I’m an IT manager who likes to keep my hand in the
day-to-day activities of my staff. Recently a colleague told me I’m a
micromanager. I don’t consider myself one, but what are the signs and how do I
avoid micromanaging?


Your question brings to mind the old phrase: If you have to
ask, you already have a problem. Then the question is, “What is that problem?”

Micromanaging and managing are really the same thing.
They’re just viewed differently. Managers want to know what team members are doing
every minute of every day. Employees want to be left alone. This is an age-old

As a manager, your job is to get the most out of your
employees. You are paid to make the team productive and are evaluated on how
much work you can get out of your team. The variables are: how many hours your
team works; what they work on during those hours; and how fast they work. You
can affect these variables by inspecting their work, telling them what to do,
and motivating them. The fine art of management is to balance each of these.

Know the signs

What are the signs that you are micromanaging?

  • A
    strong sign is when someone tells you that you are micromanaging, of
    course. But why did you receive that comment? People are obviously talking
    about your management style. There are multiple possible causes for this,
    and they don’t necessarily mean you are micromanaging. There may be other
  • You
    could be inspecting peoples’ work more than the other managers. The team
    is griping to other managers because you are in fact micromanaging. In this
    scenario, you are not only micromanaging, but your team is not
    communicating with you. Why did they need to complain to another manager
    rather than speak to you directly?
  • It may
    be your inspection style. You may be inspecting to the same level as other
    managers, but they sell it better. They may be sticklers on the details,
    but appear to a have a more laissez faire style. Are you doing a good job
    of selling why the work needs to be inspected? The other manager may
    simply have a team that is more accepting of management direction. Some
    teams take direction well, while others bridle at the smallest suggestion.
  • What
    is the culture at your company? Every company has a median management
    style and typical activities that are inspected and tracked. Are you an
    outlier on what and how you inspect, or are you near the middle? If you
    are near the middle, then probably the answer lies either with your
    ability to sell the need for inspection, or the answer is your team
    doesn’t take direction well.

(Of course, you could be managing as you should be, and your
employees don’t like it. Anyone whose behavior is being modified will likely
grumble. If this is the case, your issue is that underachievers are hurting

Avoiding the trap

Let’s assume you conclude you are micromanaging. What do you
do about it? Make a thorough list of what you are inspecting and to what level.
You will likely find there are items on that list that are needlessly inspected
or that always pass muster.

The question then is really trust. Can you trust the team to
get the work done? Are they doing the right work? Are they on schedule? If the
answer to all of these is yes, then you should be spending your time managing
another group, and they don’t need you. Or the goals and milestones of the team
aren’t set high enough.

Realistically, teams need to be managed. The key is to
manage them on their weak points, not on everything. Our adage at Kforce is
“inspect what you expect.” In practice, that means everything is inspected, but
the focus is on the areas that need improvement.

Another concern with micromanaging is that you may be
getting in the way or doing the team’s work for them. You can and should expect
them to produce high-quality work and meet the scheduled commitments, but
remember to let them work.

Everyone deserves to be micromanaged to some extent, but a
good manager micromanages the right issues, not everything.

What are your experiences with
micromanagement, both as a manager and an employee? Post your comments
in the
discussion below. Peter will be reading the threads and is eager to
continue a dialogue on this topic.

We also want your follow-up
questions on this and other personnel management topics. Post them in
the discussion below or e-mail
them to us