Dear Geese,

Per your request, can you tell us how to know if we have micromanager tendencies…and what to do if we’re either the micromanager or the one being micromanaged?

– Michael from Baltimore

Dear Michael,

Thanks for the follow-up question.

Let’s start with a simple quiz to see if you have micromanagement tendencies. Answer the following questions and keep track of the ones you respond with a “Yes”.

  • Do you regularly redo your employees’ work?
  • Do you second-guess employees on a daily basis?
  • Do you require sign-off on every task, no matter how minor?
  • Are you convinced of the saying, “If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself”?
  • Do you watch how long each employee takes for lunch?
  • Do you always accompany an employee when they meet with a client for the first time?
  • Do you require daily progress reports from your employees?
  • Do you insist on seeing the raw data behind any reports your employees create?
  • Do you tell your employees how to do their job?
  • Do you email your employees after hours and/or on the weekend?

If you answered “Yes” to more than two questions, you have micromanagement tendencies. If you answered “Yes” to most or all, you ARE a micromanager (questions adapted from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Leadership, by Andrew J. Dubrin-Alpha Books).

Actually that’s not necessarily true. As we saw in last week’s blog, sometimes micromanagement is a choice and sometimes it is a necessity. Either way, micromanagement has more to do with trust—or lack there of—than anything else. The key to a micromanagement-free zone is to create two-way trust from the manager to the employees and from the employees to the manager.

Tips on how to stop being a micromanager

Step 1: Identify your insecurities

Many instances of micromanagement are directly related to insecurity on the part of the manager. You may be insecure about your ability to manage or your team members’ ability to get the job done. You may worry that relinquishing control will only lead to disaster because no one can do the job as well as you can.

Step 2: Make sure you are hiring the right people

If insecurity is plaguing you, a solution may be found in building a better team. If your team is comprised of members you are not completely confident in, and who may not be confident in their own abilities, you are already on the path to a micromanagement disaster. Remember, at the end of the day, if you can’t trust and respect your employees, they will not feel empowered to excel, and you will continue to question their work. And it all starts with hiring the right people for your team.

Step 3: Learn how to delegate effectively

Delegation isn’t easy; it often takes managers a while to understand not only why they should delegate, but also how to delegate effectively.

Step 4: Let go of perfection

In order to let go of perfection, you need to decide what’s more important to you: having the work completed to “perfection” (the way you would do it) or growing and developing your employees.

Step 5: Create a strong team dynamic

If you think of your employees as individual islands sprinkled around your business, there will never be a good team dynamic. A powerful team develops when there is a desire to work together, pool skills and experience to accomplish more, and build off each other’s strengths. This can’t happen when micromanagement is involved.

Tips on how to manage the micromanager

Working under a micromanaging boss can put you in an uncomfortable position, especially if you feel that it’s affecting your job performance and your overall wellbeing. However, there are things you can do to ease the tension and to help your manager relax and stop breathing down your neck. Follow these tips for how to deal with micromanagement in your workplace.

Step 1: Be an overachiever. Show your manager that you deserve his or her trust by going above and beyond what is expected of you. Also, don’t wait to be asked for a status report, provide it on an ongoing basis.

Step 2: Follow the rules. Do things the way your manager wants them done, otherwise you will only be reinforcing your boss’s belief that employees can’t be trusted.

Step 3: Learn as much as you can about your micromanaging boss. Figure out what your manager is looking for in an employee and use that as a guideline.

Step 4: Be reliable. Don’t give your manager any reason to distrust you. Show up places on time or even early, do the work you have to do by its deadline or a few days before, and do other helpful tasks, like picking up coffee, making phone calls, and helping other co-workers achieve their goals. Be a person that other people come to for help because they know you’ll get the job done.

Step 5: Ask to take on small projects on your own. Start small. Ask your manager if he or she would mind if you took on a small project — maybe one that only spans a week — on your own to gain some management experience. Pick something low on your manager’s priorities list and do a stellar job with it. If you prove that you’re able to handle something from start to finish on your own, then your manager will be more open to letting you tackle the bigger challenges by yourself.

Much of the information above was provided by, “How to deal with a Micromanager.”

Michael, hope that helps. The truth is that most managers and employees could avoid this whole micromanagement dynamic by simply discussing expectations on both the WHAT (the task) and the HOW (the working relationship) from the get-go. Unfortunately, rarely does that happen.