How to Effectively Manage Micromanagers

Stressed Person Looking At Laptop


Whether you’re an employer or an employee, chances are you’ve witnessed micromanagement in the workplace. This type of behaviour involves closely monitoring and controlling the work of team members and isn’t restricted to those who manage others as part of their role. 

While it can be effective in the short-term, such as training new employees or boosting productivity to meet a deadline, micromanagement can have a detrimental effect on the company if used on a regular basis. Among other things, it can lead to low employee morale and a high staff turnover, which can be costly for the business. 

So, what exactly is micromanagement? In this article, we’ll explain what it means to micromanage someone, how to deal with micromanagers in the workplace, and the effects that this type of behaviour can have on employees.

What is micro management?

Micromanagement is the excessive control of another’s work, whether or not the person being micromanaged is a direct report. A micromanager feels the need to control the actions of others to make sure a task is completed correctly or to their deadline. Micromanagers often want to be involved in every decision, avoid delegating work, or spend a lot of time focusing on small details. 

While they may have good intentions, micromanagers can be detrimental to the morale and self-esteem of other employees and can hamper personal development. Instead of fostering self-management and critical thinking skills, micromanagement strips employees of their autonomy and creativity. It can also make them feel like they are being constantly criticised. 

Is micromanagement bullying?

There is a fine line between micromanagement and bullying, and many of the tactics that micromanagers use to control their employees could be seen as harassment. It may be the case that the micromanager doesn’t believe their behaviour to be problematic, but the employees themselves might feel differently. 

Micromanagement can create a toxic work environment and can be detrimental to employees’ mental health. Anyone who feels that they are being treated unfairly or intimidated should try to resolve the issue amicably with the micromanager. If the problems persist, they should speak to their HR department, or contact the National Bullying Helpline.

The signs you’re being micromanaged

If you feel that you’re being constantly monitored and that your manager doesn’t trust you to carry out your role without support, you might be being micromanaged. 

Some of the signs of being micromanaged include: 

  • Having every task explained and scrutinised in detail 
  • Having your opinions or competency second guessed
  • Being criticised or belittled for small mistakes
  • Being constantly asked to deliver reports and updates
  • Not being allowed to make decisions without their input
  • Not being allowed to carry out certain tasks

The impact of micromanagement

Micromanagement can have an extremely detrimental effect on the morale and mental health of employees. If it happens from time to time, it may simply be stressful or irritating, but prolonged micromanagement can affect confidence and creativity, and can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. Those who are frustrated at work may choose to leave the company and look for a more autonomous opportunity. 

While a little bit of micromanagement may be useful for a brief productivity boost, such as to wrap up a project in the final stages, using it in the long term can have the opposite effect. Being questioned and undermined can be demoralising, and workers who don’t feel  trusted to manage their own time or workload often won’t perform to the best of their abilities. 

The average cost of hiring a new employee in the UK is around £3,000, with the first year of employment costing more than double their annual salary. Aside from the monetary costs, training a new employee can affect the productivity of others in the team. It’s therefore important to keep staff motivated to minimise employee turnover and save money.

Why people micromanage at work

While an employee who is underperforming may require more management and support than others, this isn’t the only reason people micromanage. The reasons that people feel the need to micromanage others at work is often less about the competence of the employee or the quality of their work, and more about the micromanager’s own issues or insecurities.  

People micromanage others because they: 

  • Feel the need to always be in control 
  • Have poor self esteem 
  • Find it difficult to trust others 
  • Feel inadequate if others perform better than they do
  • Are inexperienced at managing people
  • Are in a work culture where micromanagement is common or accepted by others, and in particular senior managers
  • Are under pressure themselves to meet often unrealistic targets and deadlines

Whilst some micromanage out of a habit or working style that feels natural to them, some have learnt these traits as part of a poor working culture where their behaviour goes unnoticed, unchallenged or even encouraged.

5 effective ways to deal with a micromanager

Now that we know what micromanagement is, the causes behind it, and the effects it can have on employees and productivity, let’s look at how to effectively deal with micromanagers. As with all interpersonal relationships in the workplace, it’s important to always remain professional and amicable when navigating these issues.

