20 Clues That You Might be a Micromanager: Take the Quiz to Find Out

Boss looking over employee's shoulder in office
Cavan Images/Stone/Getty Images

Published 9/3/2014

I’ve never heard a manager refer to themselves as a micromanager. Yet, working for a micromanaging boss is one of the most frequently reported reasons employees hate their jobs or hate their bosses.

So where’s the disconnect? Perhaps most managers may have good intentions, but just don’t have a clue that they are micromanaging. They may take pride in “running a tight ship” or that “the buck stops with them,” or maybe they feel that they are giving their employees direction and support.

They may not trust their employees and feel they are protecting them from screwing up.

In any case, micromanagement leads to miserable employees, lower overall productivity, stunts the growth of every employee and the manager, and will lead to the loss of good talent and poor long term performance.

Take the following quiz to find if you might be a micromanager. Add up the number of questions that you answered “yes” to and check your score at the end of the quiz.

1. Do you have a long list of pending approvals and/or decisions that you need to get to? Micromanaged employees have learned the hard way that they need to get your approval for every little decision. You are often referred to as “the bottleneck.”

2. You are always running out of red pens. As far as you’re concerned, there is always room for improvement in any document, especially if the improvements are subjective judgment calls or harmless minutia.

3. You insist that you “tag along” with your employees for any meetings that they have with your boss, executives, key clients or vendors, or anyone else worthy of your attention.

4. You insist that your employees copy or blind copy you on all “important” emails (importance as defined by you, which is most of them).

Your email inbox regularly exceeds its storage limit.

5. You regularly work long days and weekends, and rarely take a vacation. This is often a sign of inability or unwillingness to delegate. See “Tips for Effective Delegation,” if you don’t know how.

6. You often have to take delegated work back from your employees and do it yourself. Finish the following sentence: “If you want something done right, you have to do it _______.”

7. You really do have a sign on your desk that says, “the buck stops here.”

8. You often have meetings before meetings to make sure your employees are prepared for important meetings.

9. You like to have all work processes documented. There is a right way to do everything (usually your way.)

10. You think you are smarter than any of your employees and get frustrated with them because they just don’t get it. You resent having to “babysit” them, but you have no other choice.

11. You rarely have time for things like strategy, because you’re working so hard on the day-to-day details. In fact, your boss pointed out your lack of “strategic thinking” on your last performance review.

12. When you delegate, you spend more time on how to do the task then what needs to be accomplished.

13. You have each of your employees cell phone numbers and text them often. Especially on your days off (if you ever take any days off).

14. You require weekly and monthly activity and status reports from your employees.

15. You spend lots of time in meetings doing “after action reviews,” or “post mortems,” with most of the time spent on you second guessing every decision and action taken.

16. Your employees never take any initiative or come up with new ideas. This just reinforces your belief that they need you to do their thinking for them.

17. You measure and monitor everything. Another one of your management mottos is “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

18. You don’t allow your employees to attend meetings for you.

19. You need to know what your employees are doing at all times. You have access to their calendars and would install GPS implants in their necks if you thought HR would let you get away with it.

20. You have high turnover and low employee engagement scores. Whenever you do find a rare high performer, they “find another opportunity better suited for my skills and interests.”

Scoring:

10 or more: You, my friend, are a classic, flaming, poster child micromanager. For some reason, you refuse to let go and trust your employees. You need to find out why and change your micromanaging ways, or you’ll be doomed to a career full of frustration, burnout, and missed promotional opportunities. Talk it over with your boss, HR, a trusted peer, or an executive coach. There is hope for you, but you have to face the issue and want to change.

5 to 9: You are a borderline micromanager. Hopefully your micromanaging ways are situational and temporary, i.e., you have a lot of new employees. Go back and examine the questions you answered “yes” to and ask yourself if it’s really necessary. Set a goal to eliminate one item at a time, until you are at 5 or under.

4 or less: You’re probably not a micromanager, although it depends on which questions. Still, it’s worth going back and examining the questions you answered “yes” to. Ask your employees for honest feedback. Talk to a few managers that you really admire to get their perspective. You may be surprised on the positive impact of eliminating even 1-2 micromanaging habits.

None. Congratulations! You are an empowering leader who knows how to hire and develop great talent and then turns them loose. Your employees must love working for you, your boss must be impressed with your capacity, and you have no problem maintaining a healthy work life balance. Please make yourself available to any of those micromanagers that come to you for advice!