Micromanagers: How to Deal

You know your stuff. You get your job done. No matter what you do that small-minded supervisor of yours just won’t let up. You find yourself plotting your exit and fantasizing how much they’ll miss you when you’re gone.
STOP! Don’t go there. While you cannot control the actions of other people, there are ways you can influence a change in your environment without making any rash decisions.

1. Anticipate what she wants.

Keep a diary of what specific items, tasks, or projects you observe are the topic of the micromanagement. Is it the report she has directed needs to be turned in every Monday by noon? Is it the comma splice in your internal email that no one else will ever see? It’s easy to obsess about a situation in which you feel unfairly treated. Putting things in writing helps to keep things in perspective. If you find a pattern, you’ll be able to make a game plan to anticipate what she wants so you can beat her to the punch.

2. Proactively provide updates.

Sometimes managers ask for updates a lot because they do not hear from you. Some managers don’t want to hear from you, but others love updates. You can quickly determine which one he is if you feel comfortable asking.

Keeping a diary of your daily tasks may seem painfully dull, but if you have it at the ready, your manager will see you are organized, detail-oriented, and responsible.

3. Ask for specific directives on the front-end.

A person known for being very difficult to please was the chair of the board of an organization where I worked. During a board meeting, she started speaking with the sentence “I’d like to discuss Jane for a moment.” Fear raced through my central nervous system. I may have emitted a slight squeak. She continued, “I’m saying this to have it in the official board minutes…” Oh, gosh! She ended up verbalizing the reason she appreciated my work was that I never said no, but I always asked her to detail for me her preferred prioritization of 10 billion tasks she just assigned me, and let her know my capabilities. The lesson? Ask. If you don’t ask, you don’t know.

4. Eliminate opportunities for him to micro-manage you.

Make good agreements on the front end. As far as I know, no one comes to work without at least an idea of his or her potential assigned tasks. When receiving delegated work, make agreements on the front end regarding details including deadlines. If possible, set deadlines further in the future than you know you can manage to make room for the unknown. (Side note: I recommend not habitually turning in the assignments way ahead of schedule to prevent the perception that you’re too liberal with deadlines.)

If you’re the type of worker who creates his work, try approaching your manager with curiosity and “manage up” by involving him in your creative and planning process. Bring your ideas and ask if you can have a brainstorming session to create collaboration and show initiative.

5. Detach from your manager’s anxiety.

The job of a manager is to receive directives, prioritize work, delegate what can be, complete what can be, and ultimately bear responsibility for the work of their entire team. No big whoop, right? No… it’s a very, very big whoop, and depending on the situation, this can be extremely stressful. Don’t adopt your manager’s stress. If your manager is micromanaging you because he is excessively pushed, that’s his problem – not yours. Your job is to take the work assignments you are given and complete them to the best of your ability, and on time.

6. Identify the reason you feel micromanaged.

Is this just happening to you? Do you witness it happening to other people, or is it just you? If your boss is only micromanaging you, there may be the opportunity for a life-changing conversation here. It is possible your work product or habits need tweaking. Do you show up late? Do you miss deadlines? If that is the case, of course, he is going to manage you more closely because of a perception that you cannot do it. This situation is only a negative if you allow it to be. It’s a positive if you see it as a possibility for growth. You can build a lot of trust with your manager by bringing your authentic self and asking for guidance. If this is happening to everyone, it’s most likely the manager’s personality or unrefined management style, and you’ll need to try a different solution for dealing with it.

A Business Journals study in 2015 showed more than 50% of people who quit their jobs do so because of their manager. I’ve done it, but that story is a blog for another day. Bottom line, sometimes a change is the answer, but it should not be your go-to solution. There is room to grow for everyone involved.

This issue is an excellent game to play with your coach. Play the game of managing up. If you don’t have a coach, get one. If you don’t know where to start, start here.

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