Only the teams and organisations that evolve at pace will be here in a decade, and micromanaging is a real threat which can have devastating effects on the morale of employees and the performance of an organisation.

A flourishing working relationship with employees is built on a foundation of trust and respect, and micromanaging is a rapid way to kill this.

A recent survey revealed that 71 percent of employees have had their job performance hindered by micromanagement and 69 percent have considered changing jobs because of the behaviour.

Cultural transformation and performance intervention specialists FirstHuman point out some classic signs that leaders could be micromanaging their team.

Oddi Aasheim, Performance Intervention Partner at FirstHuman said: “Micromanaging is a complex issue to tackle within the workplace as it requires senior leaders to take a raw and honest look at themselves and their behaviour in the workplace. The idea that poor team performance and morale could lie at the fault of the leader’s management style is a tough pill to swallow but is a sign of a truly authentic and responsible leader if they’re courageous enough to do so.”

Here are a few indicators to which senior leaders should be paying attention.

Reluctant delegating work

Many leaders feel that the way of working and the outputs of their teams should comply with how they themselves think a task needs to be performed. When experiencing that team members may see things differently, their fail-safe is to do things themselves or revert to detailed management of the sub-tasks to be performed. When employees experience senior leaders keeping the work to themselves it can send a message that they are not trusted to action tasks correctly or effectively. This often results in stories about how the leader is a ‘control-freak’, or wants to keep the glory for themselves if the outcome of the work is a success.

“Micromanaging is often about leaders fearing failure and being attached to ‘looking good’ to their own bosses”, Oddi said, “and very few leaders would openly admit to being a micromanager. It is common that the people who are the experts in their area are the ones that get promoted, and it becomes difficult for them to create the space for a team to experiment, make mistakes and learn. Their version of getting things right is often attached to doing things the way they would have done it. Whilst these reasons might be perfectly understandable to a leader, the effect that it has on employees are not to be ignored.

“If tasks are not delegated to employees, there is no opportunity for them to showcase their expertise and therefore very little opportunity for growth.”

Bristling when decisions are made without their input

Senior leaders often hold positions of power and authority within an organisation, and they may feel that their exclusion from decision-making processes diminishes their authority and undermines their ability to lead effectively.

Oddi said: “If senior leaders find themselves being unhappy when decisions are made without them, it’s a good idea to step back and ask themselves why. If the upset is about a perceived risk to themselves or their standing in the organisation, it is time to get a good leadership coach. A senior leader wanting every decision to be sent their way will make employees abdicate responsibility, be fearful making decisions and delegate upwards overloading the leader. Empowering employees and giving them a degree of autonomy is crucial so they can develop key skills and become proactive problem-solvers.”

Having an obedient team

Many a satisfied leader will refer to having a team that is effective, efficient and stands ready for anything. This might sound great and can be the perfect set-up for specific situations. However, more often than not, it is a sign that the team has become compliant and highly trained, rather than being creative and generative. If a leader has a team that is a mirror image of how they prefer to work, then it is once again time for the micromanagement alarm to sound.

Oddi says: “When I hear a leader that mainly communicates to her/his team about how to complete tasks, and not about producing outcomes and results, I get worried. Training a team to be perfect in the tasks they perform is a sure sign of micromanagement. Whilst this is appropriate in some compliance heavy roles, it is a sure-fire way of disempowering people in more creative spheres.”

“If you are a leader that has a view on the long term sustainability and success of the organisation, you need to foster people and a culture that learns and evolves quicker than the competition. You are dependent on employees that are free-thinkers and generate new ideas and ways of working. Leaders who are potentially micromanaging need to look within themselves to ensure they are not snuffing out the light of their team and causing more harm than good”.






Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.