‘I’m Stuck in the Weeds and Can’t Get Out! The Micromanager’s Recovery Guide

Do you have micromanaging tendencies? With a little self-awareness and some hard work, you can learn to let go. This 7-step approach will help you do it.

Step 1: Recognize the behavior pattern

If your employees don’t take initiative and wait for you to micro-delegate, you may have created a culture where they don’t feel comfortable taking the next step without your approval.

More signs? If you find yourself redoing work, checking and rechecking projects, and insisting on being consulted on every decision.

Step 2: Think about the consequences

Micromanagers exact control. In the short term, they have command of the future. Long term, however, many micromanagers
find themselves stuck in roles, unable to take vacation without calling in, and essentially tied to their jobs.

Ask yourself: Where do you want to be in a year? How about three? Do you have a replacement identified? Is that person ready to take over for you? If not, there is work to do if you plan to move on or at some point have a life outside the job.

Step 3: Show people what A-grade work looks like

Micromanagers will reduce their propensity to backslide if their employees deliver great work. What exactly does A-grade work mean? Good question! If you haven’t explained your expectations, it can be hard for employees to produce a stellar work product. Take the time to be complete, and you may be surprised at your team’s ability to rise to the occasion.

Step 4: Work on accepting different approaches

Old habits die hard, and change takes time. A little narration can go a long way toward steering the brain in the right direction.

“Jim is not me, and I am not Jim. It’s okay that we don’t work the same way.”

A mantra like that can serve as a gentle reminder and help the micromanager recalibrate. Eventually, these new mental tapes will start to replace old thinking patterns.

Step 5: Perform the Goldilocks Test

You’re not a mind reader, so it’s important to get comfortable with feedback. A multiple-choice approach is often the best way to encourage candor.

For instance, “I’d like to get some feedback from you about how you like to work. Am I too hands on, too hands off, or just right? I’m asking because everyone operates differently, and it’s important to me that we work well together.”

A word of caution: even with the Goldilocks approach, if you’ve micromanaged your team for a long time, it may take a while for them to give you frank feedback.

Step 6: Don’t argue

When someone gives you feedback you don’t like or agree with, don’t argue. Your employee’s perception is the reality you must work with. So instead of fighting or withdrawing, ask questions.

Step 7: Look for ways to let go and take on new tasks

Leaving the micromanaging lifestyle behind is a process. In addition to asking for feedback, pay attention to where you spend your time that you shouldn’t – and where you could that you don’t. Are you working on strategic initiatives or navigating deep in the weeds? Are you developing people or hoarding work?

Are you controlling or empowering? The questions are numerous and important to ask.

Bottom line: Free yourself and your workers

To sum it up, any activity that requires change can be hard work and at times even a little scary. For micromanagers, this can be especially true.

Nevertheless, as most rehabilitated micromanagers will profess, it’s a lot more productive and rewarding to work in a place where people have the freedom to do their best work.

If you’re a micromanager or think you might be, now is the time to do something about it.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2021 issue of PPC magazine. This article was written by Kate Zabriskie and was published in the Winter 2021 issue of PPC magazine. Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm.