A Micro-Manager’s Guide to Chilling Out

Even if you don’t actually trust your employees, they need to feel trusted

Jessica Powell
Published in
6 min readSep 19, 2019


Illustration: MoMo

Jessica Powell, the former Google vice president who wrote The Big Disruption and told you how to quit your job, is here to answer your common but tricky work questions. Check back every other week for more management advice with a tech inflection.

I’m worried I might be a micro-manager. How do I know, and how can I stop without feeling like I’m taking my hands off the wheel?

Here are some hints that you might be a micromanager:

  • Reading this column is part of a 15-point to-do list you made for your team this morning.
  • You’ve checked in with your direct reports three times already to see if they’ve read the piece yet and are ready to discuss it with you.
  • You’ve reminded them that they should cc you on any note they send out about this column — and really, while they’re at it, anything else they send out today.

Joking, but only sort of. If you clicked on this column, you probably know you have some micro-management tendencies, or are suffering under someone who does. Your team may even have hinted at this before, asking for a bit more trust or space (“smothering” is a less delicate way to put it).

So if you suspect you may have this problem, what can you do about it?

As the old adage says, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. If you’re a micro-manager, you’re probably never going to be the most relaxed, laissez-faire boss. And that’s OK. But you can adopt some practices that will make your management style a little less suffocating to your employees.

Learn to fake-trust people

In my experience, micro-managers tend to be perfectionists who have trust and control issues. You’re not going to fix that in a day (or month), but you can set small goals that help you learn to trust people more, or at least convey a sense of trust to your employees. Don’t worry, you don’t really have to trust them! I’m not trying to destroy your sense of self and send you into therapy. I just want you to shake things up a little.



Jessica Powell

Technophile, technophobe. Music software start-up founder. Former Google VP. Author, The Big Disruption. Fan of shochu, chocolate, and the absurd.