How to Survive Working for a Micromanager

Perspectives
Aug 24, 2012
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2 Min Read

If you work for a micromanager, you’re probably pretty miserable. It’s hard to feel trusted and valued when your work is being constantly scrutinized and your boss is checking up on things that you don’t think they need to check on.

But there are often steps you can take to get more breathing room.

First, let’s define what micromanagement really is, because people often confuse hands-on management (good) with micromanagement (bad). Good managers will be heavily involved in setting goals and ensuring that employees are clear on the desired outcomes, and they do check in on progress, so that employees can make needed adjustments before it's too late. But micromanagers, on the other hand, dictate exactly how to do the work and watch over every step in the process, refusing to truly delegate any decisions—and, in the process, lowers morale and productivity.

If your boss has crossed over from being hands-on into micromanagement, one of two things is going on: (1) Your boss is micromanaging you because you have given her reason to, or (2) your boss is micromanaging you because she's a micromanager in general.

In situation #1, people rarely ask, "What have I done that's inspiring this scrutiny from my boss?" Instead, they're just annoyed by it, which prevents them from being able to take the actions that could change it. If you drop the ball on things more often than very occasionally, forget details, don't follow up on things, miss deadlines, or produce work that requires a lot of changes from others, a good manager would get more closely involved — because ultimately the manager's job is to ensure that the work is done well, and in this scenario, a good manager would have reason not to go on faith. So, the first step is to ask yourself some tough questions to figure out if the problem is actually you.

But if you're confident that your boss has no reason to doubt your work or your ability to stay on top of it, then this may simply be the style she uses with everyone, without adapting based on need. If this is the case, try talking to her:

  • Give specific examples of projects where you felt you could have worked more effectively if you weren't on such a short leash.
  • Ask if there's anything you're doing that makes her feel she can't trust you and how you can work with more autonomy.
  • Suggest other ways to keep her in the loop, such as weekly reports or weekly meetings, so that she doesn't feel she needs to check in as much.

If she's resistant, ask if she’s willing to try giving you more autonomy on one project to see how it goes.

In the best case, this approach can persuade a boss to ease up and find more appropriate ways to stay involved. But if nothing else, this approach will at least tell you whether or not things are likely to ever change, and that’s valuable information to have!

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