I stumbled across this term and thought it probably summed me up pretty well early in my career. Yea, I was all about delegating to others, and then I found ways to check up on them. I would add little details I’d forgotten, pass on tips, or frequently ask, “How’s it going?” I was actually snooping around to find out if they were doing it “right” (my way).

Sound familiar? How do you nip this type of meddling in the bud?

Figure out why you micromanage. Maybe you’re just insecure in your role or question your own ability to delegate correctly. You may truly believe that your people aren’t up to the task or they already have too much to do. Maybe you really believe that there is one way to do the job – your way. Once you know why you’re hovering, you can find the key to stopping.

Examine ownership. You think that you delegated ownership for getting the task done, but did you really? You may still believe that you still own the work, that you are responsible. It is true that you are accountable for the results; however, once you’ve delegated, you are not responsible for the assignment. Be clear with all involved (beginning with yourself), so the baton is effectively handed off.

Ask your team for help. Your direct reports will tell you when to butt out, if they feel safe enough. Make it clear that you want and need feedback when you are stepping in unnecessarily. Ask a peer to watch for this behavior as well.

Are you being supervised by a micromanager? Deborah L. Jacobs at Forbes.com says to be reliable and role model positive behaviors. And don’t forget to do some self-evaluation to figure out if your boss has good reason to be a busybody. If you’re missing deadlines or producing mediocre results, you can expect her to step in.

Scott Burkin posted an open letter to micromanagers. It begins:

Owners of thoroughbreds never stop their horses mid-race, every ten seconds, to remind the horse and jockey how to run, where the finish line is, or that it’d be good to finish first. Why? It would slow them down. Only an idiot would do this.

Nope, you’re not an idiot. So, instead of spending time meddling, let your thoroughbreds run!


Supervisory success is close at hand. We can’t wait to talk to you.

Photo from iStockphoto.