Micromanaging bosses. Everybody’s had at least one of them at some point in their career. They’re the second-guessers of every decision you make, the helicopters that hover over you every step of the way, the control freaks who want to know every single thing you do, the ruthless dictators who are bent on providing you with detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to do your job. They’re a special – and probably the worst – kind of bad boss.
But how can you survive a manager whose sole aim appears to be making your life a living hell at work? Better yet, how can they survive you and live to see another day?
1. Get to the Source of the Problem
The first step you need to take when dealing with a micromanager is to understand why they’re a micromanager.
Many times, it’s out of absolute necessity (a term I use very loosely). This is especially true if you’re new to the company and need (in your boss’s eyes, at least) a little extra hand-holding until you’re old enough to start crossing the street all by yourself. It might seem unnecessary to you, and it’s understandably very frustrating, but be patient. They simply need some time to know they can trust you, that’s all.
More often than not, though, the problem lies with the manager himself/herself, but remember they’re not all cut from the same cloth. On one end of the spectrum, you have managers who simply want to ensure everything measures up – you might even be able to learn something from them. On the other end, though, you have the micromanagers who are obsessed with control and every little detail like a report’s font choice and size. I know someone who used to work for a woman who would make her employees PM her every time they entered and left the building – and even used the WC!
Perhaps their behaviour is because they’re inexperienced and fundamentally insecure, and are simply managing people and things the way they do to better understand what to do and learn the ropes. Maybe they feel disconnected if they don’t have much contact with the shop floor or customers, and micromanaging is their way of reducing their isolation. They might simply not be busy enough or, worse, feel the need to make it clear to everyone (including themselves) that they’re in charge.
That’s not to say you’re never to blame. If you have a history of messing up and missing deadlines, for example, then you can expect some degree of micromanagement. They could simply be watching you to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes twice. If this is the case, a good idea would be to ask for a performance review to pinpoint the problem and get the feedback you need to fix it.
2. Keep Your Boss in the Loop
Remember that one of the main reasons micromanagers, well, micromanage is the fear of not being able to answer a question about a project their team is working on.
To avoid having a micromanaging boss incessantly check in on you and monitor your progress to ensure everything is going according to schedule, you might want to consider sending them frequent and detailed updates. While this might seem time-consuming now, it will save you time in the long run, and you’ll also be able to complete projects with minimum intervention.
Schedule regular check-ins with them so that they feel part of the process, or send unprompted emails with any important information about the progress of a specific project. For example, you could put together an email every morning outlining all the work that was completed the previous day and a plan of everything you aim to accomplish today.
As a result, your boss will always be in the know about where your current workload stands and they’ll eventually realise how organised you are and that you can be trusted to do a job properly without ‘adult supervision’.
3. Ask for Their Input
This piece of advice may sound a little counter productive (considering the problem is that they give you TOO MUCH input) but hear me out.
Micromanagers want to be in control – of everything and everyone, all the time. This often stems from their fear that others aren’t able to complete tasks as well as or in the specific way that they would.
So, to help keep their worries (and their micromanaging selves) at bay, you can ask your boss what they expect from you and to lay out all the tasks they want you to perform. And don’t be afraid to ask them questions or to clarify things for you (micromanagers simply love it when you turn to them for advice). Over time, this can help shift them away from a constantly vigilant stance.
4. Keep Your Frustrations in Check
At some point, you’ll – quite understandably, might I add – feel like snapping at your manager when they’ve crossed the line one time too many. However (and no matter how much of a control freak they are), this will obviously have repercussions. Best case scenario, you get a slap on the wrist and have disciplinary action taken against you; worst case scenario, you get fired. Even if you don’t lose your job, the only thing you’ll manage to achieve is make things even worse for yourself than what they already are.
A better idea would be talking to coworkers, whether they’re from your own or another department, who feel they’re being micromanaged, too. Often, just talking about it and sharing your mutual frustrations can help you feel better at work. An important thing to remember is to have these conversations outside the office – I don’t think I need to spell out the implications of being overheard by the manager in question. Equally important is to discuss and find strategies to help create a better working environment – you shouldn’t make it your mission to get the manager fired, as this could backfire.
You could also think about doing yoga, going for a 20-minute walk or jog, or hitting the local gym to release any tension and stress caused by a micromanaging boss.
At the end of the day, managing your emotions in a productive and enriching manner will not only help your work but will also ensure that your personal relationships do not suffer.
5. Use Your Words
Having a heart-to-heart conversation with your manager about their management style and how their constant checking in on you affects your productivity can often be all it takes to set things right. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you start screaming ‘Will you just back the f*ck off, you stupid control freak?!’ at them. There are other, more appropriate and less confrontational, ways to communicate your concerns and encourage your boss to give you some space.
Firstly, it’s extremely important that you do so privately – you don’t want to make a scene and publicly shame your manager. It will only make you look bad. It’s also possible that they aren’t even aware their behaviour is throttling your work life and creating a stressful and hostile work environment, so don’t suddenly corner them – it will only make them angry and defensive.
Schedule an appointment with them to discuss your concerns. Be diplomatic and tactful, and use the meeting as a forum to find ways you can work together in harmony. Having this kind of conversation with your boss is, quite naturally, a little terrifying, but understand that simply ignoring the situation will not make it magically disappear! Meanwhile, demonstrating that you’re a problem-solver could end up being your ticket to a promotion further down the line.
6. Take Action
If none of the strategies above work, you’ll need to start thinking about getting a third party involved to help you resolve the issue. Consult with your company’s HR department to find out more about your options, but be careful: if your manager enjoys showing they have power and you don’t, it could backfire on you and do more harm than good.
If all else fails, perhaps it’s time to move on. After all, if your boss’s management style is affecting your productivity, health and sanity (which most likely is, according to a wealth of scientific research – one study found that micromanagement is associated with a 15.4% increase in the likelihood of death) and they’re unwilling to modify their behaviour, there’s not really much else you can do.
Start searching online job boards and websites like LinkedIn and our very own CareerAddict Jobs for other opportunities, but try to give it at least a year before clearing your desk (a job where you only lasted a couple of months won’t look good on your CV and will certainly raise a few eyebrows). It’s also a good idea to secure employment elsewhere first before resigning, and remember to be as professional and graceful about it as possible!
Have you ever had a micromanaging boss and have other tips on how to survive their controlling ways? Join the conversation down below and share your thoughts and experiences with us!