How do you feel when your boss constantly asks for updates about an upcoming project? Does it stress you out even more? Do you feel trusted? These are typical signs of micromanagement. And if you suffer from it, you probably don’t want to act the same with your team.
Knowing how to create a positive work environment and make your employees thrive should be your primary goal when working in a leadership position. Unfortunately, some supervisors can’t help but excessively monitor every process their workers do. The reasons for an over controlling management style include difficulty trusting others or fear of failing.
But it often results in a more damaging situation than a more macro approach. Micromanaged teams get less creative, feel frustrated, become unengaged and end up quitting or with work-related mental health issues like burnout. To help you spot harmful practices and fix them, here are 17 common examples of micro leadership to detect in managers’ and employees’ behaviors.
Signs of micromanagement in leaders’ practices
1. Need to validate each step of every process
The most common sign of micromanagement is the need for supervisors to validate every action their team members take. They want to know everything beforehand and can quickly get irritated if projects are realized without their approval. This leadership style is often called “helicopter management.” Micromanagers can’t help but control everything and check little detail. Not only does it leave employees feeling oppressed and distrusted, but it also negatively impacts motivation and performance.
2. Struggle to give and receive feedback
Micro bosses usually don’t have any issue saying when things are wrong but struggle to share constructive feedback with their coworkers. According to a Gallup study about feedback, 47% of employees declare only receiving feedback from their manager a few times a year. As a manager, you cannot expect your team members to grow and meet your expectations without discussing their strengths and weaknesses with them. But the same goes the other way around. Micro leaders are not eager to listen to feedback as they believe they know better than people under their supervision.
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3. Focus on details instead of results
It’s one of the main differences between micro vs. macro management. While macro bosses focus on the destination and let their staff figure out the journey, micromanagers concentrate all their attention and energy on the details in between. They want to be part of each decision. The reason can be their inability to trust their peers or, in their opinion, proof of commitment to their team. Two classic examples are the wish to be cc’d in every email and to participate in all team meetings.
4. Lack of transparency when communicating with their teams
Very often, micro leaders leave their employees in the dark. Instead of promoting a transparent communication strategy, they prefer keeping the information to themselves, considering their coworkers don’t need to know. It results in teams not being aware of their mission's context and working without the big picture. Not only does it make people feel unacknowledged and frustrated, but it also creates inefficiency. Employees sometimes end up redoing tasks because of a lack of input in the first place.
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5. Failure isn’t an option
Although all big success stories result from trials and failures, failing isn't an option in the micromanager’s mind. This is one of the main reasons for this excessive need for control. By being aware of each step and validating every process, a micro leader aims to avoid an unfavorable outcome. A great supervisor leaves some room for failure because this is the best strategy to grow and succeed. Getting angry at your team because they fail to meet their goal isn’t going to help them (and you neither) learn and improve your way of working - quite the opposite.
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6. Accountability isn’t their biggest strength
Talking about unpleasant situations and not being accountable for your team is also a sign of micromanagement. It is, unfortunately, quite common in a micromanaged environment to see a gap between the manager and the rest of the staff. Taking credit when everything goes smoothly and blaming employees when it doesn’t, is a sad aspect of this leadership style. Oppositely, supporting each other in good and bad moments helps people feel connected and motivated to thrive.
7. Delegating is a challenge
Usually if you work as a manager, it suggests that you have good leadership skills. However, although your workers might not be the best in management (or are simply not interested in a supervision position), they certainly have different strengths. Trusting them in their abilities is essential to create a reliable relationship and enabling you to focus on other tasks. Unfortunately, micromanagers tend to struggle to delegate and want to do everything themselves. They end up being overstressed and lacking time for more meaningful projects.
8. Redoing team members’ work is standard practice
Because they prefer when things are done their way and don’t like to delegate, micro leaders often redo what their team members have done. This is a typical micromanaging practice that affects both employees and the company. They lose time because they lack trust in their coworkers and they create a toxic work culture.
9. Request updates (too) frequently
Do you constantly ask your employees how far they are with their tasks? Frequently requesting news regarding a project is a common sign of a micromanagement style. Leaders worry about the advancement of a mission, not meeting the deadline, and panic if they don't control what is happening. But by acting like this, they put pressure on their peers and stress them out too. While short periods of stress can occur, it shouldn’t be part of the daily atmosphere at work. In the long run, the impact can be devastating, with workers feeling burnout or quitting before it’s too late.
