How to Deal with a Micromanager

Do you have a micromanager that leaves you feeling frustrated? Here are some strategies to deal with that helicopter boss so you can feel empowered!
How to Deal with a Micromanager

Do you have a micromanager that leaves you feeling uninspired and underappreciated? Here is a scenario that you might identify with:

Mary’s manager is Derek.  Derek has asked to be copied on every email and wants frequent updates on all projects.  He gives very detailed instructions not only on what he wants but how he wants work done.   Derek second guesses Mary almost on a daily basis.  He is constantly making corrections, dissatisfied with deliverables and is so “in the weeds” that she wonders why he’s not spending his time on higher-level strategic issues.

Mary and her team are (understandably) frustrated and demoralized. She feels that if Derek hired her, he should trust her and her ability to get the job done without having to second-guess her every move.

Sound familiar? Have you ever had a controlling boss like Derek?  (I sure have!)

OK, I think I hear a resounding, YES!  Read on to find out how you can deal with the micromanager in your life, so you can finally set clear boundaries and make your work life much more fun and fulfilling.

Why do they micromanage?

If we can understand why people micromanage, it’s easier to create strategies to deal with them. The reasons people micromanage all start with fearA recent study revealed that one reason people micromanage is that they fear losing power.  In fact, the less powerful people felt, the more they mistrusted workers. Another reason is fear of failure. Pressure from senior management to deliver results with unclear expectations can drive managers to micromanage their teams. Yet another reason is fear of letting go of their old jobs.  Many managers were so successful as individual contributors, that they find it difficult to make the transition to managing a team without micromanaging. Finally, many managers have a fear of being disconnected.  As managers advance in their careers they often become concerned that they’ve lost touch with the actual day-to-day activities. They begin to feel isolated, so they overcompensate by involving themselves in the small details of daily tasks.

Steps you can take

So, what are some strategies you can implement to deal more effectively with a micromanager?

First things first:

Take a look at yourself—first take a hard look at your recent attitude, productivity, and track record to make sure that you aren’t doing anything to warrant being micromanaged. Are you managing deadlines and keeping up with your projects? Could you be procrastinating on certain mundane tasks?  Make sure that the fact that you’re being micromanaged isn’t a result of something you’re doing (or not doing).

Then consider these strategies:

  • Have empathy—try to view the situation through a lens of “empathy” and make an effort to understand what your boss is going through. Don’t judge them too harshly because they micromanage. They are likely under quite a bit of pressure from superiors to perform.
  • Establish clear goals—if your manager gives unclear direction make sure to establish clear goals and priorities from the outset so there is no confusion. Agree on what success looks like. This way you avoid a situation where your manager comes back to correct you later.
  • Overcommunicate—since micromanagers generally want to know your every move, try to get ahead of the curve by overcommunicating. Maybe you can create a daily email summary of all current projects that you can send at the end of the day.  This will show that you are proactive and help to head off any last-minute requests for information.
  • Touch base frequently—set up frequent meetings and touch base regularly so you can provide updates in person. That will also give your manager the ability to put their “stamp of approval” on your activities and the feeling that they are still involved in your decision-making process.
  • Understand their pain points—maybe your micromanager is a stickler for a certain presentation template or they like to see things formatted in a certain way. Understand their pressure points so you can avoid triggering them as best you can. This will allow your workday to go more smoothly and will hopefully signal to your manager that they can trust you.
  • Anticipate their feedback—micromanagers are very predictable. Once you understand how they like certain things done, start to anticipate their feedback and include it in your projects upfront. That will begin to instill confidence in your abilities and your manager will start to feel that they can back-off a bit.
  • Speak-up—most micromanagers don’t even realize what they are doing or what effect it is having on their team and the organization. When it’s appropriate, share that feedback with them and let them know how you feel.  My suggestion is to frame it this way: “When you do X, it makes me feel like Y.”  (For example: “When you are constantly telling me what to do, it makes me feel like you don’t trust me.”)  If they are a good manager, they will listen, take it in, and make the appropriate adjustments.

Shifting your micromanager’s style won’t be easy or happen overnight. But if you can show them that you’re dependable, meticulous, and on top of things, you’ll be able to inspire that change over time.

Have you used any other techniques that were successful in working with a micromanager?  Write it in the comments or send me an email!

Are you feeling stuck and unfulfilled in your career? Download my free guide: 5 Signs It’s Time to Make a Bold Career Change!

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