How to handle micromanagers (and your own micromanagement)


Are you a micromanager? Or do you work with one? Here's what to do next.

Are you a micromanager? Or do you work with one?

They’re the manager who constantly checks in; the manager who, from the employee’s perspective, has minimal confidence in the employee’s ability to do their job.

Nobody likes to be micromanaged. It’s demoralising, demotivating and can result in a high turnover of staff and – ironically – poorer performance levels. 

Yet so many managers do it!

Before we learn how to make micromanagement stop, let’s take a quick look at why it happens.

The causes of micromanagement

The underlying cause of most micromanagement is fear. As this article on Forbes explains, this fear can manifest in a number of ways.

  • It can be about a loss of control, where the micromanager feels they are not contributing to the day-to-day achievements of the team
  • It can be because the micromanager has been promoted and is no longer seen as a high achiever (which is what earned them the promotion)
  • And, of course, there are also the narcissistic micromanagers, who simply like making life hell. (In that case, run!)

What to do if you’re being micromanaged

There are ways to work with a micromanager that don’t involve finding a new job. Start by identifying possible reasons for the person’s micromanagement, then consider what options those reasons present for handling it in a positive way that will bring about change. Then it’s time to start a conversation with your manager.

Assess your own performance

Critically assess whether you are actually meeting the performance requirements of your job. Micromanaging underperformers is not the solution, so if your assessment indicates you need to improve your performance, this can be the basis of your conversation.

Ask why your manager checks in so much

In almost every company, employees are aware of the day-to-day targets that need to be met to ensure the business is profitable. However, there may be occasions when mid-level management and operations personnel are not aware of the bigger picture. Check what pressure your manager might be under to achieve KPIs.

Don’t take it personally

Identify which of your manager’s actions make you feel you are being micromanaged and then determine what level of management, direction or interaction would work better for you. What could you do to improve the situation? What would you like to see your manager do?

Have the conversation

Once you have identified the possible reasons you’re being micromanaged and have developed some strategies, set up a time to meet with your manager to discuss them. Explain that you want to improve your performance and would like their involvement. This is “a positive spin”, if you will.

Sometimes a manager does not realise they are perceived as a micromanager and for most people it will come as a complete surprise. You need to be honest and have ideas for ways you can both improve your interactions and provide each other with feedback. Explain that their actions are detrimental to the team’s output and that you want to work with them to ensure everyone is productive and efficient.

Identify a way forward

Set up some guidelines for how to progress. Would a scheduled meeting on a regular basis work, rather than a consistent check-in? How will you communicate with one another? In a roster scenario, emails or shared files can work, but the key is finding a middle ground that works for both of you.

Be respectful and professional

Remember, your manager probably has no idea they are considered a micromanager. Their perception of you may also differ from what you think it is (so be prepared for that). However, it is important that you remain respectful and open in your conversations and focus on improvement and growth.

Prove you don’t need micromanaged

The proof will be in how well everyone proceeds after you’ve had the big chat. Stick to the guidelines; hold your manager to account in meeting their end of the agreement. It will demonstrate your willingness to work towards a positive outcome and will ultimately result in a manager who begins to lose the fear that resulted in them becoming a micromanager.

How do you know if YOU are a micromanager?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I apply a high level of scrutiny to every task my team undertakes?
  • Do I insist on the intricate details of tasks?
  • Do I follow up daily?
  • Do I ask to be cc’d into emails so I can “keep up to date”?
  • Do I want to know what everyone is doing every day?
  • Is my staff turnover rate higher than industry averages for our particular business?
  • Do I routinely say, “I’m better off doing it myself”?
  • Do I find myself monitoring data, rather than waiting for the report?

Your team and employer need you to be leading and setting the strategy. When you’re micromanaging, you’re actually diluting your productivity and your contribution to the business. In the longer term there is also the potential that, in your absence, your team shuts down, as they have adapted to your involvement in the day-to-day tasks.

Simply put, a micromanager is ultimately bad for business — and it’s also potentially bad for your career because, ultimately, micromanagement has a business cost.

How to stop being a micromanager

  • Learn to trust your team. Put your ego aside and let them get on with their jobs on a day-to-day basis. Wean yourself off checking in on the minute details and focus on the bigger picture
  • Delegate responsibility. Talk to your immediate reports about taking more ownership of aspects of the team and delegate tasks that you would ordinarily not
  • Communicate KPIs. Provide your team with the required or desired outcomes and then give them time to achieve that. Ask them, rather than tell them, how they will achieve something and let them get on with it
  • Get help. Ask for guidance from your manager, a mentor or a coach
  • Listen. If someone in your team comes to you and says you are a micromanager, listen to them. It takes courage to approach your manager with a perceived fault and their perception is the reality they are working in. As their manager, you owe it to them to hear them out.

Micromanaging is frustrating for the employee, the team, the micromanager and the business. Being receptive, proactive, positive and open to change is a must for all parties.

Mining People International has more than 25 years’ specialist experience helping mining companies with their HR services. Find out more about our HR consulting services here or get in touch today.

Dan Hatch
Mining People International