May 17, 2017
“Sheila” accepted a new job and then realized her boss had some severe micromanaging behaviors. For example, after he would give an assignment, he would check in with Sheila multiple times a day to find out her progress.
“The worst was the day when he pulled a chair into my cubicle and sat next to me, pointing at my computer screen and asking questions while I was working,” Sheila told me. “It wasn’t helpful and slowed me down. By the end of the day I was so angry with him I felt like I might explode.”
Because she was new to her job, Sheila didn’t want to leave. “I like the company and I enjoy my work. It’s just his management style that I hate. He could be a good manager if he wasn’t such a control freak.”
You’ll never be able to force your boss to change his or her micromanaging behaviors. But if you don’t want to leave your job, then what you can do is flex your style to work better with your manager’s style and practice ways to communicate boundaries.
- Explode in anger when you feel like your boss is interfering. Most people don’t purposely try to be bad people managers. You might be working for someone who is new to people management and is a bit over-eager to do a good job, or your manager might simply enjoy being involved in the details of certain projects. Try to be compassionate in how you approach your interactions with your boss because you just never know – some day you might be in that same position with someone else feeling frustrated with your behaviors!
- Pick a fight over everything. Instead, choose your battles wisely. If you believe your way is better than your manager’s method, ask for the freedom to try it. Explain that you’ll keep him or her in the loop and that if your method doesn’t work, you’ll use option B (their method).
- Go it alone. Most people with micromanager tendencies hate it when they’re not consulted if there’s a change in the game plan. So if you run into an issue or obstacle, take a moment to discuss the situation with your manager, explain how you’re thinking about handling it, and ask for his or her feedback. This will demonstrate your analytical and critical thinking skills. It will also show you’re open to feedback and help you earn your manager’s trust.
- Build your manager’s trust in your work by, first, finding out your boss’s expectations for your job and how your performance will be evaluated.
- Then, mutually agree on what you need to accomplish and by when (deadlines).
- Create a “Goals and Objectives” document to track your progress and to use as a communication tool.
- Take the time to learn your manager’s preferred method of communication, the level of interaction he or she prefers, and the information to include in your progress updates.
- Schedule update meetings or set repeating reminders in your calendar tool to provide updates to your boss on a regular basis.
- Get your work done on time and provide fair warning if a timeline slips.
- Finally, every now and then, ask your manager if you’re providing enough progress communication. Listen to his or her response and then make adjustments.
Sheila considered different ways she could communicate with her new boss, so he would feel more comfortable knowing what she was working on and her progress. She also practiced setting better boundaries when he displayed behaviors that harmed her productivity.
The next time he pulled up a chair in her cubicle while she was working she smiled at him and said, “I really appreciate your interest in my work, but right now I’m on a really tight deadline to get these orders completed. Watching me while I process these orders is making me feel nervous and slowing me down, which I’m sure wasn’t your intention. How about if I come by your office in two hours and give you an update?”
Pushing back on her boss when he demonstrated micromanaging behaviors wasn’t easy for Sheila, but she practiced doing it in ways that weren’t rude or demeaning. This also helped relieve much of the stress she had been feeling from holding her annoyance and anger inside.
Over time, Sheila created a better working environment for herself and others in the group. Her relationship with her boss also improved, as his trust in her grew.
Bottom Line: The key to surviving a micromanager is to determine a mutually agreed upon balance between your manager’s need for information and involvement, and your need for freedom to be productive.
(Photo: Purchased from iStock)