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Are you a micromanager?

I am sure you have all had the misfortune of being managed by a micromanager. I know I have and it’s not fun. Or maybe, at times, you have even recognised yourself falling into this trap. Covid has been a trigger for micromanaging and I am hearing, more than ever before, about more managers needing support to overcome this demotivating management style. Fortunately, it is possible to overcome if we recognise the signs, why we are doing it, the dangers of it and actively take Key Steps to ‘be the difference that makes the difference. Let’s get started…

  1. What is micromanagement? It is a management style characterised by excessive control and attention to details of the work of employees. It is often a blind spot, so managers don’t realise that they are doing it. Managers often think that they are being helpful and giving useful input while it might actually be that they are getting too granular, focusing on the wrong priorities and losing sight of the big picture.
  2. Why do managers micromanage? Although each set of circumstances are unique and there could be many reasons why managers fall into the trap of micromanaging, they usually fall into one of these reasons:• They think they can do their employee’s job better.
    • They don’t trust their employees to do their job properly.
    • They don’t know what else to do (i.e. they might not have learnt how to coach, mentor, train and empower their team to do their jobs effectively or they might not be taking the time to do it!)
    • They have employees who, even after the necessary training, mentoring and coaching, are not competent, capable or willing to do their job.
    • They might be insecure and don’t want anyone to do a better job than them or to take credit for successes.
    • They are worried about losing control and anxious about the future (Covid has been a big trigger of this).
    • They simply haven’t thought through the motivation-killing, creativity-crushing effects of micromanaging staff.
  3. What are the signs that you might be a micromanager? While self-reflecting, remember to be honest with yourself. If you do identify with more than four of the below, it could indicate a tendency to micromanage. Don’t judge yourself as a ‘bad’ manager; see it as an opportunity to grow and develop yourself and your team. How many of the below (inspired by Dan McCarthy of Balance Careers) can you say “yes” to?• You have a long list of pending approvals and decisions that await your action – often creating a bottleneck.
    • You are known for using a red pen or track changes and often comments/notes are subjective or nit-picking.
    • You want your employees to copy or blind copy you on all emails you deem important.
    • You regularly work long days, evenings and/or weekends and rarely take a break.
    • You often re-do work that you have delegated to an employee.
    • You insist on having all work processes documented and followed very closely.
    • You get frustrated because employees “just don’t get it.” You resent babysitting but feel you have no choice.
    • Your employees seldom take initiative or come up with new ideas. You need to do their thinking for them.
    • You are so busy that you rarely have time for developing strategy, perhaps your boss even pointed out that you need to improve your strategic thinking in your last performance review.
    • When you delegate, you spend more time on how to do the task than on what needs to be accomplished.
    • You have each of your employee’s cell phone numbers and text them often outside work hours.
    • You require weekly and monthly activity reports from employees and like to measure and monitor everything.
    • You never allow your employees to attend meetings for you but might attend a meeting with them.
    • You want to know what your employees are doing with their time and get frustrated when you can’t reach them.
    • You have high turnover and low employee engagement scores.
  4. What triggers you? It is important to identify when this happens to you and what could lie beneath this behaviour. Covid has been a significant trigger for many managers, especially those that believe in presenteeism or struggle with trust. This might not only be at work; some of us micromanage our partners and kids too! Catch yourself and make a note of why you micromanage. If it’s your manager who is micromanaging, use this week to notice when it happens and why you think it might be happening; this can help you to change the dynamic.
  5. What is the impact of micromanagement? Micromanagement leads to demotivated employees and lower productivity. It stunts the growth of both the employee and manager, leading to poor long-term performance and loss of talent. If you relate to the behaviours described above, don’t give up hope. Awareness is the first step to solving the problem. Make some notes this so that next week we can take action together to break this habit and…

“be the difference that makes the difference


NOTE: The information in my blog may be freely shared and re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line: This was written by Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, and originally appeared in her free weekly  ‘Key Steps Food for Thought Blog’ available on the Key Steps website.

Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

About Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 20 years’ experience in leadership and organisational development and transformation. She is a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner. She is also one of only three women in South Africa to hold the title of Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – it’s the Oscar of the speaking business.

Sharon’s PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that has been published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of Henley Business School and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. Sharon has become known for her practical approach, useful tools and genuinely caring manner. She is really looking forward to working with you and taking Key Steps to ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’


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