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Don’t micromanage: How to prevent excessive control in your company


Managing people, by definition, means overseeing a team and their work. However, some leaders (intentionally or not) take this to the extreme.

Micromanagers excessively monitor and criticize their personnel’s performance. It’s counterproductive and damaging to employee morale. Take Joana Galvão, the cofounder of Gif Design Studios, for example. 

Falling into the trap of taking over staff’s work mid-project because of anxiety and a need for control, Galvão unintentionally caused her team to dwindle. Her employees grew frustrated, demanding concessions and leaving the firm.[1]

She has since learned to harness effective communication, empowering her team and driving results without being a micromanaging boss. 

If you notice a culture of toxic micromanagement seeping through your firm, it’s time to follow Galvão.

In this guide, we show you:

  • How to spot micromanagement in your company

  • The potential effects of leaving micromanagement unchecked

  • Ways to prevent this harmful culture from building further

Here’s what you need to know.

Micromanaging occurs when a manager or leader controls an employee’s work and schedule to the extreme.

Typical micromanaging behaviors include:

  • Interrupting employee projects to wrest control

  • Demanding input at every stage of a project

  • Counteracting staff decision-making

  • Retaining work rather than delegating it

  • Excessively monitoring employees during office hours

Micromanagers constantly apply their own “input” where it’s unnecessary. One of the effects of this is managers neglect their responsibilities, adding undue pressure on their workers.

It’s a phenomenon not confined purely to the physical office. Statistics show up to 20% of remote employees feel their remote managers are constantly checking in on their work. 

The same study further shows four out of 10 managers think remote staff could be more productive at home.

Why do people micromanage?

It’s easy to assume some leaders micromanage out of spite. However, much of this behavior occurs out of a need for control.

Some leaders might worry they’re “losing touch” with the workforce and their team. Some feel isolated and “out of the loop,” which might lead them to seek ways to ingratiate themselves into project work. 

Studies show up to 69% of managers need help learning to communicate more effectively with their workers.[2]

Sometimes, leaders feel they must wield authority to command respect and be listened to. Others worry their employees won’t deliver work to the desired or expected standard. 

Managers might feel their way is “best” and force it on their employees (which is micromanaging). Many leaders are overconfident in how they impact employees; 74% of leaders feel they inspire staff, while only 27% of workers agree.

pie chart showing leaders and employees views on micromanagement in practice

Is micromanagement bullying? Probably not. It’s more likely a result of ingrained behavior or toxic workplace culture that exacerbates it.

For example, if a manager must sign off on small details, this could lead to supervisors picking everything apart.

Altogether, these harmful behaviors lead to destructive environments that reduce morale and increase turnover.

Micromanaging examples

Many of us have experienced micromanaging before, but let’s look at some potential scenarios:

  1. Andy oversees Brianna’s project. Although Brianna should expect autonomy since her skill set fits the project’s needs, Andy regularly intervenes to monitor progress. Andy points out “mistakes” based on his preferences rather than the project’s goals. This behavior hurts Brianna’s confidence.

  2. Cathy recently allowed Dan to work remotely. Instead of giving Dan space to report on projects online, Cathy schedules frequent Zoom meetings and asks Dan to “jump on calls” midway through the working day. Cathy feels the need to press Dan for details through online channels because she can’t check in with him on-site.

  3. Erica consults Fay and Greg on their project and asks their opinions on how to move forward. Fay and Greg gladly offer advice and suggest how Erica could support them better. Erica listens to these suggestions but makes her own changes without consulting them first.

Micromanagement is less typical in remote working environments because supervisors have less opportunity (physically) to intervene with workers. 

A distributed workforce or one dependent on remote staffing must have self-management tools set up to ensure autonomy over projects. 

For example, TestGorilla’s workforce is fully distributed, and our company depends on remote working tools to help our team manage their own workloads.

Although micro-controlling is rarer in remote setups, remote workers in the US are among the most likely to report feeling micromanaged:

bar chart showing whether remote employees feel micromanaged


The answer isn’t necessarily to go hybrid or even fully remote. 

However, having digital project management tools might restrict the need to micromanage. It’s one of the most positive reasons for embracing remote working in the years ahead.

Micromanagement isn’t completely absent from remote working setups. But moving a culture of micromanaging to being fully remote is challenging. 

Preventing micromanagement at source is one of the most important remote practices to adopt during the transition – it just doesn’t translate.

