Micromanagement: What It Is and How to Deal With It

Written by Coursera • Updated on

In this article, learn about micromanagement, its signs, and why this management style is used.

[Featured Image] An employee working in office is learning about micromanagement.

Management comes in many different styles, and how we manage it is often a personal preference. However, if you have been on the receiving end of micromanagement, there's a good chance you did not find it positive. In fact, studies have shown micromanagement is not the most effective form of management and can be stressful and demotivating for employees, sometimes causing them to leave their jobs [1]. To understand micromanagement, you need to identify the signs of it, the costs of engaging in it, and how to deal with it. 

What is micromanagement?

Micromanagement is managing a team extremely closely, engaging in excessive monitoring of staff, and attempting to control processes and workflow without allowing autonomy or a say in decisions. 

Micromanagement usually comes with good intentions, but monitoring employees so closely can damage motivation, workflow, and productivity. It can also cause additional stress for the manager who feels unable to delegate tasks in an effort to maintain a high level of control. 

Why do people micromanage?

People may micromanage for a variety of reasons, but it is often due to a fear of things not being done correctly and, thus a need to maintain close control. This could be due to unskilled employees, a lack of leadership ability, mistrust of others, low self-esteem, or a strong need to dominate and control. According to the Harvard Business Review, it boils down to two reasons. 

  • The manager desires to feel connected to the lower levels of the organization. Losing touch with employees at the ground level is common as a person moves to more senior positions. This can have a detrimental effect if a manager does not understand the needs, motivations, and roles of those they manage. Staying close can be an attempt to counterbalance this and also reduce the feeling of isolation that moving up the ranks away from previous peers brings. 

  • Managers who move into more senior roles experience a shift in duties, which must move away from operations and become more strategic. This can be a difficult transition for some who, as a result, find it difficult to let go of their previous role and become too involved as it is an area of comfort for them. Coming from a position you used to do and were promoted from for doing well means it’s hard to accept someone else doing it and possibly not doing it 'your' way. [2]

Micromanagement vs. accountability

Sometimes there's confusion between ensuring that employees are accountable and micromanaging. They are not convergent because you cannot hold someone responsible by managing them so closely that they have no responsibility. To be held accountable, you need to take responsibility for your actions. 

Micromanagement infers a lack of trust in a person, whereas accountability does the opposite. It shows that you believe in a person to meet goals; in doing so, the person feels more empowered and motivated to succeed. With accountability, you track progress and make sure they meet targets, but allow the person to take control. 


9 Signs of micromanagement

If you feel someone is micromanaging you or think you are micromanaging others, take note of these clear signs of a micromanager and their behavior. The underlying basis of these signs is a need to control and monitor progress.

1. Resists delegating work

Micromanagers like to maintain ultimate control and so find delegation of tasks difficult. This means that employees often wonder if they can take on tasks without direct instruction, causing confusion and reducing motivation and job satisfaction. This problem is twofold because the micromanager is left with a large workload because they're only able to trust others to take on tasks with close supervision. 

2. Becomes overly involved in the employees’ work 

A micromanager wants to be involved with everything employees are doing. These managers offer no autonomy, stand over people’s shoulders when they are typing emails, spend a lot of time in the office, and constantly need to know everything. 

3. Discourages independent decision-making

Control is vital for a micromanager, and any independent decision-making undermines that, so it is not encouraged. This often happens due to a lack of trust in employees to do their jobs well, which removes creativity, independent thought and knowledge sharing. 

4. Asks for frequent updates

Given that controlling processes is important to a micromanager, it’s not surprising that they need constant updates. This takes time away from tasks, makes people feel unnecessary pressure, and promotes a feeling of mistrust that's not good for morale.  

5. Looks at every detail rather than focusing on the bigger perspective

A micromanager tends to look at tiny details and focus on monitoring micro-steps rather than seeing the bigger picture of what employees need to achieve. The manager typically needs more direction regarding overarching goals and company strategy. 

6. Has an unusually high turnover of employees

It’s no shock that employees of micromanagers are unhappy, and staff turnover is high. Feeling demotivated, untrusted, and disempowered can cause low job satisfaction and people to leave their jobs or become more frequently absent. 