1. Understand their behaviour & perspective

Even though you’re having a negative experience, try to remember that the person who is micromanaging you has their own reasons for doing so. Their behaviour might seem frustrating or unprofessional, but micromanagers often have good intentions and want things to be done to the best possible standards. 

Reading this article is a great start to getting to understand your colleague’s perspective. Try to figure out what’s driving their need to control as much as possible. This could be as simple as having a conversation with them and asking them to explain why they ask you to do certain things, or even which aspects of a specific task are essential.

2. Set boundaries

Like any interpersonal relationship, boundaries are extremely important when dealing with a micromanager. Although it can be scary to stand your ground, particularly with a person of authority, the sooner you can set boundaries, the easier it will be to take control of the situation. 

Try not to be demanding or unreasonable; just as you’re uncomfortable being micromanaged, they may feel uncomfortable not having complete control, especially if they aren’t aware they do this. It’s important to strike a balance between both your needs. For example, if your they wants you to send them a daily report, suggest a weekly one instead. This allows them to keep an eye on tasks without you feeling smothered.

3. Plan ahead

Having a better understanding of what they most want to focus on and why can help you to pre-empt their micromanaging behaviour. Try to adapt your approach to cater to the areas they’re most focused on to increase communication and alleviate friction. If your manager often comes to your desk to ask what you’re working on, it might be helpful to instead send them an email in the morning outlining the tasks you have planned for the day. 

A collaborative approach to project planning is another good way to make sure everyone feels reassured and involved. This allows you, your manager, and anyone else working on the task to outline their roles within the project, highlight any concerns, and decide together how best to allocate resources and set deadlines.

4. Work collaboratively

A collaborative approach to project planning is another good way to make sure everyone in a team feels reassured and in high spirits. This allows everyone working on the task to outline their roles within the project, share any concerns, and decide as a team how best to solve them.

This allows you to make sure everyone’s input is considered so nobody feels like they’re being ignored. You can use these occasions to highlight areas that would otherwise trigger a micromanaging approach. For example, deciding together how best to allocate resources may be helpful to deal with micromanagers who struggle to delegate tasks.

5. Talk to them or HR

If you don’t feel comfortable approaching them, it’s a good idea to speak to your HR Manager. While you might worry that getting a third party involved could make the micromanager feel like they’re being ganged up on, remember that it’s the role of HR to support employees with issues such as micromanagement. They can provide an impartial opinion on the situation, as well as helping to reach a solution that’s in everyone’s best interests. 

When you talk to your HR representative, make sure to explain how the micromanager’s behaviour is affecting your work, along with any emotional impacts you’re experiencing. As well as highlighting the issue, this can help to foster a culture of openness and honesty within the workplace, which can help to minimise difficult situations in the future.

Creating a positive, open working culture

One of the best ways to avoid micromanaging in the first place is to create a positive workplace culture that is open and honest. Where co-workers are better able to trust each other, there is less need for anyone to take excessive control. This also helps to minimise friction between managers and employees and makes it less stressful to broach difficult subjects. 

While older generations subscribed to the concept of workplace loyalty, younger workers are much more likely to leave a job if they are unsatisfied. While millennial and Gen X employees are often accused of ‘job-hopping’, these generations are simply setting boundaries and putting more importance on how being at work makes them feel. To keep hold of the younger workforce, it’s essential to foster an environment in which they can thrive. Ultimately, focussing on culture and wellbeing also supports employee retention and recruitment too – most of us want to work for an organisation where we feel heard and appreciated.  

It’s the responsibility of business owners and HR managers to prevent micromanagers from establishing a toxic culture in the business, and to minimise any issues should they arise. Modern workplaces require modern HR systems to better manage the complex daily processes that keep businesses running and projects on track. 

Try PeopleHR for free and see how it can help you to establish a productive, welcoming environment for employees at all levels.

Sheldon Walker
By Sheldon Walker New Business Sales Representative

Sheldon is a New Business Sales professional with Access PeopleHR. He is dedicated to helping SMBs thrive in today's competitive landscape. With over 5 years of experience in SAAS and HR software products, he has provided numerous clients with the tools to make their life easier. Sheldon's passions lie in helping clients achieve their goals and giving them the freedom to do more.