How to handle micro managers

There is a high chance that you have had to manage or deal with a micromanager in your career. You might not even directly report to them but they still like to try and manage your time. What can you do if you find yourself in this position?

  1. This isnt about you!

First things first. Let’s get this out of the way. You being micromanaged says nothing about your ability to perform your job adequately or your skill as an employee. It says more about the bosses anxiety and stress levels and their need to be able to control as much as they can in their situation/projects. When I’m helping people who are struggling with a Micro Manager, I give them this advice: You cannot change your bosses attitude nor way they behave but you can adjust how you respond to them and perform your job. It’s important to make this distinction between what you’re able to influence and what’s out of your control.

2. Understand the Micro Manager

Do you know why this Micro Manager is behaving in this way? Are they needing the control? Is it because they have extremely high standards and demand this from you? Or is it the less positive; that they need to let you know that they’re in charge. These are the bosses that demand to be involved in all tasks, will give you little autonomy and struggle to see the bigger picture. If you can understand why they are behaving in such a way, you’re on the way to learning how to manage them. You’re able to identify this by looking at how the micro manager behaves and looking at what they’re trying to achieve. If it’s around perfection of the end product, it could be the former. If it’s about personal gain and promotion, it’ll be the latter.

3. Work out your plan of attack

Once you have worked out why they are behaving in a certain way, it’s time to look at how you can manage them effectively to not impact your working life.

Earn their trust

If they are your direct manager, a very successful way to manage this is to earn their trust by delivering in the areas where they put an emphasis upon success. You can always try to look at ways to reduce their stress and see if you’re able to support them. This element of earning trust includes asking questions upfront and being proactive if your foresee issues occurring. By anticipating their reaction and requirements, you can earn trust that you deserve to have some autonomy. This will not be a quick effort but it can have longer term goals.

Expectation Management

When I have worked with Micro managers, I try to come to an agreement upfront about roles and responsibilities and give them the sense of control over what I will be doing and what they are responsible for. I continue to reiterate this on a high level throughout the course of the task/engagement. I’ve found that when I’m dealing with a micro manager who is in a similar level to me in the organisation, that expectation management is the best way to manage them without getting stressed myself.

Communicate!

It’s important to make sure that you give the right information and communicate effectively to the micro manager. Keep it on a high level rather than going in to specific details. If I’m working with a micro manager, I try to bring them into the loop and communicate the details that they need to know rather than going into specifics.

Communication can also go several ways. Most micro managers will not appreciate being called out on their behaviour but if you can try and catch them at the right moment, it can help to have an open conversation about how you both like to work in the project and how you’re able to work together. If it continues to be a detriment to your working day/career, then you can also consider discussing with HR/nominated individual and asking them to support you getting your point across.

4. What if that doesnt work?

If possible, I’d suggest that you discuss with a superior what you’re experiencing and being factual with your information. It’s critical to avoid emotions and look at the effect that the micromanaging is having on the team/productivity etc.

If you really cannot manage them and they continue to make your working life stressful, I would strongly recommend considering a transfer or moving to another job.

5. What should you not do?

I’ve seen several different ways of reacting to micro managers. Open defiance or refusal to work in their way can be detrimental to your career as well as ability to work at all!

It can be helpful to make sure that you do not isolate yourself from your team, peers or organisation.

If you can learn a few tips to manage a micro manager, it can really help to facilitate a more productive working relationship.

What are your top tips for managing a micro manager?

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