7. Is rarely satisfied with deliverables

People who micromanage think they know best and tend to scrutinize the performance of others, reducing the motivation and confidence of staff rather than encouraging and guiding. This might come with the belief that they are encouraging perfection, but constant put-downs have the opposite effect. 

8. Suggests unrealistic deadlines

Micromanagers may set unrealistic deadlines with the inability to offer any flexibility if things don’t go as planned, circumstances change, or delays happen that are out of anyone’s control. This is due to the need to be in control and adds to the belief they need to micromanage to achieve goals. In reality, micromanagement reduces productivity and wastes time with constant checks and updates. 

9. Measures and monitors everything

A constant need to measure and monitor everything is a testament to a micromanager's need to control. This causes additional workforce stress, takes extra time, and focuses on the day-to-day rather than seeing sometimes things need to be changed to achieve a bigger goal.

How to deal with micromanagement

If your organization is having difficulty with micromanagement, or you have identified your own tendencies to micromanage, you can take steps and adopt some strategies to improve.

Build trust 

Micromanagers lack trust, and it has a profound effect on employees. Here are some tips for micromanagers and employees dealing with micromanagement. 

Tips for managers: 

  • Start relinquishing some control over employees

  • Give your team space to show that they can work independently

  • Allow employees to produce results without being monitored

Tips for employees:

  • Earn trust by demonstrating that you’re on top of your responsibilities 

  • Keep your manager informed about your work progress to build trust slowly

Delegate roles and responsibilities for managers

Delegating is hard for someone who relishes control, but it is important to ease the workload and show trust in others. Micromanagers know their team well, including their strengths and weaknesses, which is highly important when deciding whom to delegate tasks. 

Why delegate? When delegating effectively, it can help managers focus on more strategic tasks for the company while employees can develop new skills and have more responsibilities. 


Communicate properly

Rather than dictating and checking up on everyone, make sure a clear line of communication exists in both directions so your team knows they can come to you with any problems or questions without fear of criticism or mistrust. Here are some tips for communicating properly: 

Tips for managers:

  • Listen to your team and what they need 

  • Ask for feedback 

  • Have open communication and address how they can come to you if they need

Tips for employees: 

  • Have a respectful conversation with your manager about examples of micromanagement tendencies

  • Address micromanagement sensitively and discreetly 

Work with your team

Instead of being so autocratic, work with your team to come up with ideas, allow them to try some out, and see what works and doesn’t. 

Tips for managers: 

  • Share your expectations and boundaries to show you trust the team’s skills

  • Let everyone work together to see the outcome and input of the whole team 

Tips for employees: 

  • Give your manager some feedback on their impact and how to work as a team better

  • Provide some suggestions on what management style works for you 

Use objectives and key results (OKRs)

Objectives and key results (OKR) is a management technique that effectively sets targets and monitors results. It helps set milestones and track results as a team. An objective is created, along with how it’s measured. Everyone involved is aware of the goals, creating accountability, increasing motivation, and allowing autonomy. 

Next steps 

If you’ve fallen into micromanagement, or you’re experiencing it and want to learn effective management skills, you can consider an online certificate. Coursera lists a range of options including The Principles of Management, delivered by Johns Hopkins University, or Foundations of Management, offered by IESE.



Principles of Management

Team leads, managers, and entrepreneurs must juggle team citizenship and leadership, ethics, strategy, and projects with their work in their area of ...


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Foundations of Management

Boost Your Career with New Business Knowledge . Master Business Management Fundamentals


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Average time: 6 month(s)

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Accounting, Leadership, Finance, Marketing, Financial Accounting, Financial Statement, Balance Sheet, Dupont Analysis, Management Accounting, Business Analysis, Management Styles, Management, Organizational Culture

Article sources


Berrett-Koehler Publishers. “My Way Or The Highway: A Micromanagement Survival Guide by Harry Chambers, https://www.bkconnection.com/static/mywayPR.pdf.” Accessed February 23, 2023.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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