Is Your Boss a Micromanager? 6 Ways to Deal

micromanagerIf you have been in the working world for any length of time, you have most likely encountered the dreaded micromanager. You know, the supervisor that hovers over your every move. Sure, it can be beneficial to get guidance or instruction from your manager. However, if you have a micromanager, then nearly every work task you undertake will include bothersome meddling, tampering, revision, or overbearing control by your boss.

What exactly is a micromanager? Most of us are probably familiar with the term. Investopedia defines a micromanager as:

“a boss or manager who gives excessive supervision to employees. A micro manager, rather than telling an employee what task needs to be accomplished and by when, will watch the employee’s actions closely and provide rapid criticism if the manager thinks it’s necessary.”

I have had my fair share of micromanagers over the years. Not all of them have been 100% pure micromanagers. Some bosses merely displayed certain elements of micromanagement while others were out of control. Either way, dealing with a micromanager can be downright discouraging. Fret not though – there are steps you can take to hopefully improve the situation.

My Experiences with Micromanagement

One of my “favorite” examples of micromanagement happened a few years into my career. I was working in the tax department of a mutual fund firm. I was salaried and, while we had set hours, there was no clocking in or out of a time management system. In essence, as long as we were getting our work done in a timely manner and attending all meetings, then expectations were met.

Yet, one day my supervisor took me aside and chastised me for being 3 minutes late to work that morning. I wish I was exaggerating – just 3 minutes! She “suggested” (ie, “warned”) that next time I needed to call in to let them know I would be tardy. I took the warning without any pushback, but internally I was incredulous.

I wanted to say: “You do realize that by time I had grabbed my cell phone, found your number, dialed, waited for you to answer, and then told you I was running 3 minutes late I would have already walked into the office, don’t you?”

Of course, if my supervisor was that obsessive about me sitting down at my desk a few minutes late, you can only imagine how much she micromanaged my actual work efforts. It was pretty brutal.

How to Deal with a Micromanager

Do you have a micromanager? If yes, you might be wondering what steps or strategies you can employ to help mitigate the situation. Even if you are fortunate enough to have a “superior” who is not overwhelmingly involved in your every move, it would probably still be prudent to be aware of ways you can alleviate a micromanagement situation. After all, a new micromanager could be waiting right around the corner!

Here is what you can do:

  • Accept the situation – one of the most obvious choices you can make is to do nothing at all. This may seem silly, but it is an option and it requires the least amount of effort on your part. There are probably a few folks out there with the ability to successfully tolerate severe micromanagement. If you choose to keep the status quo with your micromanager, just be sure you are truly able to handle it all. What you don’t want happening is anger and resentment to be building up deep down and then explode one day. That would not make for a healthy work environment for anyone.
  • Make extra effort to gain trust – one of the primary reasons why your boss is micromanaging you is because he or she does not trust you. It may be that your manager doesn’t trust you personally or simply due to lack of trust in the quality of work you do. After all, your manager is ultimately responsible for you and the work you are assigned. If you do a poor job then it reflects poorly on him as well. What can you do then? Go the extra mile to gain your manager’s faith in you. Give your boss exactly what he wants and go out of the way to let him know you’ve done your assignments according to his precise expectations. In the process, you can even go above and beyond a time or two to try to score some extra points and, ultimately, some relief from the micromanaging. The key is to earn trust and if you can then chances are the obsessive micromanagement will subside to a degree.
  • Communication – communication is key in all workplace environments. When you, your co-workers, or your manager have subpar communication then everyone suffers. In an attempt to thwart the overbearing control of a micromanager, step up the level of communication. Doing so may seem counterintuitive – why reach out to him if he is already breathing down your neck? You want him to leave you alone so you avoid contact, right? Think of it this way though: if you proactively communicate project status, issues, etc. then, hopefully, after a while you will gain some trust. If you are keeping your manager abreast of the situation then there is less need for them to hound you because they will already know what’s going on. And, by being proactive with your communication, you are at least doing it on your terms.
  • Foster a team atmosphere – try to build team chemistry with your peers. The more cohesive and supportive your team is, the less your manager may be able micromanage. If you and your team members are backing each other up and going to bat for one another then your manager could easily lose the impulse to always be up in your (and everyone else’s) business. Even if this approach does not help to decrease the micromanaging at least you will come off a great team player.
  • Do work for another manager – this can be risky, but if the organizational structure permits, then consider taking on work for another manager who does not have a micromanagement style. Having another person in management vouch for you might result in your direct micromanager laying off a bit. Of course, this high risk strategy could also backfire and result in your manager being offended and plunging you into even worse micromanagement hell.
  • Bide time until you can leave – in the end, your only real way to get out from under oppressive micromanagement may be to leave your job. Perhaps you will be able to eventually transfer internally or ultimately find a position at another company. Until you are able pull the trigger on such a move, you will likely need to navigate the micromanagement waters by biding your time. In the meantime, you should be able to implement some of the suggestions above to hopefully alleviate some of the pressure and also avoid job burnout as much as possible. In the end, maybe you will find that through effective communication, gaining trust, delegating tasks, etc. that your micromanager tones it down and you won’t actually need to depart.

Do you or have you had a micromanager? What steps did you take to “manage your manager” in an effort to reduce the micromanaging? Were your efforts successful? Do you have any additional suggestions on how to deal with a micromanager?

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6 Responses to Is Your Boss a Micromanager? 6 Ways to Deal

  1. Untemplater September 11, 2015 at 7:40 am #

    Thank goodness my boss of 10 years wasn’t a micromanager. I would have lost it. Some of my clients and other people I’ve worked for can be darn picky, but I learned to just go with the flow if it doesn’t negatively impact me.

    I’ve learned to be rather detail oriented by having very picky clients and a very focused first boss, so at least I got a skillset out of it!
    Untemplater recently posted…Getting Fired For A Disability Turned Me Into An EntrepreneurMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 11, 2015 at 8:27 pm #

      Being detail oriented is a good skill to have as long as you know when to apply it. Sometimes detail oriented folks are always that way and that can make things rough. It is a somewhat different situation when clients are picky compared to having a boss be a micromanager simply because there is a huge customer service element when dealing with clients (ie, they can take their business elsewhere). You kind of have to suck it up and deal with it more so than trying to manage a micromanager.

  2. DC @ Young Adult Money September 12, 2015 at 10:12 am #

    I would say only one of my managers so far has been a micromanager. But he also held a ton of the work instead of delegating it out, so he was too busy to really get under my skin. I think the worst situation would be a micromanager who delegates almost all the work. Then not only are you super busy, but they will constantly be asking for changes or telling you to do your work differently.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…7 Common Financial Myths – ShatteredMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 12, 2015 at 11:03 am #

      That would be an unpleasant double whammy alright – a manager who delegates everything and then just sits back and micromanages. In the words of Mr. T, “I pity the fool” who has to deal with that situation.

  3. SavvyJames September 12, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

    While I have had to deal with a few micromanagers, I have been pretty lucky over the course of my adult working years. The first 21 years were spent in the Army where all of my assignments were 18 – 36 months (most being 24 months or less) which meant there was always a rapid turnover. I don’t believe I ever had to deal with a micromanager for more than six or seven months. And fortunately, in my current job, it is top heavy in experience and there is a tremendous amount of autonomy. My group leader really just serves as the person to process administrative actions.
    SavvyJames recently posted…Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em … or NotMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 12, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

      Count yourself fortunate, James! Micromanagers can make life brutal, so being able to avoid them for most of your career is quite the blessing.

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