Micromanaging is damaging for your culture, regardless of size, scale, or type of setup. Let’s explore how.

What are the effects of micromanaging in the workplace?

Micromanagement is demoralizing. 

Employees on the receiving end feel their bosses don’t value their input or skills – or outright don’t trust them. The resulting lack of confidence leads to a downturn in efficiency and the growth of toxic culture.

Marques Thomas, the founder of QuerySprout, claims micromanaging is a form of abuse, stating overmanagement impairs mental health.

Staff confident enough to stand up for themselves eventually leave a company if micromanagement frustrates them. Studies show employees who feel poorly valued by managers are 34% more likely to quit.[3]

However, this statistic doesn’t account for workers who don’t know how to deal with a micromanager in a healthy way.

Those who lack this confidence and a sense of value are at risk of developing low self-worth and could be at risk of impostor syndrome.

Although micromanagers may feel their interventions are for the good of the company and the services they provide, up to 55% of hires who feel they micromanaged witness a drop in productivity.[4] 

Staff who are overmanaged might feel:

  1. They can’t do anything right

  2. Restricted from working innovatively

  3. Their contributions are pointless

This phenomenon harms teamwork collaboration because of concern about team members’ skill sets and abilities. Also, teams feel obligated to meet the demands of their boss, which could be more restrictive than if they were allowed to be fully innovative.

Micromanaged staff aren’t relaxed enough to “be themselves” and create their best work, potentially leading to general workplace negativity and poor-quality deliverables. 

Vijay Paul is a confessed ex-micromanager who states his previous behavior led to a severe downturn in product quality, with clients noticing and making complaints.[5] 

Micromanaged workers don’t feel trusted. Their creativity stifles, and they start to feel burnout. It’s a vicious circle, too, since micromanagers feel the work never improves.

Remember not all leaders who allegedly micromanage display these traits. It’s important to take each case at face value and to work with the facts. However, micromanaging leads to:

  1. An unhappy workforce

  2. Frustrated clients

  3. Poor business health

  4. Increased employee absenteeism 

  5. Worsening turnover

The 10 signs of micromanagement

If you’re concerned about micromanaging culture already taking hold at your organization, here are some telltale signs you need to act soon:

Telltale sign


Managers can’t see the bigger picture

The management style focuses on minor details of projects and fails to produce high-value results

Leaders expect to be CC’d in all emails and conversations

Managers don’t trust their hires to communicate autonomously without their sign-off, resulting in constant emails and Slack channel piggybacking

There’s a sign-off culture

Every project step requires management approval, leading to slower delivery and poor-quality output

There’s little delegation

Workers are left idle, and managers are facing overwhelm because they don’t delegate tasks (or the culture exacerbates this)

Staff are confused by instructions

If even experienced personnel find management instructions confusing or obstructive, leaders could be “overwriting” details (intentionally or otherwise)

There’s little opportunity for team development

Management doesn’t believe in their staff’s skills or abilities, restricting their role agility and harming morale and self-confidence

Feedback is excessive

Employees’ work receives routine criticism with little positive feedback, or heavy scrutiny shows managers feel staff’s work is “never good enough”

Managers feel constantly exhausted

Supervisors showing no sign of recovering from exhaustion (despite on-site benefits and time off) could indicate they’re working too many roles at once – tellingly, more than 50% of managers feel burned out[6] 

Employees show little sign of autonomy

Because of micromanagement culture, staff ask lots of questions or get used to exerting little expression or creativity of their own; confidence and efficiency decrease

Turnover is high despite employee benefits and opportunities for development

If a company is doing all it can to encourage retention and build on staff’s career potential but isn’t reducing turnover, micromanagement could drive the exodus

list of 10 signs of micromanagement

How to discourage micromanagement: 9 tips for HR professionals

As an HR professional, you have the power to transform your working culture to prevent micromanagement from swallowing up your business. 

Here are a few ideas to help you start.

