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The Psychological Effects of Micromanagement & 4 Ways to Fight it

July 26, 2023

When you hear the word "micromanagement," chances are, a specific person comes to mind. And more than likely, so do some not-so-great feelings.

That's because, while unpleasant, micromanaging is a common occurrence.

A survey conducted by Trinity Solutions found as many as 79% of people have experienced micromanagement.

And of the people who reported working for a micromanager, 85% said it had decreased their morale and 71% said micromanagement interfered with their job performance.


Because the psychological effects of micromanagement can be detrimental to employees' mental health, their confidence, and their willingness to innovate.

Here, we'll discuss what micromanaging is, the psychological effects of micromanagement, and how to spot the signs of micromanagement.


What is Micromanagement?

Micromanagement is a leadership style that involves excessive control and supervision and over-attentiveness to the minor details of an employee's work.

Micromanagers, either consciously or unconsciously, try to control all aspects of an assigned task, rather than delegate tasks and trusting in the ability of their team members to carry them out.

This results in the manager typically getting the outcomes they desire, but stifles the employee's creativity, passion, and confidence.

This combination can end up in high turnover rates, oftentimes to the surprise of the manager.

In fact, one study found that 36% of employees have changed jobs because of a micromanager, while 69% have considered changing jobs.

Signs of Micromanaging Behavior

Micromanaging may sound like it'd be easy to spot, but it can sometimes tricky to spot.

Below are a few hallmark signs of micromanagement.
  • Lack of delegation
  • Requires approval for most or all decisions
  • Puts as much importance on minor details as big picture ideas
  • Has an unusually high turnover rate
  • Rarely satisfied with deliverables as-is
  • Makes edits that don't improve the work
  • Will re-do work after an employee has finished
  • Feels that to do a task correctly, they have to do it
  • Believes that team members never take initiative or come up with new ideas
  • Requires constant updates or check-ins
  • Needs to be CC'd on all emails

The Psychological Effects of Micromanagement

It's likely no surprise that micromanagement can have detrimental impacts on companies.

But it can have an even worse impact on the employee and employees' work.

The psychological effects of micromanagement can leave lasting effects even after the environment has changed, the employee has moved on, and even in their personal life.

Here, we'll explore some of the common psychological effects of micromanagement on employees.

Creates Self-Doubt

When managers need to have a say in everything an employee does, it lays the groundwork for self-doubt.

Rather than learning how to think critically, employees learn to ask for help or approval before doing anything.

This can be a paralyzing cycle for an employee, where they lose confidence and no longer trust their own instinct or expertise.

Instead, employees try to simply give their boss what they want to see.


Loss of Motivation

Unsurprisingly, over time, micromanaged employees often become unmotivated. Caught in a self-doubt cycle, people frequently lose the will to try.

When employees feel that everything they do is wrong, they simply stop trying to get it right.

They may go through the motions of their job, knowing what they do will be changed anyway.

Mental Health Issues

A boss who micromanages can come across as unpredictable to many subordinates.

Employees can feel that they may have to walk on eggshells around their manager, which can lead to chronic stress at work.

Furthermore, prolonged feelings of self-doubt, constant criticism, and feeling subpar can negatively impact an employee's mental health outside of work.

It's not uncommon for micromanaging to result in deteriorating self-esteem and confidence.

Along with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and fatigue.


Decreased Trust

Micromanagers do so because they don't trust their team to carry out work to their standards.

And employees who work for micromanagers don't trust that their boss is on their side.

This lack of trust in both directions erodes any foundation for a healthy and productive working relationship, leading to a toxic work environment for everyone involved.

Employee Disengagement

Employees who are unable to grow in their careers will inevitably disengage.

And growth comes from trying new things, taking risks, and learning from mistakes.

An environment where individuals are afraid to step outside of their boss's peccadillos doesn't foster engagement or job satisfaction.

In fact, it lays the groundwork for employee burnout.

