Five Harsh Things Micro-Managing Might Say About You

By: Terry McDougall

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Do you find yourself constantly checking up on your employees’ work product, worried that it just isn’t good enough and will reflect badly on you? If you ever stopped to think about why you do this, you might say something like, “If I don’t watch my employees like a hawk, things don’t get done correctly.”

In reality, if you are micro-managing, it says more about you than it does your staff. There are several not-so-flattering factors that might be at at play — but don’t despair. With understanding and a few changes, you can overcome these five common obstacles.

1) You have not promoted yourself.

If you are caught up in the minutiae of what your staff is doing and how they are doing it, rather than the impact the team is having, you are too caught up in their work and not doing your job as a leader. If this sounds like you, don’t worry — it can be fixed.

Give yourself a promotion to leader rather than hovering around as a worker bee. Get clear on your own objectives, and then be clear with your staff about how their work needs to support it. Paint them a big picture of what the team is working towards and how they fit into it, and then step back and give them space to do their jobs.

Everyone likes to be part of something bigger, and it’s your job as a leader to provide that vision. When your team understands what’s expected of them and they are given the freedom to deliver, you may be surprised by how fast they respond.

[Related: How to Create a Free Flow of Information Between Leaders and Employees]

2) You have not trained your staff well enough.

If your staff isn’t performing, it may be because you haven’t spent the time to train them. It’s so common in today’s workplace for employees to be thrown into their roles and expected to “wing it.” Even if that’s the environment you experienced coming up the ranks, as a leader, making a commitment to training can be the difference between a slowly-failing team and a happy and high-performing team.

It’s important to provide your employees with a chance to learn their roles and become comfortable with what’s expected in a safe environment where it’s okay to make mistakes. Too often, there’s either ineffective training or no training at all. Make sure the proper way to perform tasks is documented and everyone is trained on the same procedures. And once that’s done, let people do their jobs without constantly looking over their shoulders.

To monitor workflow and quality, schedule periodic check-ins and let your employees tell you how they’re doing, rather than the other way around. That promotes ownership and excellence.

3) You have not hired the right people.

If you’ve trained your team and you find that you still have a hard time fully delegating, maybe it’s because you know that they aren’t up to the job. If that’s what’s really behind your failure to step back, then you need to decide if they need more training, or if there’s a poor fit between their skills and experience and the requirements for the role.

If the fit is poor, do yourself and the employee(s) a big favor and move them into roles that are a better fit or, if needed, sever the relationship. Putting off decisive action only perpetuates the problem.

[Related: Turning Confrontation Into Conversation]

4) You don’t trust your employees.

If this is the case, ask yourself why? Has your staff shown any evidence of not being trustworthy? If so, why do you continue to employee them? If not, what is behind this lack of trust? Could it be fear on your part?

People can usually sense when someone doesn’t trust them, and that can often be a self-fulfilling prophecy, resulting in lower employer morale and motivation. You may be unconsciously causing a negative situation by bringing doubt into the relationship with your team.

5) You’re not confident in yourself.

Sometimes it’s hard to deal with the pressure of a leadership role, and rather than taking responsibility for the big picture and results, you can get caught up in the little stuff because those activities are more comfortable. The problem here is that those tasks are no longer your direct responsibility — they rightfully belong to the people who report to you.

Being a leader can be scary because you’re often facing new challenges. There can be feelings of discomfort and even insecurity. However, that’s no reason to regress and micro-manage your employees. Take a deep breath and two giant steps back so you can get a clear view of what’s really going on.

If you need a confidence boost, go to your boss, mentor, or coach for help instead of driving your staff crazy by stepping on their toes and hampering their productivity. Be brave and lead — you’ll feel better and your staff will be more productive.

Micro-management is a sure way to drive good people out the door; you are, in effect, telling them that you don’t believe in their capability to do a good job. At the same time, you are wasting your time on work that is below your pay grade and ignoring your true role as a strategic leader.

Step back so you can step up. Your staff will be happier and more productive, and you will enjoy more confidence and success once you figure this out.

[Related: Dealing with Your Inner Critic — Handling the Tough Self-Conversations]

Terry McDougall helps mid-career professionals find career fulfillment, success, and happiness by identifying and removing blocks that stand in the way of their career and life goals.

Originally published at

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