Have you ever had a micromanaging boss? Someone who just kept checking up on you, telling you how to do your work, and didn’t leave you alone? Learn how to deal with this kind of manager in this article.
Having a boss that micromanages you can be hard. It impacts your productivity, as they are always checking up on you and your work. It can be demoralising, as it can feel like they don’t trust you enough to do your own work.
In this article, I’ll share some tips for dealing with this kind of manager.
First of all, how do you define micromanage?
- Controlling every part of an activity, however small it is
- Higher than necessary attention to detail of others’ work
It’s not a normal or good trait for managers to have. It can come from a few different things:
- Fear or anxiety with other people’s work
- New to the role
- Don’t want to receive blame for their team’s mistakes
Managers shouldn’t be checking up on your every move and telling you how to do your job. A good team leader should motivate you and make you work better.
With that said, let’s take a look at how you can deal with a micromanaging boss.
1 – Think About Your Own Behaviour First
The first thing you should do is think about your own behaviour.
Is there anything that you’re doing that might be prompting this?
There probably isn’t, but it’s good to know first, just to confirm that you’re not “in the wrong”.
- Have you been getting to work late, or leaving early?
- Have you been doing work that’s lower in quality than what is expected?
- Are you late with your work?
It’s good to confirm that you’re not the problem first. So, think about your own work and behaviour to see if there’s anything you can do or anything that may be triggering this behaviour.
2 – Ask What They Expect From You
Sometimes, a micromanager boss may feel like a micromanager because you don’t know what they expect from you.
Perhaps they expect regular updates on a project, even if they haven’t told you, and you haven’t been providing them. Perhaps they want to know when things are going well, and not just when there are problems.
The only way to know what they expect from you is to ask them. Take some time to ask them what information they need from you, what kind of work they want, and how often they want updates. This can often help in dealing with a micromanager as it improves the understanding.
However, just because they mention what they expect from you, doesn’t make them any less of a micromanager.
3 – Give It Some Time
It’s possible for a micromanaging boss to exhibit this behaviour for only a short amount of time. This could be for a few reasons:
- They are new to the role
- You’re new to the role
- There’s a temporary deadline to meet
If they are new to the role, the might feel that it’s the best way to get things done. They might feel anxious about their own ability or the team’s work, and want to check every detail of it.
Or, you could be new to the role, and it’s their way of making sure you produce quality work.
There could also be a deadline for the team or a project that needs to be met, which could put them under extra pressure.
So, my advice here is to give it some time. Try to find out if they are motivated by any of these factors. See if they are like this with any other team member. See if they have any bigger picture deadlines or projects that are due soon, which may be causing this behaviour.
With any luck, it’s only temporary, and they won’t keep up the micromanaging behaviour for long!
4 – Anticipate What They Want
If they are not clear in their expectations of you, it can be helpful to anticipate what they want.
This can come from your past experience, from their behaviour, or from your best guess.
For example, if you’re working on a project and they want a document to be prepared, send them a copy to review before you send it out to the wider team. They may want to review the work before it gets distributed (which is common for micromanagers), so even if they didn’t ask for it, you’ve anticipated it, and sent it to them anyway.
5 – Provide Updates Proactively
Another tip for how to deal with a micromanaging boss is to provide them with regular updates proactively.
The idea is to make them feel more comfortable with you and your work. A way for them to be more comfortable is to keep updated. If you update them regularly with how you are going, and any issues you have, then this will make them feel better – and less likely to come and ask you for an update.
They might be coming to you and asking you for an update regularly anyway – maybe it’s once a day, or twice a day.
If so, send them an update (via email, or in person) on what they usually ask for, before they ask it.
It will show them that you are capable of doing your work without their check-ins and make them feel more comfortable, which usually results in less checking in with you.
6 – Notice Their Behaviour
Sometimes, a micromanaging boss is only a micromanaging boss some of the time. The rest of the time, they are OK.
Why only sometimes?
Well, that’s what we need to work out.
Maybe they have a regular meeting with their boss and exhibit micromanaging behaviour for the rest of the day afterwards. Maybe they have an important project due soon, so they feel the need to micromanage. Maybe it happens every Monday because they don’t like Mondays.
If there is some kind of pattern to their micromanaging behaviour, try to identify it. If you can, you can then be more proactive about it, as mentioned earlier.
If they seem anxious after their meeting with their boss, maybe send them a status update of your work before their meeting, which can help them feel more comfortable afterwards.
7 – Make Them Look Good
I mentioned earlier that a micromanager boss is often this way due to fear, anxiety, or lack of confidence in themselves or the team.
One way to reduce the micromanagement is to make the boss look good.
So, how do you make them look good?
- Complete work on time, or before the deadline.
- Ensure the quality of the team’s work is high
- Come up with new ideas on how to improve the team
If the boss looks good, they will be happier with the team, and less likely to ask for constant updates, as they have more faith in the team.
8 – Make Them Busy
If your manager is busy doing their own work, then they will be too busy to micromanage you.
You can help them get busier by including them in the projects you’re working on.
Perhaps get them involved in your code reviews, design sessions, and other lower-level tasks that they are not required for. Invite them to meetings you have that they don’t need to be there for.
Promote them to other teams and managers, which will often result in other teams asking your manager for work or requesting things.
These are a few suggestions to keep them busy, which can help you to get on with your own work.
9 – Talk To Them
A lot of the time, a micromanaging boss doesn’t know that they are micromanaging. Or, they know, but they don’t understand the effects of it on you and the team.
One of the best methods for how to deal with a micromanaging boss is just to talk to them.
Get some time with them, either during a regular catch-up you might have, or set up a new meeting with them.
Explain to them carefully how you feel. Explain that it feels like they don’t trust you with your work, or ask if they would consider a more hands-off approach to your work.
It can be helpful to come up with a compromise for the way that you both work, that can help your micromanager boss less of a micromanager, and you a happier employee.
This can be hard, but it’s worth doing!
If it works, then thank them for the change in behaviour. Let them know that you feel more comfortable and productive, and ensure that the work that you do is still high quality.
10 – Consider Moving On
The final tip I have is to consider leaving the team.
If you can’t seem to work out how to work with your manager, or if their micromanagement is too much for you, then think about leaving.
It’s not ideal, but sometimes it’s the only thing to do.
You can transfer into a different team or project. Or, you can find a new job at a different company.
It’s a big step, so give it some thought. However, sometimes it’s the only thing to do.
People often say that employees don’t leave jobs, they leave managers, so it’s not uncommon for you to leave if you can’t work with your manager.