How to Deal With Micromanagers

and how to stop micromanaging others

employer and boss

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A micromanager is someone who operates with excessive control and attention to detail. Working or interacting with them can be difficult because they can be controlling, critical, distrustful, and even suffocating.

“There are micromanaging bosses, family members, teachers, coworkers, and sometimes even friends or partners,” says Aimee Daramus, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and author of “Understanding Bipolar Disorder.”

If you’re dealing with a micromanager, it’s important to set firm boundaries in your communication with them, in order to keep them from trying to control you. Otherwise, a micromanager can try to control every detail of your work or personal life, says Dr. Daramus.

This article explores the signs and toxic effects of micromanagement. It also suggests some strategies that can help you deal with a micromanager or stop micromanaging others.

Signs of Micromanagement

These are some of the characteristics of micromanagement, according to Dr. Daramus:

  • Wanting everything done their way
  • Being reluctant to delegate tasks
  • Telling you exactly how to do something or doing it themselves
  • Not being open to others’ inputs or ideas
  • Offering you the illusion of responsibility or choice, when in fact you don’t have any autonomy
  • Not trusting you to complete the task on your own
  • Getting into minute details of day-to-day operations
  • Excessively asking for updates on tasks
  • Only praising things that are done their way
  • Rejecting or correcting things that are done any other way
  • Being overly critical of others

Why Is Micromanagement a Toxic Trait?

Micromanagement can be a toxic trait and that can lead to several negative outcomes for everyone involved.

Micromanaging someone can border on bullying, and as a result the person may feel frustrated, angry, and belittled, says Helene D’Jay, MS, LPC, executive director of young adult services at Newport Healthcare, Connecticut.

Helene D’Jay, MS, LPC

Being micromanaged can cause you to experience stress, fear of failure, self-doubt, self-esteem issues, instability, and depression.

— Helene D’Jay, MS, LPC

In fact, micromanagers often harm themselves in the process too, says Dr. Daramus. She explains that micromanagers genuinely believe they’re helping and often expect praise or thanks for everything they do. “However, if a micromanager takes over your project, redoes everything you did, then expects you to thank them for undoing all your work, you’re not going to feel very appreciative.” As a result, the micromanager may feel disappointed and underappreciated.

In workplaces, micromanaging leaders and supervisors also affect the team’s morale and performance. A micromanager’s team can lack ambition and motivation, be plagued by poor performance, and have higher turnover rates, says D’Jay.

How to Deal With a Micromanager

Dr. Daramus suggests some strategies that can help you deal with a micromanager.

Set Firm Boundaries

If you notice a micromanager trying to take over, set firm boundaries immediately.

For instance, if they’re not actually in charge, don’t let them pretend like they’re in charge. Politely but firmly treat them as equals to everyone else.

It can be a little harder to tell your boss to stop micromanaging you; however, you can have the conversation diplomatically. Let them know that you’re capable of handling the task and would appreciate some autonomy. You can let them know how you’re planning to do it and commit to periodic updates, in order to gain their trust.

Tell Them How Their Behavior Is Affecting You

If the micromanager’s behavior continues, express how their actions are impacting you. Have an open and honest conversation with them, keeping the focus on how their behavior is affecting you. Avoid labeling or judging their behavior.

If it’s a personal relationship, you can let them know that their need for control is harming your relationship and making you feel angry, stressed, frustrated, and undervalued. Seeing things from your perspective may cause them to ease up on their behavior.

If it’s a workplace relationship, you can explain how their behavior is affecting your ability to do your job. For instance, if the time taken to write detailed daily updates is taking away from the time you would spend actually doing the task, you can explain this and suggest weekly updates instead.

Understand Their Motivations

Micromanagers are often driven by fear, insecurity, or lack of trust. They may also have perfectionist tendencies that can cause them to be overly critical of themselves and others.

When you’re dealing with a micromanager, it can be helpful to understand their motivations. By understanding what’s driving their behavior, you can take steps to address their concerns and gain their trust. This can put you in a better position to set boundaries that will be respected.

For instance, if you know your manager is worried about meeting an upcoming quarterly target, align your interests with theirs. Let them know what steps you’re taking to achieve the target and how much progress you’ve made. The following quarter, they may ease up on you a little because they trust you to handle it and know you’re working toward the same goal.

Distance Yourself If Their Behavior Doesn’t Change

You may find that the micromanager’s controlling behavior continues despite your efforts to try communicating with them and set boundaries with them.

Aimee Daramus, PsyD

Not all micromanagers can or will change. At some point, you may have to decide whether it’s worth leaving the job, relationship, or friendship in order to protect yourself.

— Aimee Daramus, PsyD

How to Stop Micromanaging Others

If someone in your life has pointed out that you’re trying to micromanage them, these are some steps you can take to stop being a micromanager:

  • Learn to delegate: Delegate tasks to others based on their abilities instead of trying to do everything yourself. Trust that they can handle the task and provide guidance only when required. Focus on achieving the outcome instead of scrutinizing every detail of the process.
  • Be open to different ideas: It’s important to be open to other people’s ideas and approaches. This can help you find creative solutions to problems.
  • Establish trust: Trusting others is key to letting go of micromanaging tendencies. Trust people to complete the task and ask for help when needed. Avoid hovering over them when you’re not needed.
  • Don’t focus on perfection: Focusing on perfection can set you up for failure because no matter what someone does, it will never feel like it’s good enough. Focus on achieving mutually agreed upon goals and accept that sometimes mistakes happen.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you outsmart a micromanager?

    The best way to deal with a micromanager is to try and have a conversation with them and let them know that you're capable of doing the work. Aligning yourself with their goals and gaining their trust may help you gain some breathing room.

    However, if nothing works, you may have to walk away from the relationship in order to protect yourself.

  • Is micromanagement a form of harassment?

    Micromanagement can be a form of bullying or harassment, particularly if the person speaks rudely to you, demeans you, or insults you.

    If the micromanager is a manager or colleague in your workplace, you should report their behavior to HR.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Walden University. Are you a micromanager? Ask yourself these questions.

  3. Mookerjee A, Li B, Arora B, Surapaneni R, Rajput V, Van de Ridder M. Micromanagement during clinical supervision: solutions to the challenges. Cureus. 2022;14(3):e23523. doi:10.7759/cureus.23523

  4. Cleary M, Hungerford C, Lopez V, Cutcliffe JR. Towards effective management in psychiatric-mental health nursing: the dangers and consequences of micromanagement. Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2015;36(6):424-429. doi:10.3109/01612840.2014.968694

  5. Harvard Business School. How to stop micromanaging.

By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.