How to Manage a Micromanaging Boss
“The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done,” — Theodore Roosevelt
The micromanaging boss often resembles a hawk watching its prey from a distance and waiting for a chance to swoop down and punish you for your mistakes. But how do you tame this savage beast when you have absolutely no control of their actions?
To develop a productive relationship with your micromanaging boss, you need to work at restoring the confidence of your boss. To do this ask yourself a few personal questions such as —
Are you often showing up late to office?
Are you unable to deliver your projects as per the deadline?
If the answer is yes, therein lies the problem. If the answer is no, we need to dig deeper to understand the type of person your boss is before we begin to address the issue.
UNDERSTANDING THE “MICROMANAGING BOSS’S MINDSET”AND EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES FOR DEALING WITH YOUR BOSS
A micromanaging boss leaves no stone unturned and will be the first to pounce on your mistakes before you even have a chance to rectify them. You will constantly feel the prying eyes of your boss on you and this can have a severe effect on your overall productive state.
According to a study group from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, the effects of stress on employees working in a high-stress environment can cause fatal results to their health in the long run.
The research data factors in time pressure, controlling bosses, and a high degree of work concentration combined with a poor work-life balance as reasons for the highly unfavorable results.
The study also proved that employees who had more freedom in their work endeavors enjoyed a healthy lifestyle and were far less prone to stress-triggers.
A micromanaging boss constantly questioning you can cause a gaping hole in your self-esteem.
This can hurt you on a personal level and you may slowly begin to build up stress within the inner sanctums of your mind.
The stress then begins to increase day in and day out and you begin to look for unhealthy ways of releasing it by taking up smoking and heavy alcohol consumption in hopes of experiencing a temporary stream of bliss.
See the big picture of how a micromanaging boss can completely ruin your life?
Mark Kimbell from Kimbell Associates and Susan K. O’Brien from Career Management Systems offer their individual effective strategies in combating a micromanaging boss.
Strategy 1 — Assertive Communication
Mark recommends assertive communication which is a diplomatic communication style that allows us to express our interests and thoughts in a respectful and a direct manner.
This communication style favors a balanced approach instead of being too passive or too aggressive to get your point across.
By being assertive you boost your chances of making your boss understand your point of view and allow him to judge your position better.
Consider this example, your boss just handed you a large project that you are unable to handle due to your limited skillset.
By passively communicating, you end up taking the project that you are bound to perform poorly in and end up being criticized at the end of the deadline.
Instead, the “assertive approach” is to truthfully confront your feelings to your boss and let him know about the flip side of your abilities.
It’s alright to take the disappointment upfront but you will come across as an employee that stands for yourself and in the long run, your boss will appreciate your analytical skills.
Strategy 2 — Contact the HR Team
Susan offers a more confrontational strategy compared to Mark’s assertive method. She strongly believes that “Micromanagement is a personality aberration of insecure individuals and confronting them is likely to make things worse.”
To begin with, Susan recommends documenting every action and assignment that your boss throws at you.
In time, a pattern is created where you begin to understand that the time frame given to you seems limited to the project’s expectations.
You can then approach the HR department with your data and hope for a resolution. She does caution that the strategy is bound to backfire, and the HR team may side in favor of your boss.
In such a case, Susan recommends approaching the employee assistance program to deal with the situation.
While Mark offers a more diplomatic strategy to deal with a micromanaging boss, Susan strongly believes that there is a no-win situation when working for someone that controls your every move and that you need to strongly confront them about their behavior.
An in-depth analysis is further provided in the sections below on various ways to understand if your boss is indeed a micromanager and the distinct ways to deal with it.
TELLTALE SIGNS THAT DEMONSTRATE YOUR BOSS IS A MICROMANAGER
Your boss can’t seem to delegate projects around efficiently
Are your projects taking a long time to execute even after you’ve completed them?
Blame it on your boss and her inefficiency in leading her work team. A micromanager boss has more time in creating to-do lists for her employees rather than trusting them and letting them finish their projects.
Micromanaging bosses hate giving up control to others and are unable to fully utilize their employees to their full potential.
If your boss tends to incessantly dictate the way you should work without trusting your abilities, you may be dealing with a micromanager boss.
The only real way to combat this situation is to be straightforward and schedule a private meeting with your boss.
Explain your situation in detail and request them to trust you as you would prefer to work in your own way. If your boss still requires more convincing, show them the winning results from your past achievements and how you were able to accomplish a task on your own.
With enough convincing, your boss should understand your point of view and leave you to your own.
Here’s a video guide by LinkedIn Learning Solutions on how to survive a bad boss.
Your boss can’t handle low-priority projects
Does your boss hand over low-priority activities to your employees which she could have performed herself? She is certainly interested in supervising and finding faults in her employee’s shortcomings instead of providing them with the right support.
A forceful boss is often ignorant to negotiating and will always interfere in the work of others, no matter how small.
If your boss seems to be wasting everyone’s time and valuable resources by calling for unnecessary meetings and long discussions, you could be dealing with a micromanaging boss.
A boss that hands over all the low-priority tasks to the employees is certainly not someone you can have a direct communication with.
Instead try winning the situation in your favor, demonstrate how the company is failing on important priorities with the help of statistical charts or presentations.
Showcase how your boss can manage her employees better by diverting their actions from fewer priority tasks into more critical functions.
Your boss is bound to wake up once she understands the real dangers of a failing company.
Your boss never appreciates but is the first to find fault in your actions
Bosses are meant to be decisive and hence, a few harsh words can be said along the way.
However, if your boss constantly finds ways to bring your spirits down, it can be more than the project at hand. Bosses are meant to inspire and engage meaningful conversations, you may need to jump ship if you constantly find yourself under the barrage of verbal gunfire.