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Examples of micro leadership in employees’ behaviors
1. Taking the initiative is rare or non-existent
Because their opinion is not considered, micromanaged employees start to think twice before taking the initiative or simply stop doing it. Instead of looking for new proposals and being innovative, they rather wait for instructions, as they know, things have to be done the way their boss decides. Workers also tend to ask for their manager’s approval before going ahead with an idea. This way of working kills the initiative spirit among the workforce. If this can satisfy people who lack confidence, others will quickly get frustrated and want to show their strengths (somewhere else!).
2. Workers’ engagement is low
Employees who are constantly controlled and restricted in their work loose the spark. How can they stay motivated if there is no sign of trust and room for self-development? Micromanagement makes them slowly (but surely) lose the energy and passion for doing their job properly. They come to work because they have to and no longer because they want to. You start to see workers doing the minimum amount of work requested and not going the extra mile, as they know, their ideas are ignored. Therefore, a low engagement rate clearly indicates that something is wrong with your leadership.
3. The focus is more on getting the boss’s approval than the results
Overwatching and controlling team members leads to them losing sight of their primary purpose. They become obsessed only with getting their supervisor's approval. Instead of being customer-focused, they become manager-focused. Every conversation they share with their superior turns into a performance review where they feel constantly tested. Therefore, they put all their effort into making their leader happy instead of concentrating on the big picture. If your employees focus only on what will fulfil their boss instead of the company, there is a high chance they are evolving in a micromanaged work environment.
4. Employees stop sharing their opinions and become silent
Are your meetings a moment for your coworkers to share their points of view or more of a one-way conversation where you are the only person talking? If it sounds more like the last option, this is not normal. Letting your employees express themselves freely is fundamental. A silent team that only listens and doesn’t give feedback is a sign of a toxic workplace. Employees who do not voice their opinions may be demotivated, disengaged, or afraid of their boss. In any case, the explanations often come from the results of micromanaging practices.
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5. Personal and professional development is limited
Micromanagement is an obstacle to personal and career growth, and also causes frustration and demotivation. People want to develop their skills and improve their job by learning new tasks or taking on new projects. Unfortunately, micromanaged teams tend to be more limited toward this aspect as leaders decide all processes and constantly check that things are done their way. The focus is less on employees’ needs and more on the results. However, the outcomes would be more significant if workers’ expectations were met.
6. Micromanaged teams don’t feel recognized
Micromanaged workforces often suffer from a lack of recognition from leaders. Micromanagers are at ease when it comes to saying what’s done wrong but struggle a bit more with acknowledging the good work and sharing it with their team. This makes employees feel bitter as their efforts seem unseen, unappreciated, and unvalued. Send an employee satisfaction questionnaire focusing on leadership to know if your staff feels recognized. It will help you detect any sign of micromanagement and correct it as soon as possible.
7. Employee turnover is high as talents quit their job
How is your employee turnover rate? Do you struggle to keep your best talents? People quitting their job is a clear sign of discontentment, but what is the core reason they leave? Micromanaging practices undoubtedly increase the chances for your workforce to look for another job that will make them grow, feel trusted, appreciated, and happy. According to a survey from Trinity Solutions, 69% of employees consider resigning because of micromanagement, and 36% actually do. If workers keep quitting, your leadership style might be the issue.
8. Levels of job satisfaction and employee happiness are poor
Because of all the psychological effects of micromanagement, it is no surprise that your job satisfaction and employee happiness levels are low. Excessive monitoring makes staff loose confidence in themselves and refrain them from making the most of their skills. They become frustrated about being unable to work autonomously and feeling supervised like a child. Carrying regular surveys can help you determine if your team members are satisfied with your management style and how to improve it.
On one side, the future of work promotes employee centricity and flexibility. On the other hand, micromanagement kills all the advantages of hybrid work and a people-first culture. These examples of micro leadership can destroy a business making workers either disengaged, stressed, and ultimately burnout, or forcing them to quit. Spotting the signs of micromanagement is key to tackling this (too) common issue in the workplace.
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Paulyne is a hybrid work specialist, who writes about sustainability, flexible work models and employee experience.