It’s rare to find employees who enjoy micromanagers. Having a boss who looms over you, inspecting and criticizing every minor detail of a project is demotivating. You start to question whether your manager trusts your judgment, skills, and expertise.

In a survey by staffing agency Accountemps, 59 percent of employees said they’ve worked for a micromanager. Of those, 68 percent reported a decrease in morale, while 55 percent claimed it hurt their productivity—two negative side effects that can lead to a larger problem: employee turnover. According to a Retention Report by the Work Institute, replacing an employee costs companies 33 percent of that worker’s annual salary. That can add up quickly if you don’t prioritize retention.

To improve retention, one area you should focus on is to stop micromanaging. While there might be instances where you need to be more hands-on—such as when you’re training new staff or trying to help an underperforming employee—you also need boundaries. Controlling all aspects of every project and demanding constant progress updates from your team won’t benefit anyone.

Research shows micromanagement is among one of the top three reasons employees resign. It kills creativity, breeds mistrust, causes undue stress, and demoralizes your team. If you want to avoid these consequences, here are tips you can leverage to stop micromanaging your employees.

How to Stop Micromanaging Your Employees

1. Practice Delegating


If you don’t know how to delegate effectively, you might unintentionally end up micromanaging your team. It’s important to assign tasks that play to each employees’ strengths and goals and enable them to learn and grow in their role.

Gallup research shows that CEOs who excel in delegating generate 33 percent higher revenue. By relinquishing some responsibility, those executives empower employees and boost their morale, all while freeing up their own time to focus on activities that will yield the highest returns for the company.

When delegating, it’s important to remember that when you assign a project, you shouldn’t tell your co-worker, step-by-step, how to get the work done; that’s micromanaging. Focus instead on the desired outcome and ensure they have the right resources, training, and authority to reach the end goal.

Related: How to Delegate Effectively: 7 Tips for Managers

2. Set Clear Expectations


If you don’t establish expectations upfront, you’ll set your team up for failure. The more clear you are about the objectives of an assigned project, when it needs to be completed by, and the benchmarks you’re going to measure its success against, the better your employees are going to perform.

Some supervisors micromanage because they think they’re the only ones who can complete a specific task successfully—before even trying to explain that task to someone else. Give your employees a chance to prove their skills by properly outlining the goals of a specific initiative and how it ties into the organization’s mission.

It’s important to reemphasize: This means you’re telling them what you want them to achieve, not how you expect them to achieve it.

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3. Let Go of Perfectionism


There is more than one way to achieve a project or task. The sooner you realize that, the easier it will be to stop micromanaging. Empower your employees to experiment with their ideas and test new approaches to a particular problem.

Embrace failure. If you’re someone who regularly repeats and rewards the concept, “It’s always been done this way,” your team will stagnate. Reward creativity and prepare for potential mishaps that might come from enabling your employees to try new things. If a project doesn’t go exactly as planned, consider it a growth opportunity and lesson learned for next time.

If you’re open to new ideas and let go of perfectionism, you’ll be less inclined to micromanage your team.

Related: 5 Tips for Managing Change in the Workplace

4. Hire the Right People


This might sound obvious, but you need to hire the right people. You’re more likely to micromanage someone who’s underqualified for a role or doesn’t have the right skill set.

Every bad hire also comes with a financial penalty: According to a survey from the Society of Human Resource Management, the average cost-per-hire is $4,129, and it takes roughly 42 days to fill a given role. That’s a lot of time to have other employees picking up the slack for someone you just let go, which could impact overall productivity and morale.

5. Ask Your Employees How They Prefer to Be Managed


If you want to have a strong relationship with your team, ask each individual how they prefer to be managed. Maybe some will say they don’t mind a bit more hand-holding, although it’s more likely you’ll hear that your employees value trust and appreciate autonomy.

By having this two-sided conversation, you show your employees you respect their opinions, while also letting go of any assumptions you might have about how you’re performing as a supervisor. You might be ignoring clear signs that you’re a micromanager.

Becoming a Better Manager

What these tips don't mean is that you should dump all of your work onto your employees, or stop checking in and providing feedback. It’s essential to establish clear communication channels and let your team know you’re there when needed.

But, avoid being there when you’re not needed. Let your employees learn, grow, and experiment. Trust their judgment, skills, and expertise. As a manager, it’s your job to be focused on the bigger picture, not bogged down, micromanaging, in the details.

Are you interested in further improving your managerial skills? Explore our eight-week online Management Essentials course, which will provide you with real-world tools and strategies to excel in decision-making, implementation, organizational learning, and change management.

Lauren Landry

About the Author

Lauren Landry is the associate director of marketing and communications for Harvard Business School Online. Prior to joining HBS Online, she worked at Northeastern University and BostInno, where she wrote nearly 3,500 articles covering early-stage tech and education—including the very launch of HBS Online. When she's not at HBS Online, you might find her teaching a course on digital media at Emerson College, chugging coffee, or telling anyone who's willing to listen terribly corny jokes.