How to Successfully Deal with a Micromanaging Boss
There are few types of managers more annoying than the micromanager. A micromanaging boss has their hand in every detail of your daily responsibilities, refusing to grant you the slightest bit of autonomy or allow you to make any strategic decisions. They tell you how, when, and where to do your job.
While it may be impossible to change some micromanagers, here are a few tricks you can try before you throw in the towel and move on to a different job in order to gain the freedom you need to grow and succeed.
Why People Micromanage
Bosses usually micromanage for one of two reasons—either it’s their natural inclination and they treat all of their reports this way, or they only treat a certain employee this way because they don’t trust that person.
It’s Their Nature
According to Psychologist Seth Spain, there are two types of bad bosses: “Dark bosses have narcissistic and psychopathic traits and enjoy watching people who are in uncomfortable situations. They are likely going to be mean and abusive in daily life. Dysfunctional bosses are pretty harmless in comparison. They’re just not that good at their jobs.”
In either case, a feeling of lacking control can lead to exerting power.
Jenny Chatman, a professor of management at Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, believes that micromanaging is more about the boss, and less about the worker. “It’s more about your bosses’ level of internal anxiety and need to control situations than anything about you,” she says.
You’re the Problem
Sometimes, micromanaging can be a result of your own work ethic or errors. Take a close look in the mirror and ask yourself if your micromanaging boss has a valid reason to watch you like a hawk. This includes having little self-discipline, treating deadlines as optional, and making the same mistakes repeatedly. You should make an effort to improve in these areas before approaching your manager about granting you more leeway.
Work Environments Prone to Micromanaging
When it comes to in-office and remote jobs, the reality is that micromanagers can be a problem for both traditional workers and virtual workers. Their lengthy memos, detailed to-do lists, and constant check-ins can sap your energy and productivity, even if their hovering comes via emails and instant messages instead of unexpected check-ins or lingering visits to your office.
In fact, some leaders worry that they need to pay more attention to remote workers than in-house ones because of the distance. Even if you work in the office, but have a flexible schedule that allows you to adjust your schedule and leave as you need, managers may be worried that work isn’t getting done.
The irony of this is that studies have shown that remote workers tend to be more productive than office workers. Yet, micromanagers have a tough time believing that you’re working hard if you’re out of sight.
But someone constantly second-guessing your every move or acting like a teacher monitoring a distractible first-grader gets old fast. Such actions are not only annoying, they interfere with the very productivity both of you ultimately desire.
While you may not be able to “cure” a micromanaging boss, there are measures that can be taken to improve the situation.
How Do You Handle a Micromanaging Boss?
If your boss is inundating you with messages asking for project updates or wants to know precisely what you plan to do at any given moment of the workday, they may be struggling with feeling a lack of control. This can be especially difficult for a manager when their direct report is working remotely.
To avoid the constant interruptions of multiple calls, emails, texts, or IMs, just give them the information they need. Perhaps you can let them know that your work style doesn’t fit well with interruptions and perhaps you can send weekly or daily updates. Find out what they are most comfortable with. If they know that you’ll send an update every Friday, they may feel more at ease and may back off from the constant check-ins.
While exceptional workers do encounter micromanagers too, leaders often back off when they see a history of reliability and performance. Prove that you are an outstanding worker who can be trusted with whatever project your manager sends your way.
Make sure your work is outstanding, and proactively communicate milestones and updates as projects progress. Accept feedback with a smile, learning what your manager likes so you can do an even better job on the next project. If you can develop trust with your micromanaging boss, you may see some of their tendencies subside.
What if you’re certain your manager has no real cause to over involve themselves in your work? In this case, sit down with them over lunch or coffee. Tell them that you are looking for ways to be as efficient and productive as possible, and that you believe you could contribute to a much greater extent with more autonomy.
In order to effectively illustrate what you mean, provide a concrete work example from the recent past where their requests for updates slowed you down. Or maybe you had a better idea on how to complete a project, but felt like you could only follow their specific instructions. It is possible your boss never considered that their management style is hindering your work performance.
Then, suggest running independently with an upcoming project on a trial basis. Explain that you plan to keep them informed via regular status updates.
Note Positive Changes
If these suggestions result in less micromanaging from your supervisor, be sure to let them know you appreciate the additional freedom. However, be wise in how you phrase this praise. An example might be: “Thank you for trusting me with this project—having to develop the strategy and coordinate with the right stakeholders really helped me polish my campaign management skills!”
If the Micromanaging Doesn’t Stop
The stifling style of a micromanaging boss can be pretty demoralizing. Hopefully, utilizing these tactics can be enough to snap your manager out of their micromanaging ways. Just remember—you can stand up for yourself while taking responsibility for your own actions and role in the situation. If nothing changes, it might be time to look for a new job.
When and if that time comes, FlexJobs has you covered. Our job service has flexible roles in over 50 different career categories to help you find a job where you can thrive.
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com
This is a version of an article that was originally published on November 16, 2017.
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Greg Kratz, Contributing Writer
Greg Kratz is a contributing writer for FlexJobs blog and a former reporter, editor, and work-life balance columnist for the Deseret News and deseretnews.com in Salt Lake City. A father of four active children, he appreciates the flexibility to leave…Read More >
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