Micromanagement could slowly be killing your company.

While it’s often dismissed as inevitable in the office, the dangers of persistent micromanagement are more serious than simply hindering one project or task.

Not only can micromanagement seriously disrupt your team’s functionality and morale, but it can also directly impact your bottom line.

In this article, we’ll present real-world examples of micromanagement in the workplace. We’ll discuss micromanagement’s pros and cons and provide actionable strategies to keep it from negatively impacting your employees.


Quick Summary:

Some examples of micromanagement in the workplace include:

  • hovering over an employee’s shoulder as they work on a task,
  • limiting access to resources and instead asking employees or teammates to “just ask the manager” if they have any questions
  • Banning casual conversion in the office by separating workstations and isolating employees.

Micromanagement in the workplace can have some advantages, such as tight quality control, but its negative effects on employees and a company’s bottom line usually far outweigh these benefits.

Micromanagement by a team leader is best dealt with by a higher-up using the suggestions and steps laid out in this article.

What Is a Micromanager?

A micromanager is an executive, manager, or boss who monitors and directs their employees’ work to an excessive and unnecessary extent.

Micromanagers often feel they need to have detailed oversight and be closely involved in every aspect of their team’s work. They will typically behave this way whether an employee is performing well or not.

In other words, micromanagement is not so much a type of criticism as an over-the-top desire to stay in complete control of people and processes. This makes it difficult for team members to feel trusted by their manager, and this can seriously impact their productivity.

Even employees can turn into micromanagers if they try to get too involved in their teammates’ work.

20 Examples of Micromanagement in the Workplace

You feel like your manager is watching you, and you can’t quite put your finger on why. You and/or your work are being subtly criticized — nothing is ever good enough.

You feel belittled. You may even sense that your professional qualifications or abilities are being questioned by a superior who always knows better.

Does this sound familiar?

Unsettling workplace experiences like these can indicate your boss or supervisor is a micromanager.

Micromanagement happens in the workplace more often than people often realize. In fact, a recent study found that 73% of employees notice micromanagement and consider it a red flag. Even more telling, 46% would consider quitting their job as a direct result of micromanagement.

virtual vs in office micromanagement

Micromanagement can take place in a traditional office as well as in a remote or hybrid work environment. Below are descriptions and 10 examples of micromanagement in each of these workplace settings.

In-office Micromanagement

A manager might think that following up on every little action is a good employee motivator; however, it’s actually counterproductive and can damage the employee’s trust and reduce their drive and creativity.

Consider the impact of these examples of micromanagement on employee morale:

  1. Hovering over an employee’s shoulder as they work on a task.
  2. Heavily critiquing completed work and making unnecessary changes based on the supervisor’s personal preference.
  3. Timing employees’ bathroom breaks.
  4. Putting strict time limits on each task and getting aggressive or defensive when they aren’t met.
  5. Demanding that an employee work overtime without compensation to finish a small detail of a project under the manager’s supervision.
  6. Reassigning work if an employee questions a suggestion or the direction they’re told to take on a project.
  7. Limiting access to resources and instead asking employees or teammates to “just ask the manager” if they have any questions.
  8. Banning casual conversion in the office by separating workstations and isolating employees.
  9. Rejecting creative solutions to a problem without explanation or just because they “said so.”
  10. Devaluing individual contributions to a project or taking credit for employee accomplishments.

Recent studies have labeled micromanagement as soul-stripping for employees who are subjected to it.

In-office employees, in particular, may feel that their actions are scrutinized to a higher degree than those of their colleagues who work from home. This can lead to declining attendance rates in the office and more requests for fully remote work.

Virtual Micromanagement

Though virtual work may feel like an escape for overly controlled employees, micromanagement can still occur when team members aren’t in the same workplace environment as their supervisors.

