Micromanagement: The Dangers of Over-Management

Have you been there with that one toxic boss that doesn’t trust anyone to do anything right without their direct (and usually) bothersome oversight? Many of us have, and it can undermine our individual confidence and kill morale within a team. Micromanagement is certain death for any organization. 

What is Micromanagement?

Micromanagement is an antiquated management style where a manager controls and closely watches the work done by subordinates. Micromanagement in the workplace can appear in many ugly ways, including complete dictation of how to do a task and demanding constant check-ins. Micromanagers may also place strict deadlines on employees. Micromanagement is 100% about control and the manager’s helplessness in achieving the best outcomes. This management style can be detrimental to both the manager and the employees. Nobody likes being micromanaged at work. 

Micromanagement Negative Effects

The Dangers of Micromanagement

Lack of Autonomy & Decreased Morale

Micromanagement creates a hostile work environment. Any negativity in the workplace is bound to decrease morale in the team. Employees feel that they are not trusted or valued, and that can lead to relentless questioning and second-guessing.  

I have seen it happen, where heavily micromanaged employees eventually give up. They become completely disengaged, and since their managers are calling all the shots, they see no point in trying to please a person who can’t be appeased. There are many micromanaging examples out there. 

A friend who works in People Ops recently hired a CFO for her organization. They were a small-scaling company, and the CEO allegedly had a background in finance, so he preferred to run the department himself. Of course, anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows a CEO can’t be a CEO and a CFO. That’s asking one person to be two people; nothing will ever get done with that structure. Hiring an experienced CFO should have been great for my friend’s company, but it wasn’t. The CFO could not let go of the Finance Department and railroaded the new CFO from day one. The CEO continued to destroy the CFO’s work verbally and insisted that he do things the way the CEO had always done them. 

Amusingly, the CEO expressed to my friend that he feared the new CFO was only using the company for a title bump and would move on to a new company quickly. I find no more fantastic response to that statement than the very professional phrase, “lol, duh.” Typically, when employees have reached the C-Suite, they expect autonomy. They hope to be trusted with their expertise to help the organization grow to new heights. Instead, the CEO was stifling everything that made the CFO great. I would be surprised if that CFO is still working at that company. Greener pastures abound. 

Reduced Productivity

Micromanagement reduces productivity because it essentially holds employees hostage. Like my example of the newly hired CFO, constant supervision and lack of trust will stifle the most fantastic ideas and teach employees to keep everything to themselves. The reduced motivation will eventually become apparent to the organization even if the manager is happy that their instructions are followed carefully. 

There is a bottleneck in the workflow because micromanagement relies on such close supervision by a supervisor. The pace of work is automatically slowed down when you add any extra step, let alone a useless one. The employee has to wait around for their boss to give the project the okay before the employee can move on to anything else. Some managers create bottlenecks at every step of the process. How can anything get done with this level of oversight and control? 

Most importantly (and lean in really close, micromanagers, I don’t want you to miss this), MICROMANAGERS ARE WASTING THEIR OWN TIME. I assume managers, especially Director or C-Suite level managers, have a lot of work to do! How are they getting any of their work done if they are constantly supervising their employee’s work? I asked my friend what her CEO’s responsibilities and duties were. She was surprised that she couldn’t come up with a single answer, but I wasn’t. I knew that her CEO was wasting time, both his time and his employees’ time. He didn’t have the bandwidth to act like an actual CEO because he spent all his time correcting mistakes, answering questions, and checking up on people. What a waste. 


Increased Stress

Micromanagement is stressful for both the supervisor and their employees. Overwhelm is a real problem for managers who must constantly monitor and control their subordinates. Employees will feel pressured to meet the manager’s expectations and potentially unrealistic deadlines. 

Employees who feel they are perpetually monitored can become fearful and less willing to take risks or share their ideas. Workers feel watched and judged under intense scrutiny. Team members will also feel stressed if they perceive a need to walk on eggshells around their managers. Employees can no longer rely on organizational psychological safety when any mistake or misstep may lead to scrutiny and criticism. This culture of fear directly results from over-management.  Micromanagement stifles creativity and growth. 

To make matters worse, micromanaging bosses are often guilty of overloading their employees with work. They don’t trust their employees to set their own reasonable deadlines, so they come up with deadlines and operate under the assumption that the employee can meet those deadlines. Micromanagers push employees to produce more and more in an unhealthy way. Heavy workloads and unrealistic expectations lead to burnout, and burnout could lead to a mass exodus. 

    Micromanagement Increases Stress

    Why Do Employers Micromanage?

    Employers micromanage for many reasons: 

    • Micromanaging employers don’t trust their employees. They don’t trust that workers will do their jobs effectively or accurately without their constant supervision. 
    • They are control freaks! They must exert power over their employees to feel they will do things right. 
    • The stakes are too high. Unless your company is owned solely by the CEO, even your boss has a boss they need to answer to. If your manager feels that they can’t afford a single misstep in a project, they may become temporary micromanagers.
    • Employers have not provided adequate training to their employees. If an employee can’t feel confident in their job, micromanagement might seem like the only option.
    • Fear of failure could lead your boss to feel they need to be involved in every little aspect of every little project to ensure success. 
    • Believe it or not, this is a personal preference for some people. Some employers prefer to micromanage because they just do! There is no good explanation for this. When stuck with a manager like this, the best thing to do is search for other opportunities. Managers like this often can’t or won’t change.
    • Most often, the reason is simple insecurity. Managers feel insecure about their abilities, so they micromanage to prove their worth. 

