explained, “micromanagement is not just an unpleasant trait of a manager, it’s a strictly controlling management style, in which the boss doesn’t leave independence to employees.” As a result, employees disengage, feel demoralized and their creativity is stifled. Consequently, this prevents the team from flourishing.

Moreover, it increases stress, destroys happiness and decreases productivity and drives burnout. Thus leading to unhealthy habits such as poor eating, increased drinking, irritability, lack of sleep and long-term health issues.

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Here are four signs your boss is a micromanager and how you can challenge them.

They’re Obsessed With Knowing Everything

Managers often have a hard time delegating responsibilities and trusting in their team to complete tasks. This is because they believe they can do the task better or that nobody else will work as hard as them. Rather than provide clear expectations and trust that employees will do what’s expected of them, micromanagers require constant updates even on small tasks, want access to everything and check-in multiple times asking for the same information that was already provided.

Clinging onto every piece of information not only holds the manager and team back from being successful, but it pushes quality people away. Managers can say they trust their employees, but if their actions contradict their words, employees will quickly lose trust and become disconnected.

Instead of focusing on high-level, strategic tasks, managers often end up overwhelmed with low-priority activities. This narrow focus prevents them from being available to their team. Furthermore, this micromanaging tactic of needing to know everything sends the message that the employee isn’t trusted to get the job done. An example of this is requiring employees to keep a detailed record of how every minute is spent through spreadsheets, calendar time blocking or a shared document.

Sam Lowy, CEO of Life Insurance Star, shared, “this younger generation of employees prefers working independently with enough autonomy to make decisions on their own. It shows a level of trust that motivates them to do better.” Without trust, employees feel powerless and question their position at the company. As a consequence, they disengage, grow resentful and lose loyalty to the company.

Employees can mitigate this by requesting a weekly check-in where they share updates, challenges and get the support they need. In addition, they can propose a shared spreadsheet that’s updated in real-time. Employees can set a boundary using phrases such as, “I don’t think this is the best use of your time” or “in order for me to be the most productive…”

Their Ego Makes Them Fearful Of Losing Control

Micromanagers are the biggest bottleneck to a team’s success due to requiring excessive meetings, gatekeeping and stifling creativity, agility and innovation. Additionally, expectations aren’t shared, demands are made without context, little support or advice is offered and there’s unnecessary stress. As such, employees are unsure of whether they should act before receiving a task or assert their independence to start working. Furthermore, they may delegate tasks to their team but end up redoing the finished work to do it the way they want it done.

Employees become disengaged when they know they’re not trusted to do their job well. Rather than giving employees ownership to make decisions themselves, micromanagers require that each decision first be approved by them. Keesjan Engelen, CEO of Titoma, said, “this desire to achieve perfection through other people’s performance, the lack of confidence in your own team, and the ability to let your team work independently shows a lack of emotional intelligence.”

The most innovative companies are the ones who give their employees the autonomy to take risks and challenge the status quo. Rolf Bax, chief human resources officer at Resume.io, shared “when a manager resorts to micromanaging out of fear, what often ends up happening is they alienate the people who are crucial to their success.”

Tyler Parris, Hudson-certified executive coach and founder of Chief of Staff, provides a few ways for employees to challenge their micromanager:

They Believe They Know Better Than Everyone Else

Many managers operate from the mindset that they know best and they’re smarter than everyone else. Leo Young, founder and editor of Optimized Family said, “this influence can be fatal to the creativity, innovation and performance” of the workplace.” When employees lack the autonomy and space to develop their expertise, learn from their mistakes to improve processes and grow, they start shutting down because they don’t feel like their contributions are valued.

Knowledge sharing is designed to be a collaborative method not a one-way approach. Each person has different knowledge, experience, opinions, perspectives and ideas. Thus, every individual on a team has something valuable to contribute. The worst thing a manager can do is neglect what their team brings to the table and speak to them as if they’re inexperienced. An example of this is constantly reminding employees of your experience in the industry or position when they try to share their ideas or opinions. Another example is always needing to have the last word. This creates a fear-based environment where employees refrain from speaking up. Accordingly, innovation disappears.

To challenge this, employees should create more awareness around how their manager’s behaviors and words impact them. This starts by having an open and respectful conversation with their manager. Using an “I feel” statement with specific examples, such as “I feel like you don’t trust me when you X”, is a great starting point. Also, if a micromanager focuses on criticizing what’s done wrong without acknowledging strengths and achievements, let them know how you prefer feedback delivered and what type of employee-manager relationship you want.

It’s important to note that some micromanagers lack the emotional intelligence and self awareness to change their ways. If it’s clear that they’re not going to change even after expressing your needs and going to human resources, it’s time to consider if this something you can handle for the long-term.

I’m a Leadership Coach & Workplace Culture Consultant at Heidi Lynne Consulting helping individuals and organizations gain the confidence to become better leaders for

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