6 Characteristics of a Micromanager to Look For

How to identify and improve overbearing supervisors.

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Micromanager characteristics

No one likes being micromanaged. Ask anyone who has experienced it for a pet peeve when it comes to a manager and they’ll quickly rattle off a list of grievances longer than the average receipt from your local drug store.

Micromanagers may have good intentions, but in fact, more often than not they have negative consequences and enjoy their work less than if they adopted a different style. Micromanaging doesn’t help anyone make the most of their time, effort or the company’s money. Here are 6 characteristics of a micromanager to look for and to attempt to correct when you find it.

1. Unwilling to Delegate Tasks

Micromanagement is rooted in insecurity. Either the manager doesn’t believe they have value if they don’t have full control over everything someone does, or they are so entrenched in the view that how they do it is the right way. In either case, that insecurity does not allow them to delegate tasks to other people very well. They’ll feel the need to control, nitpick and even denigrate the efforts of others in order to overstate their own importance or emphasize their expertise.

2. Inability to Accept Failure and Innovate

Part of the insecurity stems from a fear of failure. Innovation often requires failure as it often fuels the learning process that advances innovation. You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “don’t be afraid to fail” said by tech entrepreneurs and motivational speakers alike, but it’s fallen on deaf ears for these managers. For them, failure requires their intervention and input as a way to ensure that it doesn’t happen again as opposed to accepting it and encouraging others and the team to learn from their mistakes, viewing the failure as what the video below refers to as a “milestone on the path to success.”


3. Constantly Need to Be Updated

Whether it’s in the form of daily reports or constant stand ups and meetings about meetings, micromanagers fail to give people the necessary space to develop their own interpersonal styles and grow frustrated when caught off guard. Employees who experience this often report a feeling that the reports are their actual job and that they barely have time to do what they see as their core function due to always having to update a spreadsheet.

4. Dismissive of Feedback

Feedback often comes with the expectation of an action by the person it is delivered to. As a result, micromanagers, who tend to be controlling and searching for weakness in the performance of others, don’t like it. You’ll hear them brand their way of doing things as the right way and as a result, they rarely have an interest in changing what they view as what needs to be done. But this also stems from the insecurity that builds due to the pressure they put themselves under.

5. Inability to See the Big Picture

In obsessing over small details and the finer points of other people’s work, micromanagers lack the ability to pull back and see how their actions impact both the morale of the team and their ability to support broader business goals. Often times, they allow the tasks they become enamored with the skew their vision of what needs to be done, with the amount of effort required to satisfy their particular tastes far outweighing the amount of benefit to the business or the team.


6. Fail to Share Knowledge or Teach Skills

One of the most disappointing aspects of micromanagers is their unfulfilled potential. While they’re too busy worrying about whether the team has updated a report or has amended all of their edits into a document, they could be involved in higher level discussions or decision making processes that are far more important to their teams or superiors in the organizational hierarchy. Additionally, their insecurity means that sharing their knowledge or improving the skills of their direct reports might mean they aren’t needed anymore. This style of management will leave employees embittered, disengaged and frustrated.  

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