Micromanaging: Working with an overbearing boss


Employees saying they are being micromanaged breeds more hostility. FILE PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

When Elizabeth Wairimu secured a position as an intern at a farm, she was elated. She worked diligently, and within a month, she was hired as an assistant farm manager.

However, one of her colleagues, a house manager at the farm, was not pleased with the raise. She would order her around and hover over her head as she worked.

The house manager would also drop the name of their boss every now and then when her ‘orders’ were ignored. Having worked at the farm for some time, the house manager had earned the boss’s loyalty.

“She would compare my work with the previous farm managers, which was never as good according to her,” she explains.

Tired of the control, Ms Wairimu quit her job last year.

Micromanaging managers or supervisors are a common source of frustration in many workplaces, and their behaviour can hurt employee morale, motivation, and productivity.

In this era of autonomy and flexibility, micromanagement is a management style that is becoming increasingly outdated and ineffective, yet some managers cling to it.

Bernard Kinyanjui, a Human Resource (HR) expert shares that while it is a management style, some bosses are driven by a personality disorder that predisposes them to want to be involved in everything.

He shares that the signs of a line manager or supervisor who micromanages are; one who spends more time supervising delights in failure, reprimands employees over minor issues, makes a mountain out of a molehill, and instils fear.

“They are never satisfied with work done and will often re-do tasks they had previously assigned. Mr Kinyanjui adds that they always want to be copied in all emails that an employee writes, even those that do not concern them,” he adds.

These managers, due to their sadistic nature, will never give positive feedback and attack an employee’s personality instead of focusing on the errors in the task.

They will always see mistakes in every work delivered.

Mr Kinyanjui also notes that they tend to overstay in positions and rarely mentor any employee to succeed them.

“They believe only they can do a certain job well. Even on small tasks that could be delegated, a micromanager cannot.”

Such bosses do not take leaves or some time off and are always at work.

Mr Kinyanjui shares that these managers need to remember they have a job description beyond the supervising role.


Liz Shaka, an HR expert, shares that working under a boss who micromanages hinders creativity since employees are not allowed to share their input.

“For employees to grow, they need an environment that allows them to make mistakes, learn from them and improve on the existing practices.”

Not having such an environment curtails an employee’s growth, and their potential is not fully exploited, with them feeling unsatisfied and eventually quitting like Ms Wairimu.

“Team members become average or below average performers. There is no drive to be more productive in their work output,” she elaborates.

Career stagnation is the nail that drives many to quiet quitting. Additionally, this is fuelled by constant criticism and jabs, which affects their confidence and morale.

Coping mechanism

Mr Kinyanjui notes that it is a tricky balancing act working under a boss that micromanages with language and wisdom at the heart of successful communication.

While they also do not accept feedback, employees saying they are being micromanaged breeds more hostility.

However, he advises that employees understand their boss’s anxieties, concerns, and fears.

“They could be micromanaging you because they are reporting to someone who takes particular aspects of the job to be very critical and could have faced some wrath in the past,” he explains.

This builds trust with the micromanager since you understand where they are coming from. In the same measure, an employee could highlight concerns that are impeding their work.

For instance, if the boss needs them to report every task done by the hour, the employee could request extra time to do more.

While most organisations create an enabling culture for these managers, the HR department can mitigate their corrosive effect by continuous leadership development training.

Ms Shaka says training managers on leadership, self-awareness, and team management is crucial.

“Have non-official catch-up sessions to build team synergies that enable members to openly discuss their pain points. This shows them that they are not the alpha and omega at work,” she adds.

The HR should also provide a platform for teams to share feedback and act on it so that it is not all talk and no action.

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