Consider the following examples managers can display:

  1. Engaging in excessive or excessively detailed emails or instant messaging.
  2. Requesting to be CC’ed on email chains that aren’t directly relevant to their work.
  3. Creating overly detailed task breakdowns, such as step-by-step instructions for rudimentary tasks, and leaving no room for individual initiative or problem-solving.
  4. Requesting hourly progress reports via project management tools or direct messaging.
  5. Tracking website browsing by using keyboard or mouse tracking tools.
  6. Demanding screenshots as proof that a task is being completed the “right” way.
  7. Forcing employees to attend unannounced video check-ins multiple times throughout the day.
  8. Scrutinizing daily work logs or time-off requests and comparing or ranking employees based on the amount of work they perform day to day.
  9. Discouraging virtual socializing and considering team bonding outside work hours a waste of time.
  10. Double-checking all work on a visual presentation, such as dictating the look of each slide and adjusting the word choice — or changing the direction of the project completely.

Clearly, virtual micromanagement can be just as counterproductive as micromanagement in traditional work settings. That’s why being able to identify this issue is a big part of learning how to manage hybrid work teams.

Why Does Micromanagement Occur in the Workplace?

Micromanagers are often thought of as synonymous with someone who has control or ego issues. Though this is true in many instances, it’s not always the case.

why micromanagement occurs

Micromanagement can be learned behavior — with managers believing it is their responsibility to closely watch their team’s output. As such, micromanagers are often unaware that their behavior is having a negative impact on their team.

This type of micromanager can be retrained in how and when to give feedback to employees, how much critique or interference is too much, and when to take a step back.

Management training like this is a helpful solution to stop micromanagement before it gets out of hand.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Micromanagement?

Though micromanagement, in general, has a bad rap in the workplace, it can have some advantages if practiced in a mindful way.

In this section, we’ll describe these advantages, followed by the more common signs and detrimental side effects of micromanagement gone wrong.

Pros of Micromanagement

Here are some typical pros of micromanagement when done responsibly:

1. Attention to detail

In micromanagement, each aspect of a project is scrutinized. This can be particularly beneficial in industries where precision is critical, such as healthcare or engineering.

2. Quick error correction

Closely overseeing tasks means managers can quickly identify and rectify errors and maintain high-quality standards.

3. Structured learning for new employees

Newcomers to a company can benefit from micromanagement since it provides them with clear guidance and immediate feedback. It can help them to quickly grasp the organization’s standards and processes.

4. Better control in critical situations

In high-stakes scenarios, such as crisis management, micromanagement can be effective in keeping all actions aligned with the desired outcome.

Cons of Micromanagement

As mentioned, micromanagement is also associated with some serious issues in the workplace. These include the following:

cons of micromanagement

1. Reduced employee autonomy and initiative

Constant oversight can stifle creativity and initiative among employees. This, in turn, can lead to apathy, a lack of innovation, and dependence on guidance for every minor decision.

2. Increased employee stress and burnout

Employees who are micromanaged often feel undervalued and stressed, which can generate a sense of distrust and a lack of personal responsibility. This, in turn, can lead to higher turnover rates and burnout.

3. Inefficient time management

Micromanagers spend excessive time on supervisory tasks. This can reduce their focus on strategic planning and other critical managerial responsibilities.

4. Damaged team morale

Micromanagement can erode team morale if employees feel their contributions are not valued. It signals to employees that no matter how hard they try, they’ll never be fully trusted by their manager.

This lack of empowerment can result in a demotivated workforce. It can create a tense and rigid work environment where employees feel the need to constantly look busy out of fear of being criticized.

5. Diminished company profitability

Excessive micromanagement can lead to lower company profitability due to significant direct, indirect, and hidden costs. For instance:

  • If employees are less able to offer innovative solutions or upsell services that could benefit a client, missed opportunities for additional revenue could result.
  • Higher employee turnover rates lead to increased recruiting, hiring, and training costs. The company also pays indirectly for the loss of institutional knowledge when experienced employees leave.
  • The stress and burnout micromanagement causes can result in more frequent employee absences and paid time off, negatively impacting productivity and generating additional costs.
  • Micromanaged employees are often stripped of their autonomy and made to feel incapable of working independently. This perceived lack of trust can reduce their motivation and productivity.
  • When employees are not empowered to make decisions or work independently, the speed and innovation in their work can suffer, impacting the company’s bottom line.

