Are you a micromanager?

Business,  Principals

Micromanagement is a management style that involves excessive control or attention to minor details, typically to the detriment of the subordinates’ happiness, confidence, and ability to get on with their work.

When working for one, it’s painfully easy to spot a micromanager. They refuse to give you any responsibility, they’re checking in on everything you do, they’re always looking for mistakes to complain about rather than positives to praise.

If you’re the one doing the micromanaging, however, it may not be so obvious.

IT management provider Trinity Solutions conducted a survey for a book titled ‘My way or the highway – the micromanagement survival guide’ which showed a staggering 79 per cent of respondents had experienced micromanagement in some form during their careers.

Of those, more than 70 per cent had considered quitting their job over it, and more than 30 per cent actually did.

Staff who are micromanaged are more stressed and more pressured to not only perform, but to perform in exactly the way their manager expects them to. It quickly becomes a tremendous fetter on innovation and alternative methodologies.

In real estate, principals who are prone to micromanagement may consider themselves perfectionists – and they may be – but it’s often wrong, and more than a little insulting, to assume perfection cannot be achieved by staff who are left to their own devices.

There is the ever-present possibility that a principal doesn’t even realise they’re managing their staff in this oft-damaging manner, so what does micromanagement actually look like?

Hijacking projects

If you, as a principal, find yourself finishing off projects and tasks set for your staff while they’re on their lunch break, or they’re working on something else, or it’s outside business hours, there’s a good chance they don’t appreciate it.

That might seem crazy, because who wouldn’t love having their work done for them? Well, if your staff take pride in the work that they do, they won’t take too kindly to having somebody else wresting control of their projects away from them.

This is made worse in property sales environments; if an agent has already done the leg-work to learn the property, got to know the vendor, and started organising open-homes or private inspections, they’re going to be vexed if you step in to close the sale.

Of course this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer to help staff when they’re inundated with tasks and/or you find yourself with a spare afternoon, but they will appreciate the restraint that you show if you accept a polite declination.

“I’ll handle it”

If the idea of delegating responsibility to your subordinates fills you with anxiety and dread, you very well may be a micromanager.

This is a very common trait of the self-professed ‘control freak’. Taking on every job because you want to make sure it’s done correctly might not seem like a huge issue, so long as you can get it all done, but it’s probably having a negative effect on your staff.

When employees don’t feel trusted to take care of projects or complete tasks to a high standard, their confidence dwindles, and they’ll find it more and more difficult to take pride in their work. This process quickly leads to disengagement and general staff unhappiness.

Not putting out your own fires

While delegation is positive, giving your staff the job of fixing up problems that you’ve created might be worse than not allowing them to handle anything at all.

When combined with the previous point of not letting your subordinates take responsibility for projects, the result is a team of staff who feel that their only jobs involve putting out the fires that you’ve created.

If all they’re good for is cleaning up after you, it won’t take long for them to become disgruntled enough to seek other ventures.

Reports, reports, reports

“This project is your responsibility, but be sure to report back to me with how you’re going regularly.”

If you want constant updates on a project that you’ve said is a staff member’s responsibility, then it’s really not their responsibility at all.

This is the managerial equivalent of helicopter parenting. Your subordinate won’t feel comfortable branching out with new ideas and innovations because they’re concerned you’ll shut them down before they get the chance to show you how the final product looks.

Also known as not seeing the forest for the trees, this approach to business is not only harmful by way of not allowing staff to experiment, it also results in hours of manpower – and wages – spent on unnecessary spreadsheets, reports, and meetings.

“Because I said so”

This is the all-too-common response of a micromanager when asked ‘why?’.

There could be any number of reasons why a manager might feel the need to not tell their staff why they’re doing a certain task, or why they’re being asked to do it a certain way, but the reason is irrelevant if it leaves the staff member feeling disenfranchised.

When employees aren’t privy to the rationale behind objectives, they don’t feel like a valuable part of the business, since they clearly aren’t important enough to be told why things are done a certain way.

Put simply, it’s condescending.

Telling your staff the thought process behind certain decisions allows them to offer feedback, and if you don’t think your staff have any valuable feedback to offer, then you’ve either hired the wrong people, or you’re too busy micromanaging the right people to see that their ideas have merit.


If any or all of these are reminiscent of how you run your agency, it may be time to re-assess your approach. We’ve put together a few tips for recovering micromanagers to wean themselves away from being overly controlling.

Focus on outcomes

Rather than worrying about how tasks are done, accept that everybody approaches problems in different – not intrinsically inferior – ways.

Let staff members do their thing, and consult them only when their projects are complete. There’s every possibility that they’ve achieved the same outcomes with dramatically different approaches from the one you’d have used.

Focus on managing expectations rather than specific tasks.

Physically leave

You may have bitten the bullet and mustered up the strength to hand off a project for someone else to handle, but if you’re still sitting next to them watching over their shoulder as they work through it, they’re hardly going to feel trusted.

If you really can’t help yourself, physically remove yourself from the space.

For short term projects this might just mean taking an early lunch, or working on something that gets you out of the office for a few hours. For a long term project, consider spending some annual leave to take a week away – you may be surprised at the quality of work achieved when you return.

Have faith

Believe in your team, trust that they were hired because they can get the job done, and let them get on with it.

If your lack of faith in your employees is based on a track record of poor performance, then provide constructive feedback and impart the fruits of your experience upon them.

A lot of micromanagement comes from those who believe they’re far better at the task than anybody else, so prove it – not by doing it for them, but by teaching them how to do it as well as you.

Just ask

If you’re really at a loss over what you can do to be a better manager, simply ask your staff.

Avoid doing so in a one-on-one situation, because this is going to feel overly confrontational, and most people will just tell you that you’re doing great. In a group environment, you’re more likely to get honest feedback because everybody feels more empowered in a team situation.

If you feel you’re still not getting the constructive criticism you need, consider an anonymous survey.

Not all of their suggestions will be winners, but there’s never any harm in trying different approaches until you find one that works for both you and your staff.