Are You a Control Freak? How to Give Up Nitpicking in Management / Managing / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Nitpicking in management can be detrimental. Explore why you feel the need to be micromanaging your employees.

If you’ve seen the 1999 movie "Office Space," you may recall Mr. Lumbergh’s distinct “umms” and “ahhs” followed by a nagging command.

While it was billed as a comedy, the unfortunate reality is that somewhere, as I write this, this scenario is playing out as a real-life tragedy in an office near you.

In a survey conducted on accounting professionals, staffing firm Robert Half found that 60 percent of respondents have worked for a micromanager, with 68 percent stating that the experience had diminished their morale.

I’ve discussed the importance of an organization’s managers before—their relationships with those who report to them can make or break the bottom line by forcing great talent right out the door. Nitpicking, micromanaging and the more professional-sounding bureaucratizing all stem from managers who desire to control, rather than nurture their employees.

Their well-intended actions have dire impacts on productivity, attrition and occasionally an organization’s reputation.

If you’ve just stepped away from the mirror with the realization that you are, in fact, a micromanager, fret not. I’m here to tell you that it is never too late to change. Here are some tips to help you liberate yourself from the likes of Bill Lumbergh.

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Ask the Question

Take an honest look inward and ask yourself why you micromanage. More often than not, the act is rooted in insecurities and fear of failure. Look for the areas of the process where there is a high failure rate.


In other words, where are you repeatedly stepping in and on top of your employees, and why? Maybe you simply worry that nobody can do it as well as you. If your look into the mirror reveals nothing, try bringing in an impartial third-party; this is where a mentor really proves their value.

Emulate Anna and Elsa. Just Let It Go!

Yes, there are standards that we adhere to when crafting messages and reports, however having your personal stamp of approval on each and every word or format is not necessary.

Moreso, it wears on those who work hard for you each and every day. Much of style and format is opinion anyway and, assuming you hired the right people, their opinions should be sound.

Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

If you’ve just come to the realization that you tend to nitpick, then the word “delegate” may cause your ears to bleed. Still, I assure you that much good can come from the action.

For starters, handing over tasks that you currently own opens up your time to be more productive. Putting your team in the driver’s seat on tasks and projects (and allowing them to fail once in a while) is the best way to cultivate a seasoned team that will handle the next office “fire” that much better.

Talk About the Elephant

Yes, it is OK to admit to your employees that you realize you are a micromanager. Micromanaging creates little value and creates miserable employees—Gallup poll quantified that micromanaging costs businesses millions.

Addressing the Elephant in the Room

In order to fully break the cycle, let your employees know that they are empowered and do not need to seek constant approval. Set the framework so that when they bring questions to you, there’s an expectation that they also bring possible solutions.

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Follow Through

Once you’ve decided to move away from your current bad habits, make sure you don’t lose sight of your progress. Change rarely occurs overnight, so consider creating a personal action plan where you look back at the progress you’ve made over time.

Like any bad habit, it will be easy to slip back into your micromanaging ways, so your initial analysis periods should be spaced more closely together—think monthly for the first six months, then maybe move to quarterly “self-check-ins.” The key is to hold yourself accountable for your actions and identify situations where you find yourself slipping back.

Let your employees be part of the process and allow them the opportunity for feedback throughout the metamorphosis. Consider it a living/breathing opportunity for upward feedback—something we all need to continue to grow as leaders!

Like any reconstruction, the “new, non-micromanaging you” won’t happen overnight and will require a hefty amount of change management. Don’t let small setbacks erode your progress—look to each day as a chance to be slightly better than you were the day before. All change has an element of being uncomfortable, but if you’re committed to the goal, the results will be well worth the labor.






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