Finding Balance as a Micromanager or Under-manager

8 min readDec 21, 2021
Picture of coffee cup that says worlds best boss
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Micromanagement is a specific type of leadership that can be overly directive and controlling, whereas under-management is a leadership style that delegates work and responsibility to employees without adequate supervision. Micromanagement leads to burnout, resentment, and lack of motivation among employees; under-management leads to poor performance and errors.

If there is one term that is universally disliked when it comes to management, it is the one of the micromanagers — the manager type who hovers over your shoulder to make sure you are doing your job correctly. The one who constantly double-checks your work, the one who likes to be cc’d on emails, the one who can’t stand back to let you do your job because they know they are the only ones who can do it correctly.

Everyone knows what a micromanager is, and most everyone could say they have had this type of person managing them. And when speaking of that manager type, it is not used positively.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is the one who does not manage enough, the person you rarely ever see, who prefers to let you do your job, often to the detriment of the business as they don’t take the time to confirm that you have what you need to be successful. The under-manager is someone you ask a question because you need advice, but brushes you off or makes you feel as if you are wasting their time, so that you don’t seek help again in the future. They are the hands-off manager who is perfectly happy sitting back at their desk with their feet kicked up, letting others take care of the business. The under-manager is the one who does not take the time to let you know if you are doing a good or a bad job, leaving you in a constant state of anxiety.

We hear little about the under-manager as that sounds pretty nice, the person who just lets us do our thing, however it falls upon the supervisor to provide necessary direction, to make sure that the job is getting done as needed. If a manager is not fulfilling their role, then the consequences can be as lacking, if not worse, when compared to the micromanager. The micromanager, on the other hand, makes employees feel like they have no value or trust so that morale is often low, and turnover is high.

A manager should try their best not to be too controlling or too laid back — but rather find that perfect balance somewhere in between.


People need to trust in their boss. Seems obvious, right? We need to trust that the person responsible for our work assignments is looking out for our best interest. We need to trust that managers are looking for ways to make their employees happier and more productive.

Yet if an employer installs software to monitor how long a person is on lunch break, or what websites an employee visits, that doesn’t instill confidence. If an employee is provided a work laptop that they may take home, they might use that laptop during off-work hours. Yes, it is a company provided product, so the company does have the right to monitor how it is used. But the question is, should a company do that? If someone is sitting at home in the evening and scrolling through social media, does that impact the company or that person’s direct manager? Assuming they are not posting stuff about the job, what they do, or their employer, the answer is obviously no. If someone is surfing for porn from a work laptop in the evening during off hours, does that harm the company? Maybe, if they inadvertently download a virus in the process. So, as an employee, it is also on that individual to use good judgment when using company equipment. We have phones, use your phone for that kind of stuff and leave the work computer for more socially appropriate behavior.

An employee should also show respect to the company by being aware that the laptop or mobile phone is a company provided device. So, even if that manager is perfectly happy not knowing what it is being used for, the employee should still keep in mind who it belongs to and that is not the employee, as it is usually these people who cause companies to implement restrictions and install monitoring software on devices.

Set reasonable boundaries about what is appropriate and allowed for an employee when using company equipment. A mobile phone used to access Twitter is probably okay, however using a work laptop to access adult only websites is not okay. Trust an employee to follow those rules. This is where monitoring software comes in. The software can be set to notify a company’s IT department if an employee visits a site on the do not access list, or even block it from being accessed. But don’t lean over someone’s shoulder when you walk past their desk during the day to see what sites they are on.

Chart with signs of a micromanager


What do employees want? They want to be respected, seen, and heard. They want to know that their voice matters. How do we show them we respect them? Not asking to be cc’d on every email is a good way to show that. If they are not doing their job, you will know about it because it will be brought to your attention. When having the weekly or bi-monthly one-on-one with that person, you can get status updates on projects and workload to find out how they are doing. You are showing them you respect them enough not to over manage but also making sure that you are available when they need you. During that time, you can check-in with them to identify if there is anything you can do to help them.

Many managers say, “I have an open-door policy” but do you mean it when you say that? If someone comes to you with an issue, are you able to step away from whatever it is you are doing to respond and assist that person? An open-door policy does not mean only enter when the door is open. It means being available when that person needs your assistance.

Other ways to show someone you respect them is to prioritize work-life (aka life-work) balance. Making sure as a team that you are not micromanaging by expecting an immediate reply to each and every email. And if someone is showing poor work-life balance, have a quick talk with them and let them know that they don’t need to work outside of work hours to stand out or impress you.


Similar to showing someone you respect them is showing that you value them. This does not always mean monetary value, as seen in that regular paycheck. Although a good paycheck and compensation package is on top of most anyone’s list of what they want from a company regarding value.

Celebrate your employees’ achievements to show you appreciate them. This can be as simple as noticing the quality of work someone does and sending an email thanking them. Or it can be more, such as taking the team out after work one evening after a month of hard deadlines.

Performance-based rewards are the mainstay of most any sales organization. The person with the top sales at the car lot, for example, is often the highest paid. They have charts of who has sold the most cars with a leader board and the person at the top of the board at the end of the month will often receive some type of bonus for performance. Call centers use this to reward people who save the most customers, as in talk the most customers into not leaving the service and signing them to new contracts. Rewards can range from gift items to trips, or cash bonuses. The key is to make sure that whatever it is, it is something they would want. A lunch with the boss is not necessarily a considered reward by most employees, for example.

Chart with the signs of someone who under-manages

Finding Balance

The key to being an outstanding manager is finding the correct balance between over managing employees and under managing employees. So, how to find that balance?

The first step to finding out how you are perceived is to ask. You could try to ask face to face during meetings, reviews, and one-on-ones. But getting an honest answer out of a face-to-face session is unlikely. A better solution, if you have multiple people who report to you, is to do a survey that they can complete anonymously. Many larger corporations already utilize this method during annual reviews. It is not only used to assist management with improving themselves; it helps upper management with reviews and raises, so it behooves the person receiving the survey to supervise others in a way that provides positive results.

If you don’t have the ability to do a survey or only have a few people reporting to you, meaning that would give away who completed each questionnaire, try simply taking a good look at yourself. Notice how people behave around you. Do they look frustrated or does receiving instructions bother them in some way? Ask yourself how would you feel if the roles were reversed? Would you like someone in a management position over you who behaves like you do?

Make sure you are managing to the person. Everyone is different. So, the employee who might need more direction and supervision might be different that the one who prefers to be hands off. I once had a manager who started off meeting with me once a week for status checks, but once she realized that the time could be spent more productively elsewhere, she reduced the number of meetings we had. She understood that if I had an issue, I would bring it to her attention as needed. So, from once a week to once or twice a month, we would meet, and that was mostly just to say hi and keep in touch. However, I had a co-worker who, if left to his own devices, would spend most of his day on the internet or taking long breaks. His manager noticed this and, to his chagrin, took a more active role in supervising his workday.

Take into consideration the employees’ tenure with the company. A new hire or someone new to the industry will need more direction compared to a senior employee who has been performing in the role for a longer time.

Successfully Managing Your Team

A manager is someone who can assign tasks, delegate responsibilities, and provide feedback. A leader must be able to motivate and inspire others to produce results. This might not be the same as managing, but they are skills often applied together. The most successful managers are those who recognize how they manage, how others perceive it, and who can change their behavior to create a positive and successful work environment.




Milo Denison is a freelance project manager and content writer. His most recent book “How to Manage Your Manager” is out now