8 Signs You’re Becoming a Micromanager (And How to Fix It)

Of all the managers and individual contributors I’ve met on teams, I’ve never met a single one who truly enjoys micromanagement.

Some managers may view it as a necessary evil for certain teams and types of employees, but is it realistically a good practice? And how can you tell when you’re starting to micromanage someone on your team?

We’ll cover all that & more in this guide.

In fact, 68% of employees said it had decreased their morale, and 55% claimed it had hurt their productivitywhich is something you can’t afford!

Although micromanagement may not feel as though it’s a common problem, it affects 59% of employees.

micromanagement funny example

Source: Jeff Skipper Consulting

If you’re a manager, your number one priority should be to create a friendly atmosphere in which your team can thrive and develop.

So, are you a micromanager or not?

How can you tell?

In this post, we’ll share the most common signs of micromanagers, so you identify whether you’re actually a micromanager… or tending towards that kind of behavior – and if you are, you’ll learn how to fix it!

A Quick Primer on Micromanagement

Micromanagement is a style of leadership characterized by excessive control and a tendency to be overly involved in the details of tasks.

It isn’t healthy for anyone – and only hurts job satisfaction!

micromanaging overview

Source: Helpful Professor 

It’s also one of the most common reasons why there are high turnover rates with employees, poor performance, and lack of motivation.

7 Signs You’re Becoming a Micromanager

Get ready… it’s time to reflect on your management style!

Here are the most common signs of micromanagers we’ve observed in our 20+ years of experience working with hundreds of design companies.

Which characteristics feel dangerously familiar? 😮

#1 – Excessive Involvement in the Work of Employees

An excessive involvement in the day-to-day tasks of your employees isn’t normal. 

It’s okay to be there for your team to help them when they need it. 

However, giving your team detailed instructions with no room for creativity, and checking on them multiple times a day is not a healthy style of management.

There are three main reasons why you might be doing this:

  • Lack of trust
  • A need for control
  • Maintaining a hands-on approach

Unfortunately, this signals a lack of confidence in your team members.

Plus, the constant oversight and controlling can prevent your employees from growing, developing their skills, and being productive.

How to Fix It

If this sounds like you, you might be hurting the team’s productivity and satisfaction.

Fortunately, there are still ways you can overcome this, gain trust in your employees, and achieve better results with your team:

  • Delegate effectively. Trust your team members with responsibilities that match their skills. Communicate expectations and give them the freedom to complete the tasks.
  • Provide training and resources. Ensure your team has the training to accomplish their tasks. This helps to build confidence and competence within the team.
  • Encourage open communication. Foster a culture of open communication where team members feel comfortable sharing their progress, challenges, and ideas.

#2 – Focusing Only on Details, Not the Bigger Picture

It’s very easy to get so involved in a task that you forget about the bigger picture and focus on smaller, less meaningful details. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t optimal for either your agency or your team members.

  • For your agency, this means it will be very difficult for it to grow and take on new opportunities, because you’re so caught up in details.
  • For your team members, this means you don’t give them creative freedom and an opportunity to grow and figure out the journey to get to the results needed.

So, it’s not optimal for anyone!

How to Fix It

Being able to see the bigger picture and leaving your team with creative freedom is vital for the long-term growth of both the agency and the individuals working as part of it.

Here are a few tips that can help you shift your focus in the right direction:

  • Encourage decision-making. Let team members make decisions within their roles. Let them take ownership of work, make choices, and learn.
    Focus on results, not methods. Shift the focus from dictating methods to emphasizing the desired results. Give flexibility to team members in choosing the ‘how’ part of a task.
  • Set boundaries. Resist the urge to intervene in every detail, giving team members the space to work freely.

#3 – High Turnover Rates

Having high turnover rates with employees can be a sign of micromanagement.

If employees are unsatisfied with their working environment, expectations, or leadership in general, they will leave.

  • Inadequate work-life balance. A consistently high workload, or long working hours without appropriate balance can lead to burnout and turnover.
  • Mismatch of skills and job roles. If employees find their skills aren’t aligned with their role, they may leave for positions better suited to their abilities. 
  • Ineffective onboarding and training. A lack of proper onboarding can make employees feel unprepared and unsupported, leading to turnover.

Of course, high turnover rates can be caused by other reasons, too.

For instance, your employees might not see a clear career path, or they may be looking for higher flexibility, benefits, and pay.

But, it might well be a sign of micromanagement, so take that into a consideration!

How to Fix It

High turnover rate isn’t a good look for your agency. Here are a few ways to fix it:

  • Encourage Open Communication. Foster an environment where open communication is valued. Make the time to listen to the team’s concerns.
    Set Clear Expectations. Ensure that expectations for tasks and projects are communicated clearly from the beginning. Clarify roles, responsibilities, and project objectives.
  • Recognition and Appreciation. Implement recognition programs to acknowledge and appreciate employees for their hard work and contributions.

#4 – Failure to Provide Feedback

Failing to provide feedback when your team needs it, and instead handling the situation on your own, is another tell of micromanagement. This lack of feedback can prevent your team from improving, and preventing the same mistakes in the future. 

There are a few reasons why you may be doing this:

  • Time constraints. Busy schedules and heavy workloads may cause you to prioritize other tasks over providing feedback.
  • Avoidance of conflict. Some managers may fear that delivering constructive feedback could lead to conflict or discomfort, so they avoid providing it altogether.
  • Lack of communication skills. You may not have the communication skills to deliver feedback in a constructive and supportive manner.

