Are You a Micromanager?

See if you recognize yourself in these 20 behavioral clues

Boss looking over an employee's shoulder in office
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Managers are rarely, if ever, heard describing themselves as micromanagers. Yet, working for a micromanaging boss is one of the most frequently cited reasons employees hate their jobs or their bosses.

Clearly, there's a disconnect here. Are you acting like a micromanager without even knowing it? The 20 clues below will help you judge for yourself. Each describes a common trait of a micromanager. Tally one point for each "yes" answer and check your score at the end.

20 Clues You're a Micromanager

  1. Do you have a long list of pending approvals and decisions that await your action? Micromanaged employees have learned the hard way that they need your approval for every little decision. Behind your back, you may be referred to as “the bottleneck.”
  2. You are always running out of red pens. As far as you’re concerned, there is always room for improvement in any document, even if your margin notes are subjective or nit-picking.
  3. You insist on tagging along with your employees to any meetings that they have with your boss, company executives, key clients or vendors, or anyone else worthy of your attention.
  4. You insist that your employees copy or blind copy you on all emails you deem important. Your email inbox regularly exceeds its storage limit.
  5. You regularly work long days and weekends and rarely take a vacation because you think no one can do your job as well as you.
  6. You often re-do work that you have delegated to an employee.
  7. You really do have a sign on your desk that says “The Buck Stops Here.”
  8. You often call meetings before meetings to make sure your employees are prepared for meetings.
  9. You insist on having all work processes documented.
  10. You think you are smarter than any of your employees and get frustrated with them because they "just don’t get it." You resent having to babysit them but you have no choice.
  11. You rarely have time for developing strategy, because you’re working so hard on day-to-day details. Your boss pointed out your lack of strategic thinking in your last performance review.
  12. When you delegate, you spend more time describing how to do the task than discussing what needs to be accomplished.
  13. You have each of your employee's cell phone numbers and text them often outside work hours.
  14. You require weekly and monthly activity reports from your employees.
  15. You hold frequent post-mortem meetings to second-guess every decision and action taken.
  16. Your employees never take any initiative or come up with new ideas. You need to do their thinking for them.
  17. You measure and monitor everything. Your motto could be, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
  18. You never allow your employees to attend meetings for you.
  19. You need to know what your employees are doing at all times. You have access to their calendars so that you can keep track of them.
  20. You have high turnover and low employee engagement scores. When you do find a rare high performer, they quickly find another opportunity.

You Micromanagement Score

10 or more: You are a stone-cold micromanager. You refuse to let go and trust your employees. You need to change your ways, or you’ll be doomed to a career full of frustration, burnout, and missed promotional opportunities. Talk it over with your boss, someone in human resources, a trusted peer, or an executive coach. There is hope for you, but you have to face the issue and want to change.

5 to 9: You are a borderline micromanager. Hopefully, your micromanaging ways are situational and temporary. For example, maybe you have a lot of new employees on the team. Go back and examine the questions you answered “yes” to and ask yourself if this behavior is really necessary. Set a goal to eliminate one item at a time until you are under five.

4 to 1: You’re probably not a micromanager. Still, it’s worth going back and examining the questions you answered “yes” to. Ask your employees for honest feedback. Talk to a few managers that you really admire to get their perspective. You may be surprised by the positive impact of eliminating even one or two of these micromanaging habits.

None: Congratulations! You are an empowering leader who knows how to hire and develop great people and then turn them loose. Your employees must love you, your boss must be impressed, and you probably have no problem maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Please make yourself available to any of those micromanagers that come to you for advice.

When You're a Micromanager

Most micromanagers aren't aware that they're doing it. They may take pride in “running a tight ship” or gladly proclaim that “the buck stops here.” They may feel they're giving their employees direction and support. They may not really trust their employees and hope to protect them from screwing up. They may simply equate good management with the above behaviors.

In any case, micromanagement leads to miserable employees and lower productivity. It stunts the growth of every employee and manager, and it leads to poor long-term performance and the loss of good talent.

Don't give up hope, though, if you see yourself in any of the micromanaging behaviors described above. Awareness of the problem is the first step toward improvement.