Micromanagement is hard to define. "Hands-on" management becomes micromanagement, the "New York Times" says, when it's so intensive it interferes with productivity and performance. If you or one of your staff manage employee behavior that closely, it may not be good for morale, but it's not usually counted as harassment.

Going Micro

Courts give managers and bosses a fair amount of leeway. Your job is to manage employees, and the law doesn't usually define how you have to do that. If you think you need to double-check an employee's every move, that's usually within your authority as a manager. Criticizing and nitpicking may stress employees out, but you can legally defend these behaviors as part of your duty as their boss and as the company owner.


If one employee needs more micromanagement than another, that's fine. If all the employees you manage that way are women, seniors, or another protected class, you may have a problem. Treating employees of different races, religions, genders and other categories protected by law differently is illegal: managing them differently, setting tougher standards, criticizing them more harshly -- all these things could be a lawsuit waiting to happen. Some state rules extend protection to other categories, such as sexual orientation.

Taking Action

If you discover one of your managers engages in discriminatory micromanagement, you have to take action. As the boss, it's your job to act to put a stop to harassing behavior, and it's necessary to protect the company from a lawsuit. Talk to your manager and tell him his behavior has to change. If an employee files a complaint against the manager, you have to investigate thoroughly. If the complaint is valid, you have to discipline the guilty party.


Even if micromanagement doesn't break the law, it could still constitute workplace bullying. As of early 2013, there are no laws in place for dealing with this. Business-ethics speaker Steven Mintz says online, though, that several states are considering changing that, protecting employees who aren't part of a protected class. Mintz states that aside from legal questions, bullying makes for a miserable workplace. As with harassment, it may be tough to draw a line between bullying and tough management.