Think differently

Directors and managers, are you sure you're not micro-managing?

Julia Milner , Professor

In this article, originally published in French HBR France, Julia Milner, Professor at EDHEC, takes a closer look at the notion of micromanagement and its resurgence in the corporate world, in new forms that need to be detected... if they are not to be practised.

Reading time :
23 Feb 2024

In the past, leaders and managers believed that they had to be omniscient and omnipotent - that they had to know everything and be experts in everything. They thought they had to direct their staff, even for the simplest tasks. Today, this style of leadership is considered obsolete and even harmful to the company.


Leaders who wish to distinguish themselves from this stereotype often still adopt a micromanagement style. They believe they are "coaching" their employees, when in fact they are simply telling them what to do. However, it is still possible to help these "motivating micromanagers" to change their leadership style, and simply become "motivating managers/leaders", at the service of their teams.


Why do so many managers still cling to micromanagement?

No one wants to be a micro-manager, yet most employees have already experienced it. A recent Monster survey even named it as the biggest warning sign in the workplace. According to the survey, micromanagement is worse in the eyes of employees than inflexible working hours or unnecessary meetings.


Managers need to look at micromanagement. They can no longer ignore this problem, thinking that it does not concern them, and must familiarise themselves with the new forms it can take. For their part, HR departments need to make this a priority, and invest in training for their managers and their own executives - particularly through leadership coaching.


The consequences of micromanagement

Micromanagement is an approach that involves excessive control over the work of subordinates. The aim of this management style is to improve performance, but it is based on the idea that the manager knows best how to carry out tasks. In other words, the micromanager believes that "if you do it my way, the result will be better" ("Micromanagement in clinical supervision: a scoping review", by Jihyun Lee, Solmoe Ahn, Marcus Henning, Monica van de Ridder and Vijay Rajput, BMC Med Educ, 2023).


However, micromanagement, far from improving performance, has the opposite effect. It undermines employee well-being and disrupts the smooth running of the organisation. Thus, all the benevolence and attention to the well-being of the world's employees is not enough to counterbalance its negative effects on productivity ("What is wrong with micromanagement: economic view", by Sean R. Aguilar and Olga Kosheleva, Asian Journal of Economics and Banking, 2021)...


To read this article in full (in French), go directly to


Other items you may be
interested in


How Ratings Systems Shape User Behavior in the Gig Economy

  • Arne De Keyser , Professor
  • Christophe Lembregts , RS Erasmus Univ.
  • Jeroen Schepers , Eindhoven University of Technology

The new generations and the world of work: 5 questions to Manuelle Malot and Geneviève Houriet Segard (NewGen Centre)

  • Manuelle Malot , EDHEC NewGen Talent Centre Director
  • Geneviève Houriet Segard , EDHEC NewGen Talent Centre Adjunct Director