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How to Handle Micromanagement in the Workplace

Workplace micromanagement tends to negatively impact a person’s mental health and wellbeing.

Micromanagement is a management style in which a manager closely observes, controls, and/or reminds the work of their subordinates or employees (Wikipedia). Rather than telling an employee what tasks need to be accomplished and by when, a micromanager will watch the employee’s actions closely and provide frequent instruction and criticism regarding the employee’s work and processes (Investopedia).

From not providing freedom and trust in the workplace to creating stress and anxiety for employees, micromanagement has a number of negative effects. In fact, micromanagement can be detrimental to employee health and self-image. Excessive micromanagement can make an employee feel incompetent, reducing creativity and initiative, and negatively affecting employee confidence. Studies show that micromanagement negatively impacts employee mental health, creating unhealthy anxiety and resulting in poor performance (Vivien Roggero). According to Deskbird, “Micromanagement contributes to the development of a toxic work environment. Signs of a toxic workplace include a lack of initiative, being scared of taking action, a poor level of trust and recognition.”

Micromanagement is highly common. A LinkedIn study showed that nearly 80% of employees reported being micromanaged at some point in their career. But why do some people micromanage?

Not all who micromanage do it for negative reasons. A person may be micromanaging due to lack of trust in their employees, previous experience with incompetent staff, or having been raised in a time period where this style of management was common. “People may micromanage for a number of reasons and may not even realise they’re doing it,” says Leah Lambart, career coach at Relaunch Me. A person may be micromanaging because they feel that is the way to get the job done and doesn’t know better. Coursera says that a person might micromanage “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, the two main reasons managers micromanage are that they want to feel more connected with lower-level workers and they feel more comfortable doing their old job, rather than overseeing employees who now do that job.

To prevent micromanagement, it’s important to build trust, increase communication, and suggest an accountability system (Indeed). You might suggest a different management style or gift your manager a book on better leadership styles to help them realize that their management style is unwholesome.

When presented with a task or project where a manager tries to micromanage you, respond tactfully. You might say, “How about I complete this task? If the results are different from what you want, we can go over it again. This will help me understand your preferences and also free up your time for more important work.”

If the micromanagement is excessive and you are unable to cope with it, then it’s important to request change. You might address the micromanagement and suggest a different leadership style or request a change of management. At the extreme level, if the situation is becoming toxic or unbearable, you might quit the company and change your job completely.

For managers and business owners, it’s important to analyze their management style. If they are bending toward micromanagement or don’t trust employees to do the job independently, they should ask themselves why that is so. If they have hired incompetent or inexperienced staff, then they should consider training them or hiring more experienced staff. If on the other hand, it’s because they are too controlling or can’t let go of their work, then the manager/business owner themselves need to take up some management / leadership training in order to be able to give room and independence to their staff.


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Written by Kokab Rahman  
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