Julia Milner on micromanagement

Nov 15 2023 by Nicola Hunt Print This

We talk to Julia Milner, a Professor of Leadership at EDHEC Business School, about the problems of micro-management and how employees can avoid it and deal with it.

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Julia Milner is a Professor of Leadership at EDHEC Business School and along with some colleagues, has conducted research that explores the underlying problems of micro-management. We explore the various symptoms of micro-management with her and identify some strategies for dealing with it.

Julia and her team began by identifying three common features in micromanagement:

  • A lack of dialogue in interactions: employees aren’t given the chance to share their thoughts
  • A lack of empathy and consideration of emotions
  • Leaders give detailed instructions, instead of letting employees problems-solve, or share an opinion or insight

Their research, which included analysing thousands of video interactions, also found that micromanagement is generally counter-productive because it doesn’t allow employees to find their own solutions, which is more effective & motivating for most people. Leaders often have the best intentions but are busy & feel that their role is to solve everything.

That said, Julia is clear that empowering employees doesn’t mean that leaders shouldn’t provide answers or act in necessary situations. For example, with recent recruits or during an emergency. Rather, leaders must strive to create a safe environment where diverse ideas can be aired and help their employees, without seeking to control them.

Based on her findings, Julia has created seven tips for employees who want to avoid being micromanaged:

  • Be specific and clear about what they want. For example, if they want to run something by their leader, say that they would like to have a sounding board for an idea they have
  • Encourage the leader to ask questions
  • Focus on solutions, not just presenting a problem. Come with ideas & suggestions
  • Ask for feedback from the leader. And offer to give an opinion or feedback of their own
  • Be transparent about their motivations and what they want to do more of
  • Show gratitude/appreciation for the team and its work. Don’t speak up only to complain
  • Emotions are contagious, so role-model those they want to create more of in their team


What Matters

Nicola Hunt
Nicola Hunt

In What Matters, Nicola Hunt, co-founder and executive editor of Management-Issues.com, invites a special guest to join her to discuss a topical business issue and explore why it matters right now.