What Is a Micromanager? (With Advantages and Disadvantages)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 8 October 2022 | Published 23 July 2021

Updated 8 October 2022

Published 23 July 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.

While micromanagers usually have the best of intentions, their behaviour can impact team morale and performance. It can also slow down productivity because a manager doesn't fully trust their team to perform their jobs. Recognising whether you're micromanaging your team requires an honest and thoughtful self-assessment of your own behaviour. In this article, we answer the question "what is a micromanager" and explore what this management style entails.

Related: 10 Types of Leadership Styles

What is a micromanager?

When determining what a micromanager is, know that a micromanager is a manager who closely observes the work of their team members. They often have good intentions and micromanage to improve the performance of everyone on the team. What they may not realise is that their behavioural tendencies can impact their team's ability to develop their own strong leadership behaviours.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

Is it good to be a micromanager?

While certain characteristics of a micromanager can benefit both companies and the employees who work at them, they can also lead to some unintended consequences. As a manager, it's important to give your team members support and guidance, while also giving them enough freedom to figure out things on their own. When determining if it's good to be a micromanager, it's important to assess the advantages and disadvantages of this management style:

Advantages

Here are some positive characteristics of micromanagers:

Encourages team members to do better

Since micromanagers have high expectations, this may inspire their team members to produce better work. By overseeing their employees' tasks, they can assess their areas of strength and figure out what people can improve. Those with this management style often offer advice and mentorship to employees, which can lead to positive results for employees who need extra attention.

Related: Personality Colours and Leadership: Types and How-to Guide

Cares about involvement with the team

By having a very hands-on leadership style, your employees are more likely to perform the tasks as you want them done. This can even be a necessary leadership approach with employees who prefer direction in their work. Micromanagers know their people and the work they do, and often have exceptional communication skills to provide guidance and ensure outstanding results.

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Adds value to any department

Any micromanager generally goes over every detail, investigating a situation until they discover the cause of a problem. Then, they take whatever steps that are necessary to resolve the problem. Good micromanagers can be an asset to any department, helping their team members overcome obstacles and avoid them in the future.

Understands who can handle certain work

Micromanagers usually know their team members better than anyone and when they recognise that work is to be delegated, they know exactly who can handle the work they're assigning. In many cases, the manager has also done the tasks before themselves, which means they know who has the skills and abilities to see the task through to the end, successfully. Micromanagers may even check in on employees who are trying tasks for the first time, giving them the support they require to do the work correctly.

Develops empathy naturally

Since they usually know the work that's involved to get a task done, they can successfully empathise with other people. They usually understand the strengths, weaknesses and skills of others. Using this understanding, they may know when to expect more of a person and when they can give them extra support.

Related: Reasons Why Empathy Matters in Leadership (With How-to Guide)

Disadvantages

Here's a look at some downsides of micromanagers:

Decreases level of productivity

Micromanagers spend a significant portion of their time overseeing the work of others, time that could be spent on more productive endeavours, such as developing systems or creating new processes. Micromanagers often inundate themselves with details that their team members are often capable of handling independently. If they gave their team members more independence, they may see an increase in productivity in their department.

Reduces job satisfaction

Employees can thrive in a work environment where their manager trusts that they can do quality work, which may not be evident when working with a micromanager. When employees feel that their manager is closely overseeing their work, this can lead to less job satisfaction and higher turnover rates. Alternatively, when employees feel their manager gives them an appropriate amount of freedom, they may feel happier.

Related: What Is Job Satisfaction? Factors, Benefits, How to Improve

Lowers creativity and efficiency

Micromanagers often give specific directions about the way employees do their tasks. While this can work well with new employees or those who prefer extra guidance, it can also limit an employee's ability to develop new, efficient and creative ways of performing the tasks associated with their roles. Employees might also feel a lesser sense of accomplishment, preventing them from finding better ways to do their jobs.

Related: What Is Mindful Leadership? (Plus Characteristics)

Reduces employee motivation

When employees feel that their manager is a part of every step of a project, they may feel less motivated to try things on their own. Rather than micromanaging, a manager can encourage their employees to develop new skills. This often occurs by giving them space to learn rather than closely supervising them.

Related: How to Motivate Employees: 12 Effective Ways to Boost Morale

What are the signs of a micromanager?

Here are some common signs of a micromanager:

  • Desires to do most of the work: rather than delegating tasks to their team members, a micromanager takes it upon themselves to do this work. This may be due to them feeling like they have more control over a task and trust themselves to do it better.

  • Increases turnover rate of employees: when employees enjoy working with their manager, they may stay with the company longer. When they feel that their manager is making it challenging to do their work, they may seek employment elsewhere.

  • Limits employee participation: a good manager encourages their team members to give input and help their team members. Those who micromanage may ensure that the company uses their own ideas, keeping employees out of major business decisions or projects.

  • Feels their decision is best: quality leaders gain input from their team members, trying to make a decision that benefits the entire team. A manager with micromanaging tendencies may make decisions solely on their own, getting little feedback from others.

  • Finds it challenging to create boundaries: since micromanagers tend to feel very committed to their work, they may make themselves available at all hours of the day. This may make their team members feel like they also have to be available outside the stipulated working hours.

  • Focuses on unimportant details: rather than spending their time on what's important, a micromanager may get distracted by the insignificant details of a project or task. This can lead to reduced productivity and more obstacles for their team members.

  • Lacks trust in employees' abilities: a micromanager wants to ensure that their team is delivering excellent work, which may result in them closely overseeing what their team members do. Employees typically thrive and perform well in their work when their managers trust their capabilities.

  • Consistently works overtime: in order to have a healthy work-life balance, it's important to leave the office at a reasonable time. A micromanager may feel like they have to show up to work early and stay late on a regular basis.

  • Monitors and measures everything: while it's important to measure the progress of your team, a micromanager may assess things that are unnecessary. Instead, managers can have employees report their progress while giving them enough freedom to have time to be productive.

  • Discourages employees to think independently: instead of motivating employees to be independent and confident, a micromanager may cause them to second-guess themselves. If you want to be a good manager, incentivise employees to work under less guidance.

  • Redoes the work of others: since a micromanager tends to have high expectations, they may take it upon themselves to edit and redo the work of their team members. This leads to less productivity and gives employees fewer chances to learn through their own mistakes or successes.

Related: Tips for Better Work-Life Balance

What is an example of micromanaging?

There are many situations where a manager can micromanage their team members. For instance, if an employee expresses their desire to take on additional tasks, a micromanager may require the employee to go through many obstacles to prove they are competent to do advanced work. A good manager would instead discuss their expectations with this employee and trust that the employee would deliver on their promises. If not, a good manager would come up with a plan to help their employee succeed, while a micromanager might demote them.

Related: Effective Leadership: Definition and How to Apply It

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