HR Management, Strategic HR, Training

Signs of a Micromanager

As an HR professional, you’re probably keenly aware that a lot of employee turnover can be traced back to incompatibilities with managers. One such problem is when a manager is too involved in every detail of his or her team’s activities—micromanaging. Let’s take a look at some of the many signs that some of the management team might be micromanaging, and then we’ll explore a few ways the HR team can help to reduce this problem.


Signs of a Micromanager

Here are a few of the many signs of micromanagement:

  • Being overly concerned with ensuring employees complete tasks in exactly the way the manager requires the task to be completed. A manager guilty of this probably just thinks he or she is ensuring the job is done “right,” but he or she must understand that the outcome is what matters, and there may be any number of different (equally viable) ways to accomplish the end goal. By forcing employees to do things only as the manager sees fit, it can breed resentment and make employees feel as though they’re not trusted.
  • Never being happy with the results employees produce, even when it truly is satisfactory (or better). This manifests as a need to always give ideas for improving an employee’s work, even when the work is already great.
  • Requiring updates too often or with too much detail. It may seem prudent to keep abreast of what employees are working on—and it probably is—but the problem starts when the manager’s need for detailed updates becomes too burdensome. That could happen if updates are requested too often or if the manager wants every last detail.
  • Not properly delegating projects to subordinates or teammates. There’s the classic case of the person who thinks that it’s easier and faster (and maybe better) to just do the work him- or herself. But depriving others of the opportunity to complete things on their own deprives them of the chance to learn, grow, and feel satisfied with their work. Lack of proper delegation can also lead to recurring missed deadlines because the individual keeps too much on his or her plate.
  • Inordinately high turnover in one area. Turnover can be a direct sign of a micromanager. Obviously, it’s not a guarantee, but if more employees are leaving one manager than others, it’s something worth looking into.

When employees feel micromanaged, they can become resentful. This type of overly controlling management style can make employees feel as though they’re not trusted. Clearly, these types of feelings do not bode well for overall employee satisfaction and engagement and can eventually erode morale and lead to increased turnover for the entire organization.

What Can HR Professionals Do to Minimize Micromanagement in the Organization?

It can be difficult for managers who have a tendency toward these traits to let things go. They may feel that their team could perform better with more guidance, or their team should do better on everyday tasks. They may have a strong drive for perfection that leads to continually escalating demands on the team. Yet through all this, many micromanagers don’t see that there’s anything wrong and may even feel that the rest of the team is underperforming. There can be a fine line between managing well (by being involved in the team’s activities) and managing in a way that causes employees to feel suffocated and resentful.

What can HR managers do to assist other managers and supervisors and minimize micromanaging behavior? There’s no silver bullet, but there are some actions that can be taken:

  • Have a rigorous hiring process. Getting the right individuals on the team in the first place can allow managers to feel more at ease and less likely to feel the need to control subordinates. When the managers feel confidence in their team members’ abilities, it makes it easier to let go.
  • Offer managerial training. As HR professionals, one thing we can do to help managers is to provide training on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of micromanagement and how to avoid becoming a micromanager. Training might also include delegating tips.
  • Encourage better behavior. We can encourage managers to let go of micromanaging behavior through our day-to-day communications.
  • Create mentoring programs that include those at higher tiers in the organization. If managers have someone to turn to, they may be more inclined to find more constructive ways to encourage employees to be productive without resorting to micromanaging.
  • Get frequent (at least annual) feedback from employees. This may be in the form of employee engagement (or similar) surveys, or it could be less formal, but the key is to have a means to see where there are managerial concerns before it becomes a situation in which entire teams start leaving the organization. Try to discover problem areas before they escalate.
  • Watch for turnover in specific groups that is higher than it should be. While micromanagement might not be to blame, if one manager is losing more employees than other managers, there may be a root cause.

What has been your experience with managers who micromanage? Have you seen turnover increase in your organization as a result? Has this been something that the HR team has tackled directly?