Proven micromanagement busters



Create a positive workplace culture

Set up an open space to build trust, honesty, and respect

Show micromanagers the errors of their ways

Show how harmful micromanaging techniques could be and the differences the reverse makes to output quality

Upskill and train leaders effectively

Ensure your managers have the tools and support they need to avoid micromanage practices

Open communications between staff and management

Encourage an “open forum” approach where employees and supervisors communicate on the same level without fear of reproach

Broaden goals and objectives for all

Focus on goals rather than methods and measure tangible targets, building up to big-picture goals

Hire skilled macromanagers

Test skills and hire potential managers who support their staff without needling their workloads, who are open to delegate, and who fit your culture

Don’t promote managers until they’re ready

Ensure leaders receive the support and training they need to develop a mindset beyond micromanagement

Deploy technology and tools to empower staff

Offer personnel opportunities to track and manage projects, providing fewer opportunities for managers to intervene and take control

Actively support employees and give them a voice

Create feedback opportunities where people freely share comments without fearing reproach and where they know their voices are heard

1. Create a positive workplace culture

A positive workplace culture is one that fosters learning and development, creativity, or both. The more open and communicative a workplace is, the less likely leadership needs to micromanage every detail.

Carefully analyze your existing culture. Do staff respect managers, or do they feel constantly at odds with what they need and want?

Take the time to find areas where resentment and disrespect breed within your culture. Ask for feedback from all workforce members, consider rolling out new goal-setting strategies, and create open channels for all to communicate freely.

Reward openness and positivity. Chip away at a culture driven by perfectionism and only hire leaders who live out your company’s values and preferred leadership style.

2. Show micromanagers the errors of their ways

Not all micromanagers realize they’re exhibiting negative behavior in the workplace. 

Many assume they’re guaranteeing team performance because it’s how they learned skills elsewhere or they’ve seen some success before (at the expense of low morale and high turnover).

Take time to show supervisors how being quick to micromanage affects product delivery and their team’s overall performance. 

Share staff feedback anonymously (such as through a 360 feedback system) and record case studies of previous projects.

Help managers to see the bigger picture. Show them how their micromanaging prevents the best quality returns on talent investment. Assemble a before-and-after case study catalog to show any future micromanagers how to break these habits.

3. Upskill and train leaders effectively

Leaders who want to change their ways will likely be receptive to training and upskilling. 

Be proactive in presenting opportunities to management. Show the benefits of learning new skills for their career, not just success within the company.

Consider leadership and people management testing and development for new hires showing signs of micromanagement early on. Encourage these tests and upskilling opportunities to help leaders become part of your culture easier and quicker.

Use regular 1:1 check-ins to ensure managers feel supported on their journey to banishing micromanagement for good.

Don’t be afraid to focus on assessing people management skills over technical leadership skills – they’re two halves of the same whole.

4. Open communications between staff and management

Give everyone a level playing field for discussing how project management could become more efficient and supportive. Ensure workers have clear opportunities to share their voices and concerns.

Create open forums and Slack channels, for example, to enable everyone to share feedback and concerns with complete transparency. Set expectations clearly for all.

Enable management to share the same forums but with the same access provisions, moderated by an impartial authority. 

Embed open communication into your physical workplace, not just through forums and online channels. Make sure to act on feedback, and encourage all to be honest yet constructive.

Sew open communication into your culture to show future hires and new employees what they can expect during onboarding. This attracts people who want to thrive in these environments or have previous experience (including management and staff).

In the end, you build a high-performing team that is self-motivated and self-reliant.

5. Broaden goals and objectives for all

As part of your broader organizational planning, focus on goals, not methods. 

Open up goals so they’re easy to track and are physically quantifiable. Avoid broad, sweeping improvement statements. Instead, set a specific goal for a specific date.

You therefore encourage managers and hires to work toward specific outcomes rather than make vague improvements. Doing so helps reduce micromanagement from supervisors with different interpretations to staff and HR.

Goals should be achievable and should require limited checkpoints. For example, set quarterly goals instead of weekly check-ins or development targets. Be realistic and attach goals to timeframes.

Consider the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) model. OKRs set clear objectives at the top and up to five key results underneath. Key results are finite benchmarks with time constraints, whereas objectives are floating and only achievable once all key results are complete.

6. Hire skilled macromanagers

Macromanagers are the reverse of micromanagers. Rather than micromanage, they trust their employees and give them ample space to create and innovate. Most importantly, they empower them to take pride in their everyday work.

You should test prospective leadership during hiring to assess if they add to your culture or are clear communicators, adept at critical thinking, and motivated to delegate tasks.

Careful skills testing when hiring helps you weed out potential managers likely to micromanage and instead onboard ones who care more about results than journeys.

Skills testing during hiring helps you find supervisors who give instructions clearly, work best in collaborative teams, and thrive in openly communicative environments.

7. Don’t promote managers until they’re ready

Although you likely have people within your firm who show an aptitude for management, there are zero reasons to promote them until they show they can “manage” effectively. 

