Are You Guilty of Micromanaging? (Or Is Your Manager?)

It’s an affliction that affects so many managers, and often they don’t even realize they’re doing it. See if you can spot yourself — or your manager — in any of these statements:

  • Can I read that email before you send it?
  • When will you have that report to me?
  • Did you call the client, and what exactly did she say?

I’m talking about micromanagement. We hear a lot about “helicopter parents,” but there is such a thing as “helicopter bosses” also, and true confession: Gen Xers (and that includes me!) are often guilty. Often micromanaging is not personal to an employee at all and comes from a manager’s desire for control or a fear of making a mistake. But it can still be really challenging for that employee.

Here are some articles about micromanaging that might be useful to find more workplace harmony, whether you are the micromanager or the micromanagee.

Managers: You Might be Driving Good Employees Away

“Micromanagement can kill motivation, employee creativity and job satisfaction, and yet it remains the biggest beef workers have about their boss. ‘That’s critically important, because it’s complaints about the boss that drive most people out of organizations,’ [Steve Motenko, an executive coach in Seattle] says.

That’s especially a problem when recruitment is a top concern for employers, many of whom Motenko says aren’t even aware of the micromanagers in their midst because departing employees often aren’t questioned about it in exit interviews. … ‘We need employees who will do more than do what they’re told — employees who will think for themselves, who will be creative, and will try new approaches,’ he says, ‘and all of that is squashed by micromanaging.’” — Read more at NPR.

Managers: You Don’t Have the Market Cornered on Good Ideas

“Remember, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. And employees might even know the best way. Instead of barking orders, ask employees for their ideas and opinions. Discuss how they work best and how they can work most efficiently. If they see a different way to do things, let them give it a shot. After all, as long as they get the job done and do it well, what does it matter if they choose a different method?” — Read more at

Managers: Give Clear Guidelines on When You Should Be Involved

“Clearly communicate what magnitude of bumps in the road need your immediate attention. Let your team know that you have faith that they can manage every day obstacles, but also establish when the size of a problem demands that they update you in real time and seek your immediate involvement. This might mean a dollar threshold or that you are notified anytime there is a client complaint. Whatever the escalation triggers are, make them known from day one.” — Read more at

Employees: Realize The Micromanagement is Probably Not About You

“When you’re dealing with someone who seems to want to micromanage every small detail of every single project, it can be tough to see him or her as anything more than meddling and obnoxious. But, recognizing the positive attributes of this person’s work ethic will make working with him or her at least a little bit easier. Let’s face it—this person probably doesn’t behave this way to purposely annoy you or make your job more difficult. Instead, he’s just incredibly passionate about the work he does and wants it to be as polished and professional as it can be. That dedication makes him a great employee—even if his approach is a bit overwhelming and aggravating.” — Read more at

Employees: Play Their Game (You Both Win!)

“Bosses who micromanage love updates, so give them whenever possible and within reason. For example, if you have been given a project this morning, send a quick email saying, ‘I have started on the project we discussed this morning. I anticipate having it done by 4:30 p.m.’  Keep in mind that if you give your micromanaging boss a deadline, you must be able to deliver. Let them know that you want to build your level of trust with them and ask at what points during a given project they would like updates. Also keep in mind that we teach people how to treat us. If you provide your boss with more frequent updates, do it in a way and at a frequency that enables you to still do your work without interruption but that doesn’t encourage them to micromanage you even more.” — Read more at USNews.

How have you managed a micromanagement situation from either side? Please share in the comments below!

Lindsey Pollak is the leading expert on millennials and the multigenerational workplace, trusted by global companies, universities and the world’s top media outlets. A New York Times bestselling author and keynote speaker, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her presentations have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!” Contact Lindsey to discuss a speaking engagement for your organization.

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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