When it comes to leadership, just about the only thing people can agree on is that no one likes micromanagement. By definition, micromanaging means to control a person or project at every level. At its core, however, it’s a sign of distrust or inability to let go. If you’re in a management role, you probably think you never micromanage, and yet, it happens every day in offices all over the world. In fact, around 80% of workers have experienced being micromanaged during their career, and it’s the top cause of turnover. Much of this micromanagement is the result of the challenges of globalization and the increased use of remote workers, where managers feel they need to constantly check in on projects.
You may have the best intentions as a manager, but we all make mistakes—and sometimes, those mistakes can include being too controlling. So are you micromanaging your team without knowing it? Look for these warning signs, and work your way back to see if the problems may be related to…you.
1. You’re Absolutely Swamped with Work
Think about your work environment. Are you busy all the time? Does it constantly feel like you’re being sucked underwater? While it’s common to be busy as a manager, you also have to consider whether you’re taking on a lot more of your employees’ work than you should. If you feel they’re not completing a task correctly, do you take it on yourself? Are you reluctant to delegate? This becomes an issue of not trusting your team to do the work the “right” way—a clear sign of micromanagement.
2. You’re Noticing a Lot of Absenteeism
How many sick days do your employees take? If it’s more than other departments, or you’ve been noticing an uptick recently, start thinking about your own management style. Your employees may be feeling disengaged because they feel smothered. Low morale is one of the first signs something is wrong in your office, and it’s important to find out if micromanagement is the cause.
3. Projects Take Longer Than They Should
Most of the time, if you give your team a deadline to finish a project, they’ll finish it in time (as long as the deadline is reasonable). However, if you’re constantly criticizing, questioning, and getting involved with the process, you could be slowing down the project. If you find yourself involved too deeply in projects that are better left to your team, you might be micromanaging.
4. You Find Yourself Criticizing Constantly
Criticism of your employees can be healthy, when it’s constructive and helps them grow and do better work. However, if you find yourself criticizing the work and attitudes of your team (even if it’s just in your head), you might be simply upset that they’re not taking the same approach you would.
5. You Spend a Lot of Time Going Over Others’ Work
You know you have a good group of people working for you, and yet, you spend so much of your day going over their work, looking for errors. If so, it might mean you have a hard time letting go and trusting your team to reach the goals you’ve set for them.
6. You’re Holding a Lot of Meetings
Do you feel an overwhelming need to “check in” with your team members on a regular basis? Checking in with your team is an important part of being a good coach and leader, yet it’s easy to overdo it. If you’re holding unnecessary meetings and asking for status updates every hour, there could be a big problem. In addition to be irritating to employees, too many meetings can massively cut into productivity.
7. You Can’t Seem to Take a Vacation
If you spent your last “vacation” glued to your phone and laptop in an Orlando hotel, it could be a sign you’re a micromanager. You can’t bear the thought of leaving your team, because you don’t trust them to take care of things while you’re gone.
8. You’re Afraid of Failure
At the root of micromanagement is typically a fear of failure. Your team reflects on you as a manager, and you’re afraid that if you give them a little breathing room, they might let you down. Of course, you want your team to succeed and help fuel business growth, but if you’re too afraid of failure, you’ll never take the risk of delegating and leaving some of the work in the capable hands of your employees.
If you think you might be micromanaging your team, don’t beat yourself up. Everyone wants to do a good job, and it’s a common trap to fall into. Once you know you’re prone to micromanagement, however, it’s important to start making changes right away. Letting go and trusting your team to take care of their work with a minimal amount of supervision isn’t easy, but it’s essential for developing respect, productivity, and engagement in the workplace.