So much so, an analysis from Deloitte found that 77% of American workers have experienced burn out at their current job.


Decrease Employee Morale

It may go without saying but stressed, disengaged employees who don't trust their boss doesn't make for a thriving company culture.

A positive company culture is built on mutual trust, flexibility, and autonomy. allowing your team to work autonomously fosters trust, independence, and growth.

In fact, a study by Gallup found that employees are 43% less likely to experience high levels of burnout when they have a choice in deciding what tasks to do, when to do them, and how much time to spend on each.


Increased Turnover

After being put through all of this, employees inevitably leave.

Which is why micromanagers have a disproportionately high turnover rate.

Employee turnover is obviously costly for companies - there's a loss of productivity, time spent recruiting and training, and efficiencies lost to the learning curve.

But the employee is affected as well.

Many people carry unhealthy work habits into new roles, negatively impacting their new job as well.

What Causes Micromanagement?

Micromanagers often have good intentions, but seek out the results they want in inefficient ways.

Oftentimes, micromanagement manifests due to a lack of trust and respect a manager has in their team.

This lack of trust, however, can be rooted in several reasons:

  • Inexperience in management/leading
  • Insecurity in their abilities
  • Under-skilled team members
  • Fear of looking inadequate
  • Perfectionism/Believing their work is best

Employees who are excelling in their current roles will frequently get promoted to manager positions.

Unfortunately, managing a team can be an entirely new set of skills that these employees aren't prepared for.

When this happens, everyone suffers.

How to Help without Micromanaging

Knowing how not to manage is only part of the equation. The next step is knowing what to do.

Because the line between guiding and micromanaging can be thin, we've described a four tips to avoid micromanaging.

1. Help When Needed

As a leader, it may be tempting to jump in when you see a potential problem arising.

However, jumping in at the first sign of trouble can rob your employees of problem solving.

This doesn't mean sit back and watch your employees fail.

But rather watch and listen for when your employees are open for guidance.

This will help give your team autonomy while not feeling abandoned.


2. Clarify Your Role

Because of the natural dynamic between supervisor and subordinate, the boss stepping in can be unsettling for employees.

Instinctively, when the boss is in the room, employees are hyperaware of their work.

They may feel the need to please, discount ideas prematurely, or become reluctant to share thoughts.

Because of this, it's important for supervisors to reiterate that their role is to lend a helping hand and not there to stifle ideas or correct work.


3. Does the Difference Make a Difference?

Before offering suggestions, consider asking yourself if your edit makes an actual improvement or if it's just a personal preference.

Minimizing feedback to only positive comments and necessary improvements will help build trust within your team.

They'll come to know that if you're making a suggestion, it's because it will make the work better for everyone - and it's not just a micromanaging quirk.


4. Take a Management Course

Management is a role oftentimes placed on people who haven't had any kind of management training.

So, it should be no surprise that teams may start to struggle.

There's no shame in taking a management course even if you've been in the role for a while.

There's always something valuable to learn that can have a positive impact on your team members.

Start Building an Engaged Team Today

Micromanagement can be a culture killer in any company.

Fighting it takes conscious effort, listening to employees, and watching for unhealthy trends.

These efforts won't change micromanagement over night, but they will start to build positive change.

And if you’re looking for guidance along the way, Terryberry can help.

Terryberry provides solutions to help drive performance and retention through effective employee engagement.

These solutions include:

  • Service Awards and Performance Awards: Recognize and reward employees based on years of service awards, anniversaries, or performance.
  • Social Recognition: Empower your employees and managers to recognize their peers and celebrate successes with an easy-to-use social recognition application.
  • Feedback and Communication: Unlock improved feedback and communications with employee and customer feedback solutions.
  • Wellness Programs: We make it easy to run wellness programs and activity challenges that increase engagement, expand corporate health, and build team camaraderie.

Ready to learn more? Schedule a demo with our team to get a hands-on walkthrough of how Terryberry can transform the culture of your workplace.