    Employers have different motivations for micromanaging their employees. These micromanagers need to know that this management style can harm their organization’s corporate culture. Morale, motivation, and productivity will all suffer if micromanagement is tolerated or encouraged. 

    Tips for Managers to Overcome Micromanagement

    1. Communication. Find effective ways to communicate regularly without becoming an overbearing nuisance. Your job is to ensure everyone is on the same page so that micromanagement never becomes necessary. (PS. It’s never actually necessary if you do your job right.)
    2. Trust. Trust your employees to do their jobs. Would you have hired them to do the job if you didn’t believe they could handle their tasks? If you struggle with trusting an employee, it is your responsibility as the manager to find ways to build trust. 
    3. Provide clear and reasonable expectations. Employees should have transparent goals, reasonable timelines, and task expectations. You want your employees to experience autonomy, and this is the only way that can happen.
    4. Give your employees the freedom to make choices. You must create a culture of autonomy to get outstanding results from your employees. 
    5. Learn to delegate. Give your employees a chance to take ownership of their work. This could help build confidence and trust.
    6. Supply ample training. Learning and development are something I am passionate about, and if you’re a good manager, you are too. Identify opportunities for learning and growth in your employees and offer training that supports them. 
    7. Be supportive. Ensure you make yourself available to your employees for feedback and support. Employees need to feel safe asking for your help and guidance when necessary.

    If you’re a micromanager, fear not. By reading this article, you have taken the first step in changing your ways. Employers only need to apply self-awareness to their management techniques and then continuously work on refining them. Now there’s a time investment worthy of a great company. You can do it. I believe in you; if you try and fail, try again. If you’re still struggling, email me so I can give you some personalized advice on improving. 

    Micromanagement Coping Tips

    Tips for Employees to Cope With Micromanagement

    1. Keep calm and carry on. It can be challenging, but the best thing you can do in this situation is to remain composed. Micromanagement is not a reflection of your capabilities or value as an employee. Remember, micromanagement is likely a reflection of your boss’s insecurities, and that’s it. 
    2. Maintain perspective. Remember the larger goals you’re working towards. This may help you to stay focused and motivated.
    3. Concentrate on your strengths. What are you good at? Forget about what your micromanaging boss says. You know yourself best. Focusing on your strengths will help you retain your confidence.
    4. Communication is key. Micromanagers are typically terrible worrywarts. Their anxiety would make you quake in your boots! They need constant reassurance, and it may be best to lean into their needs a little to ensure that you maintain your sanity. Tell your manager about your workload and progress, and be upfront about any blockers you face. This could help create a collaborative relationship that allows you and your boss to sleep better at night.
    5. Take the initiative. Be proactive about getting your work done and seeking feedback. This will help show your micromanager that you are competent. 
    6. Take ownership. You should constantly look for opportunities to improve your performance. 
    7. Ask for help. I get it. Dealing with a micromanaging control freak feels like it’s draining your life force. If you’re at the point where you are considering leaving your job, it’s time to try and find a little support. Find a colleague or a mentor you can trust and ask for perspective and help. 

    If all else fails, you can always turn to human resources for help handling a micromanager. I understand that HR isn’t created equal among all organizations and that some People Ops departments are more effective and helpful than others. But if you’ve exhausted all other options, HR might be your last chance at salvaging the situation. 

    The Gender Bias in Micromanagement

    Studies have shown that women are more likely to be micromanaged than their male counterparts in the workplace. Many factors are likely at play here, but unconscious bias and dangerous stereotypes are usually the culprits. Additionally, women typically hold positions with less power and persuasion over decision-making. 

    Women are more likely to receive negative feedback and be given less autonomy. We are more likely to be interrupted, talked over in meetings, and have our ideas stolen from under us with little to no credit. Often, women don’t feel trusted or respected in their roles, and adding micromanagement to the mix is a lethal combination for resignation or even lawsuits if you’re not careful. 

    It’s never too late to change a company culture! Start by understanding that your organization can be more inclusive and you can provide opportunities for advancement and decision-making. And for goodness sake, get a life and stop micromanaging employees.  

    Remember to check back regularly here at The Girlboss Burnbook. You never know what corporate BS I might unearth next. Stay tuned! 




    Founder of Girlboss Burnbook

    Hey there! I’m Jenna, the founder of The Girlboss Burnbook. My mission is to support women feeling isolated in their leadership roles. After leaving the corporate world, I realized many women face the same struggles I did. I wanted to create a platform where we could share our stories and empower each other.

    At The Girlboss Burnbook, you’ll find helpful content. If you resonate with it, please reach out and share your thoughts. I’m always looking for guest contributors to our blog. Let’s collaborate!

    Contact me at info@girlbossburnbook.com. I can’t wait to connect with you!