What Is a Micromanager? Definition and Signs to Recognize One

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 23, 2022 | Published June 21, 2021

Updated October 23, 2022

Published June 21, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

With such a variety of industries and roles to choose from, there are many management styles to suit each circumstance. Micromanagement is one leadership style that works well in some companies or team structure, but poorly in another. So, it's important that the management style you or your managers choose fits the industry, company, and specific team.

In this article, we look at what a micromanager is, how to recognize one, the advantages and disadvantages of micromanagement, and how you can work with a micromanager successfully.

Related: What is Micromanagement?

What is a micromanager?

A micromanager is a type of manager that closely monitors their team members at work. They do so to motivate employees to complete everything correctly and efficiently. Micromanagers provide feedback frequently, both negative and positive, to encourage their team members to learn and grow. However, this management style doesn't work for everyone and can lead to employees feeling less creative or like they're not trusted.

When used correctly, micromanagement can be highly effective. Micromanagers that monitor their team closely but still encourage independent thinking can lead to a feeling of empowerment among employees. So it's important that micromanagers find a balance between pushing their employees too hard and motivating them to do their best.

Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles

25 signs of a micromanager

To recognize whether you or someone you know is a micromanager, here are some of the common characteristics of this management style:

  1. Request frequent meetings

  2. Closely measure productivity

  3. Delegate urgent tasks that take team members away from their existing tasks

  4. Highly involved in their team

  5. Solely responsible for decision-making

  6. Don't leave room for creativity or innovation from employees

  7. Contact team members outside their office hours

  8. Re-do tasks that their team members already completed

  9. Ask for constant updates on projects and tasks

  10. Set unrealistic timelines

  11. Hard to satisfy

  12. Monitor team members' work and actions closely

  13. Expect overly detailed reports that take away from primary tasks

  14. Find it hard to delegate and prefer to do the work themselves

  15. Desire to be Cc'd on every email, even those that don't relate to them

  16. Overwork themselves

  17. Become unnecessarily involved in their employees' work

  18. Too much focus on short-term goals and small details rather than the bigger perspective

  19. Have a high turnover of employees

  20. Become irritable when employees make decisions without consulting them

  21. Desire to manage every project, even when a project manager has already been appointed

  22. Focus too much on insignificant details

  23. Believe that team members are lazy or don't take enough initiative

  24. Don't allow employees to attend meetings on their behalf

  25. Give strict instructions that need to be followed exactly

Advantages of micromanagement

While micromanagement isn't always effective, some industries and teams may benefit from it. Here are the primary advantages of micromanagement:

Highly involved with their team

As micromanagers prefer to monitor their team closely, they're always present. This can be comforting to employees that want to ask a lot of questions or need guidance. It builds a stronger bond between management and employees as well, since managers are willing to take on the same tasks and responsibilities as their team.

Know their team members well

Another benefit micromanagers have from working closely with their team is getting to know each employee's strengths and weaknesses. This ensures managers can offer the additional training, guidance, or feedback to help their team improve. It also allows managers to know exactly who they should delegate a task to. Many micromanagers have a tough time delegating because they want to take on the tasks themselves, but when they do delegate, they can find the right person more easily.

Empathize with team members

Working closely with their team allows micromanagers to empathize with them. They see firsthand when their employees are struggling with a task and can offer support. Being able to empathize with their team also ensures they can determine how much to push an employee to work harder or when to step back.

Encourage employees to do their best

Micromanagement is a great leadership style for new employees entering the workplace. Micromanagers can help them adjust and learn more about the industry to reach their goals. New employees ask many questions and require extra training and attention, so micromanagement is the perfect solution.

It can also be a good management style for existing employees. Micromanagers encourage employees to work harder and do their best, so they're constantly improving.

Add value to any department

Micromanagers are good problem-solvers with excellent decision-making skills. They can add value to any department by making decisions that will benefit the company as a whole. They also have strong analytical skills as well, which helps them go over every detail with great focus and accuracy to come up with a solution. Good micromanagers always have the company's best interest in mind, so they're an asset to any department.

Related: Analytical Skills Defined and Explained

Successful remote work

As more and more businesses switch to remote work, micromanagement is the ideal leadership style. Micromanagers can ensure their team members are always offering updates and reports, motivating them to stay on top of their work. This is beneficial because many remote employees struggle to focus, stay motivated and complete tasks when no manager is physically present.

Easy to implement rules and regulations

Company policies are in place to keep employees safe. It can be hard for employees to keep track of every rule and regulation, but micromanagers can help. They are great at following directions and ensuring their team does as well. They give strict instructions and communicate them efficiently so every employee understands.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

Disadvantages of micromanagement

As with any management style, micromanagement has some drawbacks, especially in creative industries and roles. Here are the common disadvantages of micromanagement:

Not time-efficient

Micromanagers spend a lot of time monitoring their team and assisting them with their projects. This means they can't focus on their own work. While it ensures their team members' work is perfect and done on time, they can't complete their own work efficiently. This often leads micromanagers to delegate tasks at the last minute.

Employees become dependent on management

Micromanagers take on all the decision-making and problem-solving for their team. They often discourage team members from making decisions without consulting them first. This leads employees to depend on management too much. It can also cause team members to feel uncertain about what they're doing, leading them to ask for approval or input on every decision. Independent thinking is limited, so employees that want to pursue a leadership role in the future will find it challenging to be assertive in their decision-making.

Harder for large companies

Micromanagement is a good leadership style for smaller companies with a lot of new employees, such as startups. Managers can provide the necessary guidance and instruction to small teams. In larger companies, however, micromanagement doesn't work as there are too many employees to focus on and monitor. This can lead micromanagers to be overworked and unnecessarily stressed.

Reduces job satisfaction

As micromanagers limit creative thinking and independent growth, many employees end up feeling unsatisfied at work. Micromanagement can cause employees to feel as though the company doesn't trust them, lowering their confidence and motivation to work hard. Lower job satisfaction leads to higher turnover rates, so it's important for leaders to assess whether micromanagement is the best style for their team.

Less creativity and innovation

Micromanagement doesn't work for creative industries and roles, such as writer or graphic designers. Employees need to form their own opinions and thoughts to be creative and micromanagement limits this process.

How to work with a micromanager

If you're struggling to work with a micromanager, here are some tips you can follow to improve your relationship and work well together:

  1. Build your manager's trust. Complete the tasks they assign you correctly and efficiently. Listen to their instructions and guidance. This helps you build a trusting relationship with your manager, allowing them to rely on you in the future.

  2. Accept and apply feedback. Micromanagers offer constant feedback to help you improve and grow. If you apply their feedback, you should see an improvement in your skills and quality of work.

  3. Be honest. You may think that your manager doesn't want to hear from you, but they do. Be honest about your struggles and how you're feeling so your manager can learn to adjust. If they're assigning you too much work, tell them. If you want to be challenged more, ask for harder tasks. Good micromanagers can be accommodating if you're honest and open.

  4. Be empathetic. Micromanagers have a lot of responsibilities in addition to monitoring many employees. Try to be empathetic and make their job easier by going above and beyond at work. Take initiative when you can by completing tasks earlier and asking for new ones or adjusting your work if you think your manager will be happier for you to do it another way.

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