The Micromanager

Written by Corinne Jameson-Kuehl

The term “micromanage” is a phrase I hear often while speaking to our dental teams.  I hear from owners that they “shouldn’t have to micromanage their teams” and I hear from teams that they feel their dentist-owner is a “micromanager.”

Where is the line between teaching, expectation, guiding, reminding, and the negative vibe of “micromanaging”?

Micromanaging is defined as: to manage especially with excessive control or attention to details.

The word excessive is what stands out to me. Are you reminding and expecting behaviors and tasks to be done in an excessive manner?  Where does this need to control the task and the behavior come from?

  1. Anxiety
  2. Pride
  3. Lack of trust

Most micromanagers are not even aware they are doing it. Yet the signs are clear:

    • Never quite satisfied with deliverables.
    • Often feel frustrated because you would’ve gone about the task differently.
    • Super focused on the details and takes great pride and/or pain in making corrections.
    • Constantly want to know where all your team members are and what they’re working on.
    • Unrealistic requests for frequent updates on where things stand.
    • Requiring to be cc’d on emails.

How do we evaluate micromanaging?


Ask myself:  Why am I feeling pressure over this not getting done? What would be a better solution than me projecting my anxious feelings on or into this situation?

Micromanagers abound in today’s organizations but typically, it has nothing to do with performance. “It’s more about your bosses’ level of internal anxiety and need to control situations than anything about you,” says Jenny Chatman, a professor of management at Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.


Why do I have the desire to do it all my way or force my way only in this situation?

At the other end of the spectrum, there are “pathological micromanagers” who need to make it clear to themselves and others that they are in charge.” These are the bosses that give you little to no autonomy, insist they be involved in every detail of your work and are more concerned about specifics, such as font size, rather than the big picture. Micromanagers are obsessed with control so they always look good or “in charge.”

Lack of Trust:

Can I respectfully train that person and then allow them to complete the task/interaction?  What would it take to feel trust?  How much training has been given and has it been done in a reasonable amount of time?  Lastly, does this person truly lack the capability?

Jay Hanlon insists on having “SMART” goals, meaning they’re Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound for team members.  Understanding how someone works in pace and behavior is very important, so we realize the work level and what we can expect versus assuming.

In conclusion, a true “micromanager” will operate out of anxiety, pride, or lack of trust.  We can find them exhibiting these behaviors:

    • They do not delegate.
    • Any delegated work is taken over again if a mistake is spotted.
    • They hate decisions being made without them being a part.
    • Focus is on the little details rather than the big goal.
    • Most (or all) of their time is spent overseeing.
    • They ignore the opinion and/or experience of other people.
    • Frequent updates are requested by them (even if the project isn’t relevant to them)
    • They often find deliverables unsatisfactory.

What can you do?


  • Do everything you can to gain the micromanager’s trust by asking for clarity.
  • Know what motivates and worries leadership and prepare for the concerns or times of high stress.
  • Provide regular and detailed updates in excellent communication.


  • Label anyone who exercises a degree of control or leadership as a micromanager.
  • Defy the micromanager — that often triggers the behavior you are trying to avoid.
  • Try to tell the person they are overly controlling unless you know he may be open to having feedback