Either way, none of these are great for the long-term success of your agency.

Although sometimes you need to jump in and do the work to prevent tasks from being delayed, this should not be a regular occurance. And even if you do decide to get things done by yourself, you should always go back and make time to provide constructive feedback.

That’s the only way you and your team can grow!

How to Fix It

To fix this, you first need to understand the reason why it happens. Here are a few tips that can help you provide feedback instead of handling everything yourself:

  • Establish a feedback culture. Foster a culture in which feedback is seen as a regular and essential part of professional development. 
  • Regular check-ins. Encourage regular one-on-one check-ins. This provides opportunities for feedback and ensures that communication is on point.
  • Provide training for managers. Get training on effective communication and providing feedback.

#5 – Unwillingness to Delegate

Having full control over everything at all times can be a sign of a lack of trust in your team.

Unfortunately, not being able to rely on your team, and being a control freak isn’t an optimal way to handle things.

Here’s why you may worry about assigning tasks to your members, rather than doing them yourself:

  • Perceived lack of trust. You may struggle to trust team members to handle responsibilities independently.
  • Fear of losing control. You may fear losing control over the outcome of tasks or projects if you delegate, especially if you’re a perfectionist.
  • Desire for personal recognition. You may prefer to complete tasks yourself to receive recognition for the effort, rather than sharing credit with the team.

You may also struggle with communication skills or have insecurities of someone performing tasks better than you – this isn’t pleasant for you either.

You should instead view it as an opportunity to grow and improve.

How to Fix It

Building a solid trust with your team is the first step to overcome this fear. Here are a few things that may help you fix it:

  • Trust-building activities. Organize trust-building activities and workshops to foster stronger relationships within the team.
  • Communication training. Get training in effective communication to clearly articulate expectations and provide the necessary guidance when delegating tasks.

#6 – Constantly Checking In

Having regular check-ins is important – but don’t go overboard with them.

It’s one thing to make sure everything is on time, but quite another to be excessively involved in small details that your team can handle perfectly well.

  • Fear of uncertainty. You may be uncomfortable with uncertainty and want to ensure everything is on track by checking in frequently.
  • Perfectionism. As a perfectionist, you may have a desire for control over every detail.
  • Communication style. Some communication styles involve frequent updates as a way to stay informed, but this can lead to excessive checking in.

Also, constantly checking on team members interrupts their work, increases pressure, and leads to lower job satisfaction.

How to Fix It

Here are a few tips to cope with the need for constantly checking in:

  • Establish clear communication channels. Set clear communication channels and expectations for updates. Set regular check-in times if needed.
  • Encourage proactive updates. Encourage team members to provide proactive updates on significant milestones or challenges.
  • Define key metrics. Clearly define key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics that managers can use to track progress.

#7 – Rarely Satisfied With Deliverables

Always feeling unsatisfied with the work of your employees is a huge problem. It’s essential you identify the cause for it. It’s usually either that you have too high expectations or your team is unqualified.

Here are a few other reasons why it might be happening:

  • Lack of clarity in expectations. If expectations and requirements are not communicated clearly, you may consistently feel that deliverables fall short.
  • Constantly raising the bar. You may feel you want to continually raise expectations without acknowledging and appreciating the efforts.
  • External pressures. Maybe you’re facing pressure from external stakeholders and may pass on that pressure to the team.

Unfortunately, this isn’t creating a healthy atmosphere in your organization.

Your team members may feel a lack of confidence, higher stress, and lower motivationwhich usually results in even worse performance.

How to Fix It

Here are a few ways that will help you address (and hopefully fix) this:

  • Clear communication of expectations. Discuss and document requirements, standards, and any important information before you start the project.
  • Establish realistic standards. Work with the team to establish realistic standards by considering resources, timelines, and constraints.
  • Acknowledge and appreciate efforts. Positive reinforcement can motivate your team and enhance job satisfaction – which will greatly increase productivity!

#8 – Suggest Unrealistic Expectations & Deadlines

It’s one thing to push your team, but quite another to have unrealistic expectations from them.

That’s why you should be clear on the expectations with your team members before you start the project – and get feedback from them on whether they can manage it.

  • Lack of understanding. You may not fully understand the complexity required for certain tasks, leading to unrealistic expectations.
  • Pressure from higher-ups. You may face pressure from upper management to deliver results quickly.
  • Overestimation of team capacity. You might assume you can accomplish more in a given timeframe than is realistically possible.

Ideally, you want to be proactive with expectations and deadlines.

Oftentimes, even if your team can’t manage the workload, they won’t say anything – they’ll persuade themselves that they’ll somehow get it done.

How to Fix It

We definitely recommend educating your team on time management, if your goal is to increase productivity.

But, here are additional tips to help you and your team get aligned with the expectations:

  • Collaborative goal-setting. Collaboratively set expectations and deadlines, taking into account the team’s input and expertise.
  • Regularly assess workloads. Regularly assess team workloads and adjust expectations as needed. 
  • Negotiate realistic timelines. Clearly communicate the potential risks and consequences of setting unachievable deadlines.

Conclusion – Are You Becoming a Micromanager?

Micromanagers are a pain to work with – constantly checking in, having no trust in their team, and setting unrealistic expectations.

Hopefully you’re not one of them!

To learn more tips about team and project management, check these resources below:

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