How to deal with a micromanager and avoid becoming one

Regularly convene knowledge-sharing sessions to ensure your team aligns with your expectations for quality and customer service. This fosters trust and empowers your team to excel. Regularly convene knowledge-sharing sessions to ensure your team aligns with your expectations for quality and customer service. This fosters trust and empowers your team to excel. You have undoubtedly heard about the challenges and problems of working for a “micromanager.” This person oversees every step, critiques contributions excessively, or constantly limits one’s ability to excel. Worse, they may negatively influence day-to-day work products and call out flaws while never offering compliments or hog information.

Micromanagement kills individual creativity and discretion and weighs heavily on team morale. How can you address working for a micromanager and ensure you don’t fall prey to becoming one yourself?

Challenges with transitioning

First, understand that changing mindset from the role of “individual contributor” to “manager” isn’t always easy. Individual contributors stay on top of their roles. They can answer any question about anything they’re doing and generally feel in control of their work product, timelines, and deliverables. That sense of clarity and confidence dissipates when they now manage and are responsible for others. That’s when a loss of control typically kicks in. This causes managers to attempt to control the situation by ensuring they know everything that’s going on around them, which typically looks like this:

  • Ensuring team members check in with them incessantly
  • Constantly critiquing and judging others’ work
  • They demand constant updates in case their boss asks them about something.

The problem with this approach is that it’s neither realistic nor scalable. It’s unrealistic because you can’t control the output of four others’ work the same way you can control your own (i.e., you’ll burn yourself out trying to control everything and do everything yourself). It’s not scalable career-wise because if you’re having significant trouble managing four people on your team, you’ll likely never get the chance to manage 40 or 400.

Even if you could exert such high levels of control over others, you likely wouldn’t have much fun in the process. You would constantly feel stressed and pressured, and your team members wouldn’t have much fun either. The likely result is low employee engagement, substandard team productivity, and high staff turnover.

Micromanagement’s detrimental effects

Uncomfortably close supervision makes employees feel like their boss is waiting for them to make a mistake. This “management by error” approach undermines morale, eats at employees’ self-confidence, and builds resentment and frustration where adults feel they’re being treated like children. It may likewise include withholding information as a source of power.

Tough Talks D

However you look at it, the toxin of micromanagement typically leads to disrespect, discouragement, disregard of emotions, and interpersonal conflict. Why? People will naturally rebel when they feel overly or unnecessarily pressured, fear speaking out, and watch the behavior continue without any intervention from higher leadership.

Avoid becoming a micromanager

Micromanagement comes in several forms, including pointing fingers, interfering with work, overt criticism, and more. That’s not where you want to steer your career. While you may face similar feelings of loss of control when you’re promoted to manage others, there’s a practical way to overcome them.

Teach your team members how you’ve handled typical product or process challenges, customer complaints, or quality demands. Share what’s worked well, what turned out to be a negative solution or false path. Most importantly, what the team feels can be done differently to improve.

Staff meetings, huddles, and lunch-and-learns are great opportunities to share best practices. They allow you to share wisdom, set expectations, and provide resources to help everyone do their best work every day with peace of mind. Ask, “How will you keep me informed of your progress, and how often should I expect to hear from you?” Likewise, ask, “How will you deal with emergencies, last-minute plan changes, or upset customers looking to escalate their concerns?”

Talk about things together as adults. Ensure your people feel listened to, respected, and appreciated. Ask them to let you know if you’re ever “coming on too strong.” Regularly convene knowledge-sharing sessions to ensure your team aligns with your expectations for quality and customer service. This fosters trust and empowers your team to excel.