Test potential leaders on skills you require from your management, and consider a dual-track approach. Test and upskill for specific technical areas or subject matters, developing experts and macromanagers. 

Choose skills that align with your need for internal mobility across departments and specialties.

Keep your potential managers’ options open. If they don’t show signs of adapting to macromanagement immediately, keep encouraging development in other areas. 

This way, you boost morale and self-confidence and ensure you always have the personnel to move around your talent map.

Internal promotion through careful upskilling (i.e., not rushing the process) could help you avoid micromanagers. 

As personnel, they’re already accustomed to your culture and might have already experienced micromanagement (and wish to avoid sharing the same treatment). 

Alternatively, careful hiring with culture add, leadership, and personality tests help you find macromanagers.

8. Deploy technology and tools to empower staff

In line with a positive culture of open communication, ensure staff have the technology needed to complete work autonomously. 

Provide management with an “if-necessary” option to intervene rather than opportunities to give feedback constantly.

Set up projects based on the OKR model. Create clear checkpoints in a management system or content-sharing platform, which enables supervisors to “check off” tasks individually, eventually adding to a broader goal.

Use a central workspace to bring all tools and services together. Survey what staff need from their software and work from the bottom up. 

Automate tasks and workflow with AI through a specific CRM and assign CRM managers. Supervisors’ urges to micromanage are satisfied, and employees autonomously work on larger project points that require more effort and skill.

Use technology like task-based CRMs to ensure your people are digitally accountable. This shows micromanagers their teams are performing to or above standard “on paper,” and there’s less need to badger them for constant updates and to take control.

9. Actively support employees and give them a voice

Prioritizing employee voice helps you build a healthy, positive workplace culture. 

Staff want to know leaders are listening – so create feedback systems that make sharing easier.

Anonymous 360 degree feedback models, for example, enable employees to provide feedback on management and other crew without fear of reproach. 

This helps breed honesty in the workplace and ensures no voices go unheard. The process helps you identify potential micromanagement issues, too.

Consider setting up employee resource groups for those employees who feel underrepresented in your workplace. 

These systems help support employee needs and further ensure leaders develop with valuable feedback and insight.

Don’t micromanage – macromanage with skills tests

No one enjoys micromanagement. 

Even for micromanagers themselves, it never provides long-term success or staff satisfaction.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to fall into the trap of breeding micromanagers unless you know what to look for.

By building a culture based on trust, hiring managers with power skills, and carefully developing leaders from within, you stop micromanaging before it takes hold.

The effects are plain to see:

  • Workers are happier and more productive

  • You retain more talent

  • Managers feel more supported

  • Your output quality improves, meaning happier clients

Stopping a micromanage culture at source keeps everyone happy, communicative, and innovative.

However, before you get too deep into quashing this destructive behavior, read up on how to hire a manager effectively.

Then, when you’re ready, bring on some macromanagement with the help of our skills test library.


  1. Galvão, Joana. (March 18, 2019). “I was such a bad micromanager that all my employees quit — and it taught me the one trait all powerful leaders need”. Business Insider. Retrieved June 26, 2023. https://www.businessinsider.com/micromanager-boss-this-is-what-i-learned-2019-3 

  2. Solomon, Lou. (March 9, 2016). “Two-thirds of Managers Are Uncomfortable Communicating with Employees”. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved June 26, 2023. https://interactstudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Managers-are-Uncomfortable-by-Lou-Solomon.pdf 

  3. “Employee Retention Report”. (2018). TinyPulse. Retrieved June 26, 2023. https://www.tinypulse.com/hubfs/2018%20Employee%20Retention%20Report.pdf 

  4. Accountemps. (July 1, 2014). “Survey: More Than Half of Employees Have Worked for a Micromanager”. PRNewswire. Retrieved June 26, 2023. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/survey-more-than-half-of-employees-have-worked-for-a-micromanager-265359491.html 

  5. Paul, Vijay. (August 6, 2020). “10 Tips To Handle A Micromanaging Boss (From An Ex-Micromanager)”. Typewriter. Retrieved June 26, 2023. https://typewriter.media/2020/08/handle-micromanaging-boss/ 

  6. Klinghoffer, Dawn; Kirkpatrick-Husk, Katie. (May 18, 2023). “More Than 50% of Managers Feel Burned Out”. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved June 26, 2023. https://hbr.org/2023/05/more-than-50-of-managers-feel-burned-out


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