Organizational Wellness

How to Deal With a Micromanager

Jul 26, 2023
Last Updated May 23, 2024

There’s an old saying: “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” It sounds self-empowering. It presents an image of a capable loner, battle-hardened and ready to take on the world with nothing but their own two hands. 

It’s also an ineffective way to manage a team.  
Teamwork exists for a reason. It boosts productivity and creativity, allowing people to get more work done and find novel solutions. But this only happens when the team is truly working together. When the team leader loses sight of the value of teamwork, trying to do it all themselves, they’re confusing authentic leadership with control. And that’s how you get micromanagers.

Let’s take a look at micromanagement in all of its frustrating glory, and how HR managers can help the micromanagers in their organization cut the strings that are tying up productivity.


What Is a Micromanager?

A micromanager is a type of leader or manager who regularly involves themselves in the basic tasks of their subordinates. These kinds of managers keep an uncomfortably close watch on team members, obsessively track every inch of progress, and insert themselves into processes where they are not needed. As a result, they end up hindering their workforce from efficiently pursuing team goals.

It’s a classic “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation, except the head cook has locked the other cooks in the pantry and insists on adding unwanted ingredients to all the dishes. 

Micromanagement boils down to a lack of trust. The micromanager is afraid that if they aren’t directly involved in every task then it won’t be performed correctly and the results will suffer. But it is the antithesis of a well-oiled team. 

The Dangers of Micromanagement

Even if it comes from a place of concern, micromanagement can damage a team. By trying to exert control over every detail, managers create a stifling work environment that limits creativity, hinders productivity, and damages employee engagement, among other issues. Here are some of the most salient dangers of micromanagement. 

Wasted Costs

Most businesses have an extensive (and expensive) set of hiring and onboarding processes. In fact, SHRM reports that the total cost of recruiting, training, and outfitting new talent averages out to $4,700 per hire, and many employers believe that the actual cost may be three to four times the position's annual salary. After investing so much time and money in bringing someone on board and showing them how to do their job, managers who then spend all of their time checking, double checking, and doing their employees’ work completely invalidate that investment.


If micromanagement is bad for small teams, just imagine how disastrous it becomes when those teams start to grow. As more members and more projects get added to the unit, it creates a massive productivity bottleneck. A micromanager doing the work of four people isn’t good — a micromanager doing the work of 20 people isn’t even remotely possible. Fifty-five percent of employees who have worked under a micromanager report that it ruined team productivity. 

Increased Job Stress

Have you ever had to perform a difficult task while someone was looking over your shoulder? Micromanagement takes that pressure and applies it to the entire workday, everyday. Stripping away an employee’s autonomy can make their confidence evaporate. Creativity and innovation become liabilities as they start to fear any deviation from the manager’s set guidelines. It’s nerve wracking, and it can have a major detrimental effect on a person’s mental health. And this applies to the micromanagers themselves, who are  extremely likely to suffer from burnout. (After all, they’re the ones who are trying to be everywhere at once.)

Lower Employee Engagement

Ownership, autonomy, confidence: Micromanagement can squash all of these desirable employee attributes. Seventy percent of the variance in an employee’s engagement is determined exclusively by their manager, according to Gallup, and it's only natural for the employee to pull back when a manager expresses a lack of confidence in their abilities. Low employee engagement costs companies an estimated $7.8 trillion in lost global productivity in 2022, Gallup estimates, meaning micromanagement can drag on the company’s bottom line. 

Decreased Retention

Tied to that decreased engagement is one of micromanagement’s other fallouts: turnover. Thirty-six percent of employees who have worked under micromanagers have quit their jobs as a result. In a world where 91% percent of HR leaders are concerned about employee turnover, this can exacerbate an already major issue for organizations. When valuable team members are faced with a stressful, unproductive, unscalable, untrusting work environment, the chances increase that they will take their talents elsewhere.

Signs of Micromanagement

How can HR managers recognize and address micromanagement in their company before it turns into a productivity and morale drag? By knowing the classic signs. 

If you have a manager in your organization who meets some or all of the following criteria, you may have a micromanager on your hands. 

  • Refuses to delegate
  • Demands constant project and team updates
  • Is involved in all or most of the employee work
  • Is generally unsatisfied with employee results
  • Gets upset when employees exercise autonomy in decision making
  • Fixates on minor details
  • Personally revisits and ‘corrects’ employee work
  • Obsessively monitors employee work and schedules
  • Asks to be included in all team communications
  • Has difficulty retaining team members

Managing a Micromanager (without Micromanaging)

The good news is micromanagers are often motivated by a positive desire to improve the business. If they didn’t care about the quality of their team’s work they likely wouldn’t bother being so involved! This is helpful because it means you’re working with a highly engaged employee. If you can help the micromanager see that their control is hindering progress rather than promoting it, they may be more open to making changes.

Here are several micromanagement-busting strategies that have been shown to help micromanagers take a much-needed step back:

Foster Awareness

Sometimes all it takes to reform a micromanager is to make them aware of their habits.  You can share with them the list above, encouraging them to pause throughout their workday to reflect on how they might be modeling those behaviors. Helping them start to see their own micromanagement in action can lay the foundation for change and help them build new habits.

Implement Time-Bound Updates

Work with micromanagers to establish clear deadlines for each stage of assigned projects they can use within their team. They can then schedule brief meetings after each deadline to receive updates on the work. This practice provides an opportunity for micromanagers to stay informed without the need for constant, intrusive supervision. It promotes accountability and gives team members a chance to showcase their progress and capabilities.

Set Realistic Expectations

Work with micromanagers to establish a few key metrics that define success for projects, allowing them to focus on the essential outcomes rather than getting involved in every minute detail. Encourage them to trust their team members' expertise and to delegate tasks where possible, clarifying the "what" that needs to be accomplished while leaving the "how" up to their team’s discretion.

Encourage Open Communication

Managerial assistance isn’t always a bad thing. Experienced managers likely have valuable insights for optimizing the team’s processes and can help with specific employee tasks. But those insights should be shared in a supportive environment and when the team member is most receptive. You can emphasize the importance of open-door policies and communication channels so that team members can seek guidance when needed. This approach helps build trust, encourages autonomy, and strengthens the manager-employee relationship.

Build a Workplace that Supports Team Member Success

Micromanagers typically want what’s best for their team and their company, even if their approach isn’t the best way to reach their goals. As an HR professional, you can play a powerful role in teaching them to trust their people, collaborating and delegating strategically. Helping micromanagers transform their approach requires patience and a focus on long-term behavioral change, but it’s worth the effort. Because at the end of the day, employees perform best when they’re allowed to perform autonomously… no strings attached. 

At the heart of an autonomous workplace is a desire to create a work environment that supports the energy and mental health of your team. Implementing the right wellbeing programs is another way to support your team and 100% of HR leaders say wellness programs are important to employee satisfaction.

Interested in putting the employee experience first? Contact a Wellbeing Specialist today, and build an environment where every team member can truly shine. 

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!




Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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