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How to handle a micromanaging boss

Every day you rock into work knowing your micromanaging boss will stand over your shoulder, watch your every move and question everything you do. It’s affecting your happiness. You know you’re professional and are perfectly capable. So why doesn’t your manager leave you alone?

As an employee, managing a micromanager can be tricky, but it’s not impossible.

This expert article explores:

  • what micromanagement is
  • why micromanagers behave the way they do
  • some impacts of micromanagement
  • tips for dealing with a micromanaging boss.

What is micromanagement?

A micromanager closely observes and continually reminds employees of what they need to do and how. Micromanagers crave controlling detail. They hover over employees, critiquing everything. They always know best.

Why do micromanagers behave the way they do?

Micromanagers behave the way they do for different reasons. Some are afraid of losing control and looking inadequate. Some believe they’re better than everyone else. Other reasons include insecurity, lack of self-esteem and even poor understanding of how to manage. Micromanagers can be under pressure from senior management to meet a deadline or target.

What impact can micromanagement have?

Micromanagement generally has a negative reputation, because it reflects lack of freedom and/or trust in the workplace. It can create a paralysing atmosphere. It can have a negative impact on employees, including low morale, lack of confidence and general frustration. Micromanagement can also affect creativity and productivity.

Tips for dealing with a micromanaging boss

Understand the reasons

Put matters into perspective by understanding why your boss micromanages. This may not eliminate the behaviour but it could lessen your emotional strain. Remember that your boss might not even realise they’re micromanaging.

Think about your role

Be honest about your role, behaviour and work. Are you triggering the micromanagement? Focus on these questions:

  • Have you been making mistakes?
  • Have you missed important deadlines?
  • Are you working to build trust or just doing your own thing?
  • Are you communicating effectively or leaving your manager in the dark?
  • Are you working productively or wasting company time?

Once you’ve analysed your work behaviour, correct what could be causing your boss to micromanage.

Plan to be proactive and ahead of the game

If your boss must continually approach you for progress updates, develop an action plan so you’re ahead of the game. If, for example, your boss micromanages by asking for progress reports, get on the front foot and send them first. If you do this regularly, your manager will become confident you’re on top of matters.

Ask your boss how they want to be kept informed and action accordingly. Sometimes micromanagers just want to know what’s happening, so proactive communications are key.

Set up a meeting to explore options

If you’re work environment is super busy, meet with your boss and ask how you can make processes smoother. Acknowledge your boss’s challenges, clarify expectations, and offer to help. This will let them know you’re a team player who cares; one who can be trusted to work independently.

Let your boss know how you feel

If the going gets tougher, talk to your boss about your feelings. They might not be aware you’re upset. Explain how you’re more fulfilled and productive when working independently. Explain how you thrive when trusted.

Be calm, cool, collected, and clear during any discussion. Use a couple of concrete examples to illustrate your point. Don’t get defensive.

Make sure the discussion isn’t one sided. Ask your boss what you can do to make them more confident. Say you want their trust. Determine an accountability system—one that works for both of you.

If needed, get help from human resources. They could have great suggestions.

Be patient

Fixing a micromanaging problem takes time so be patient. Don’t get upset if matters don’t change overnight. Keep communication open.

Be ready to make a hard decision if needed

If you’ve exhausted all options and your mental health is suffering, explore a transfer within your organisation or keep an eye out for a new position.

Registering with a recruiter is a good idea. At face2face Recruitment, out Talent Manager is available to talk.

Keen to learn more?

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