What is Micromanagement and How to avoid it?

You can think that you are not a micromanager. But believe me, all of us are micromanager at least sometimes. Why should you avoid micromanagement? How do you become aware of when you are micromanaging and what you can do to avoid it? In this article, I will have some answer on all of these.



What is micromanagement?

A typical definition for micromanagement is

Someone who micromanages is characterized by an exaggerated attention to detail and a detailed specification and control of what needs to be done. But what does “exaggerated” mean in this article?  What is meant by “detailed specification and control of what needs to be done”? When are exact specifications and controls bad and when are they not? Isn’t that all very subjective?

We’re going to discuss these questions in more detail today, because you can see from the above definition that the evaluation of micromanagement is not so easy.

Are you a micromanager?

Let’s make a test and check that you re a micromanager or not?

Answer the following 7 questions and count how many times your answer is “yes”. Please be honest with yourself.

  • Do you believe that control is better than trust?
  • Do you feel you are the expert in your field?
  • If things goes wrong, do you skip the hierarchy levels and give instructions over other managers heads?
  • Do you often ask your employees about the status of projects?
  • Do you always expect perfect solutions?
  • Do you spend too much time on day-to-day operations?
  • Do you have so little time to deal with long-term strategy regularly?

If your answer is yes for the most of these questions, you are a micromanager even if you believe that you are not micromanaging.

Why is micromanagement bad?

Micromanagers always have a negative impact on employees, especially on employee motivation. But it’s also harmful for the micromanager himself.

Let’s take a closer look at these negative effects – and first of all at the effects on employees:

If you tell employees exactly what they have to do and if you check their work down to the very last detail, then they lose the fun at work.

Control Results, but not every detail

Of course, it is okay to control results, but it’s not okay to specify and control every tiny detail. If you don’t give your employees at least some freedom to find their own way to get the result and to meet deadlines, then this is highly demotivating and frustrating. Because by doing this, your employees will think that you don’t trust them and certainly don’t trust their abilities.

After a while, your employee will be totally dependent. Typically, you get the feeling

“Nothing at all comes from my employees. Creativity? Nothing. They don’t come up with their own ideas. I need to tell them everything. They’re just stupid, need to get told what to do and need to be controlled all the time.”

Micromanagers can’t set priorities. Everything always seems important and everything seems high priority.

The employees are set against with a flood of tasks that they can’t cope with in time. Everything has high priority and important for the manager. No strategy, goals or the big picture but only small and tiny details in task.  The employees can’t classify the significance, importance or urgency of tasks because the manager is neither giving this direction nor is talking about why a task is important.

Why does a manager do this?

Either the manager doesn’t think he has time or the manager doesn’t know his goals and priorities. Micromanagers usually doesn’t have a strategy or long-term goal.

Overload of the micromanager

However, the exaggerated attention to detail and the lack of confidence in others also has negative effects on the micromanager. He believes that he must set the course and control every task and every employee.

This costs time and energy – and that is exactly why the micromanager becomes the bottleneck of his department. Everything needs to be approved by him. Tasks remain lying around because he has not yet checked and released them. He doesn’t know how to delegate and very often he falls into the trap of upward delegation.

He takes care of every little detail and therefore he doesn’t have enough time to take of the important things. This is a fatal mistake.


Why does someone micromanage?

Most of the time, it is not because of bad intention. Some micromanagers simply lack self-confidence. They have a strong need for security and predictability. Nothing can go wrong.

But anyone who delegates some tasks always takes some certain risks. You never know for sure whether the agreed result will actually be achieved or not. That is the fear of mistakes and the risk that leads to micromanagement. In case of doubt, the micromanager prefers to control too much rather than too little or not delegate the task at all.

5 Ways How to Avoid Micromanagement

What can you do if you realize that you have tendencies towards micromanagement? How do you manage to resist your impulse to control and specify everything and specify down to the smallest detail? Here are some tips.

Focus on the result not the way to the result.

If you delegate a task to one of your employees, you control the result, but not the path to it. Talk about strategies, goals and priorities but let your employees find their own way. Give them freedom. If you have delegated a task on a certain delegation level, stick with it and trust your employee. If you don’t and you control more than you agreed, your employee will get the feeling that you don’t trust him. You shouldn’t do that.

Learning from mistakes.

Let your employees make some mistakes. They will learn good things from their mistakes. If you are an expert in your field, remember the time that how you became an expert in your field. Give them at least some kind of freedom to make their own mistakes.

80:20 rule!

Always ask yourself: What is the result that you need? Mostly the best, the optimum result is not needed.

In most cases, the result is good if you follow the 80:20 rule. With %20 of the time, you get an %80 solution. If you want %100, you have to spend %80 of the time on the remaining %20.

Write your own job description.

Think about the most 3 important things that someone in your position should be spending most of his or her time on. And, it is surely not controlling your team. Write these 3 important things down on a piece of paper. Put it somewhere that you can always see. Then review it daily or more often. If you do so, this will help you to focus on doing your job correctly and you will understand easily when you micromanage.

Think it’s the day before you go on a vacation.

It sounds funny right. Every time when we have a deadline – like if we are going on a vacation tomorrow morning- we are able to finish our tasks shortly before the deadline.

Yes it is frantic but to get out of the office, you force yourself to focus on the most critical things and on the tasks most likely only you can achieve. If you suspect you may be micromanaging then use this strategy. Focus on the tasks closest to you that really require your experiment. Remember: Your flight is at 8.30 am tomorrow!

How to replace micromanagement with OKRMicromanagement

Objective and Key Results (OKR) is a management technique which provides all of the useful elements of micromanagement without the need for total control.

OKRs are usually set every month/quarter/year, allowing the team to focus on key objectives and how to achieve them.

This all done by:
  • Setting a few (not more than 5) objectives related to the team or an individual.
  • Making sure that objectives are actionable, specific, time-bounded, measurable, relevant.
  • Define up to 4 measurable results for each objective.
  • Results should be difficult but achievable and lead to objective progress.

While this is usually done with OKR Software, the same results can be achieved with a little more work and paper. As long as the objectives are agreed on by managers and employees alike as being relevant, measurable, and difficult (but achievable), all should be good.

  1. Determine the primary objective driving your company/team.
  2. List 1-3 key results which measure your ability to reach that objective.
  3. Add 1-2 objectives. Remember don’t list too much objectives.
  4. When you have run through the OKR process, it’s time to repeat the process company/team wide.
  5. Ask your team to come up with OKRs based on the overall company objective
  6. Go over and finalize team OKRs together.

Once all of these have been set , you can hold some regular meetings (once or twice a week) for everyone to present their progress and give feedback on their OKRs.

It is feedback. This is not a one-way street in the same way micromanagement is. Remember , you should give some freedom to your employees. You should let them find their own way. OKR is the best technique for that. On the other hand, it is not a technique about setting high goals and expecting them to be completed. If an objective is %70-%80 complete, it can be considered as being achieved. If anything reaches %100, try setting the bar higher next time.

Workflow, Don’t micromanage!

Another great alternative to micromanagement is using a task management system. Combined with OKRs, this technique can completely eliminate the need and desire to micromanage a team due to the benefits it brings.

Like I mentioned before, micromanagement is not good for your employees because of the feeling of control. By using assignment management system, you can just assign some tasks to your employees and you can control the results on system. By your behaviors or your words, you can’t affect your employee. Assignment management system will not let you micromanage.


Don’t let your team fall victim to someone who likes to micromanage! To prevent micromanagement, you can use Corvisio OKR!