In short, while micromanagement can offer some short-term benefits, like error and quality control, it often has negative outcomes, like decreased creativity and inefficient managerial practices.

How to Deal with a Micromanager

Employees suffering under a micromanager could address the issue with the person directly — but the situation is more effectively dealt with by the micromanager’s supervisor. This individual has the authority to confront the micromanager and discuss behavioral changes they could make.

Here are some ways a supervisor can tackle this issue:

dealing with a micromanager

  1. Initiate a conversation to address the problem. Meet with the micromanager in private to express your concerns and clarify their role and the scope of their responsibilities.
  2. Set clear expectations. Work with the micromanager to establish clear objectives and boundaries to help rebuild their team’s trust in them.
  3. Offer solutions. Suggest (or, in more serious cases, request) that the micromanager seek professional help with overcoming their need for control.
  4. Provide specific examples to back up your claims. Use detailed examples from different workers to explain to the micromanager how they are impacting employee morale and productivity.
  5. Focus on results. Emphasize the outcomes of work done independently by employees and highlight the tasks they should be performing without any input from their manager.

The sequence of these steps can vary according to the situation, but taken together, they can help a micromanager lessen their control and restore trust with their team.

Overcome Micromanagement for Greater Workplace Success

A micromanager’s inability to relinquish control can have a significant impact on employee productivity and turnover rates.

For your employees to enjoy their time at work, it’s important they feel trusted and empowered to do their jobs.

One way to promote autonomy is to give your employees control over where they work. Tools like OfficeRnD Hybrid can facilitate this by allowing workers to book office resources, like desks and meeting rooms, from anywhere, as well as collaborate in a manner that suits their productivity.

Get started for free with OfficeRnD Hybrid or book a live demo with one of our workplace experts and see how we can help you take your hybrid work management to the next level.

FAQ

Why Is Micromanaging Toxic?

Micromanagement is toxic because it erodes your team’s trust. It stifles creativity and can lead to feelings of disempowerment for employees who feel that no matter what they do, their every action is scrutinized.

Even those who know they are doing an excellent job at work feel they’re being watched, judged, and overruled, both in the physical and virtual workplace. This can lead to burnout and a dread of work.

This management style, while not intentionally counterproductive, also leads to decreased morale and higher stress levels because it inhibits professional growth and skill development in workers.

How Do I Tell a Micromanager to Stop?

If you’re dealing with a micromanaging supervisor, remain calm and approach the situation with diplomacy. Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Schedule a private meeting.
  2. Provide specific examples of micromanagement you’ve seen.
  3. Express your feelings about how micromanagement is hurting your productivity and motivation.
  4. Emphasize that your manager should trust you, and describe (with examples) how you’ve worked well independently in the past.
  5. Propose tangible solutions for increased autonomy and accountability.
  6. Encourage open dialogue.
  7. Follow up after the initial conversation. If things don’t improve, try to solve the problem by talking to HR.

Remember that a micromanager isn’t deliberately trying to hurt you. Their main motivation is to ensure that the team consistently produces high-quality work.

Therefore, it’s best to approach the conversation strategically. The goal is improving the work environment for everyone, not leveling accusations that could lead to tension or conflict.

What is an Example of Micromanagement?

An example of micromanagement is a manager closely monitoring every step of a project, requiring frequent updates and controlling minor details, often to the detriment of team autonomy.

What are the Signs of a Micromanager?

Signs of a micromanager include excessively monitoring employee work, reluctance to delegate tasks, and focusing on minor details rather than overall progress.

Miro Miroslavov
CEO and Co-founder of OfficeRnD
Miro Miroslavov is a software engineer turned into a tech entrepreneur. In 2015 he co-founded OfficeRnD - a leading flex space and hybrid work management platform. As a CEO at OfficeRnD, he grew the company from inception to a leading software vendor that serves thousands of customers worldwide. He is a big fan of flexible working and is on a mission to "Making Flexible Working the Way of Working".