10 Signs You're a Micromanager (And How to Reform Yourself)

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A keen attention to detail is necessary when analyzing critical reports, drafting budgets, or ensuring tasks are completed on schedule.

But there is a big difference between being an involved manager and one who sticks his or her nose in everybody’s business.

Micromanaging may boost productivity in the short-term, but over the long haul it engenders employee hostility, compromises efficiency, and dries up the creativity well. Micromanagement is a leading cause of employee turnover, with nearly 80 percent of workers reporting run-ins with overbearing supervisors at some point in their work lives, according to a study by Harry E. Chambers, president of the management and leadership development firm Trinity Solutions in Atlanta.

Still unconvinced? (Overzealous bosses rarely see themselves as contributing to the problem). Here are the top 10 signs you’re a micromanager:

1. You believe that you’re smarter, faster, and more skilled than the people who work for you. You think you possess the highest quality standards, perform tasks seamlessly, and never miss a deadline.

2. You’re always swamped at work because you don’t delegate appropriately. Delegation is a key management skill. Your version of delegating involves hoarding all the creative, “important” work for yourself, while doling out the easy, boring scraps to your subordinates.

3. You’re the textbook hoverer. You need to know where your employees are and what they are doing at each moment of the work day.

4. You regularly call the office “just to check in.” You call twice a day while you’re away, even if you’re confined to bed with a 101-degree fever or sunning on a beach in Puerto Vallarta.

5. When assigning tasks, you dictate the “how.” Instead of allowing your employees to figure out how to execute a project, you set the terms.

6. You require a stream of needless reports. You inspect your employees’ work at multiple stages of the process, clogging the pipeline and causing project delays. You are overly critical, pointing out the smallest of mistakes as a “learning exercise.” At the first sign of trouble, you snatch the task away from the employee and do it yourself.

7. You frequently assert your authority – because you can. You’re hooked on controlling others. Deep down, you’re afraid of failure.

8. Your staff is waiting on pins and needles for your approval. Your workers appear timid, tentative, and paralyzed when performing even the most mundane tasks. That’s because you get irritated when they make decisions without consulting you first.

9. People are always making up excuses to avoid meeting with you. They’re terrified of your red pen.

10. Your employees tell you you’re a micromanager.

Letting Go

Careful scrutiny isn’t always a bad thing. Work conditions often demand it, such as when a new product launches, your customers are complaining, or projects languish on certain employees’ desks.

In most cases, however, effective managers give employees clearly demarcated realms of autonomy and trust their abilities. They communicate clear, specific, time-sensitive expectations, allowing employees multiple paths to successfully complete a project.

After all, employees can’t grow into a functioning team if they can’t make decisions and deal with the consequences.

Looking to reform your micromanaging ways? Try these tips:

  • Tune in to your own behavior. Acknowledging a tendency to strong-arm employees is a productive first step.
  • Tell a mentor or a close friend that you’re trying to change your management style and ask for ongoing feedback. This will keep you accountable.
  • Start off with small tasks. Tell your employees what to do without giving them step-by-step instructions, remaining available for any questions that might pop up.
  • Practice listening to pick up special challenges or insights from employees. Be mindful of company objectives; suppressing employee initiative can lead to a stagnant business environment.
  • Gain more trust among employees by investing in them personally. Set them up to succeed by supporting their efforts. Remember, it’s their job, not yours.
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