Micromanaging bosses often fear losing control of their power and hence, tend to dish out instructions frequently to demonstrate superior command.
One trait that appears to be universal among all micromanaging bosses is — the ability to never inspire others while always finding mistakes where there is none to be found.
If you find your boss blaming you for things that you haven’t been intimated about, your best bet is to have a verbal conversation with them.
Try pointing out your role and what you were employed for in the first place, describe your skillset and why the priorities you are tasked with don’t match with your job role. Offer advice on how they can effectively disperse large projects into micro goals for the whole team to make it convenient for everyone.
Although micromanaging bosses tend to never seek advice from others, when you can demonstrate a reason for them to look favorable to their superiors, they are sure to jump at the chance.
Your boss happens to be in a constant foul mood all the time
Micromanager bosses are usually an angry lot, their incapability in achieving the project deadline is passed down to the lower ranks.
Due to their toxic relationship with the other employees, micromanaging bosses tend to have a bad attitude and end updamaging core responsibilities in the process.
Notice visual cues as angry bosses tend to belittle others for even the smallest oversight.
Micromanaging bosses are usually a frustrated lot as they feel unrecognized by their employees. They often like being appreciated for things they haven’t done and prefer to be the center of all attention.
Passing a polite smile and offering to help with small tasks can often calm an angry demeanor.
Overtime, if the behavior tends to become increasingly worse, its best to mention it to the HR team and let them handle the situation as they see fit.
Don’t try to patronize or offer suggestions about anger management to your boss. You don’t want to make them madder than they already are.
Angry bosses seldom seek advice from their employees and they certainly don’t appreciate any unnecessary opinions that come their way.
A report by Richard D. White goes into detail as to why micromanaging is a crippling disorder that can ruin creativity and stall growth. He further prepares symptoms on the different areas that micromanagers are likely to exhibit. Such as —
- They monitor the good performing employees and the bad performing ones in the same context
- Micromanagers have an insecure personality that often inhibits their ability to trust their peers
- Micromanagers tend to steal the credit for work they haven’t performed
- They are obsessed with meaningless details
- Micromanagers tend to stretch themselves thin and take up too many projects they are unable to complete.
- Micromanagers have a complete lack of respect for their co-workers and tend to bottleneck the entire organization.
4 WAYS TO EFFECTIVELY CONTROL YOUR MICROMANAGING BOSS
1. Give them no reason to find fault with you
Before you accuse your boss of being a micromanager, it’s important to take a good long look at your own responsibilities and actions.
If you find them lacking in any way, it’s time to pull up your socks and strengthen your efforts. If there is an email labeled “Urgent”, ensure you attend to it right away and create a to-do list on how to effectively complete the Task.
Did you forget to tender your project before the deadline?
Well, you are bound to be watched by your boss more keenly than before until you prove to them that you don’t deserve a second set of eyes observing your every move.
Ensure you organize yourself at the earliest and leave no stone unturned for your boss to catch you slacking. Don’t doze off during your work times, and if you really need to nap then do so in a remote corner of the office where your boss is less likely to find you.
Actions to Implement
- Ensure you are punctual to the office always
- Complete your projects well before their deadline. Give yourself a 2-day closing period prior to the deadline.
- Don’t involve in office banter needlessly in the office, your insecure boss is bound to think you are talking about them
- Offer to complete low-priority tasks before they hand it over to you. By completing tasks beforehand, you can reduce the overall workload you receive in the future
- Dress in a formal manner, you don’t want your micromanaging boss giving you a 1-hour banter on how the dress code works in the Company
2. Never Confront — Instead Be Respectful
The worst decision you can ever do is to confront your boss about their behavior.
Remember, they haven’t got the slightest idea about their micromanaging condition. Revealing it can only make life hard for you and it may be time to resign if they begin to severely affect your work.
If you’ve been caught in a less than comfortable position of being pounded by words, brace yourself to endure them and ensure you never repeat the mistake ever again.
Take every step to commit yourself to be the employee your boss sees in you.
Even if they are in the wrong, it’s important to take a step back and understand that you are in no position to argue or prove them wrong.
The best step is to walk away with a positive mood and prove your worth by finishing the project before they have a chance to call on you.
Actions to Implement
- Greet your boss every morning and stay in a positive mood
- Look enthusiastic and always ready to take on new challenges
- Smile politely when you meet them at different times of the day
- Offer to rectify an issue if they’ve pointed it out. No matter how small it is
- Don’t argue when you are on the receiving end, simply acknowledge your mistake and be on your way
Allen Sklover shows us 6 ways on how to deal with a bully boss in this video walkthrough.
3. Always Keep Your Boss in the Loop
Micromanaging bosses are always looking for constant updates.
By regularly bringing your boss up to date with the current events, you can hope she never has a reason to call you to her chamber. Proactively update your boss on all the important emails and ensure you provide an outline of accomplished goals for the day.
This is also the time to address your concerns and inquire doubts on the ongoing project, usually, the best time is during the start of the project.
Your boss is frankly going to be annoyed if you were to ask a doubt two-weeks into the project.
A quick email can do wonders instead of the necessary face-to-face meeting for every question you might have. Your boss can quickly glance at his email and answer the question in a few minutes of time.
This also adds the advantage of not needing to face the bright red glowing eyes of your boss.
Actions to Implement
- Ensure you update your boss before they have a chance to follow-up with you
- Frequent reminders can be eliminated if you can quickly complete the project at hand
- Maintain a close commitment to your boss while working on your project to ensure you demonstrate any irregularities on time
- If you don’t understand something, inquire about it at the start of the project. You don’t want to experience an explosive mouthful on the last day of the deadline
4. Anticipate Your Boss’s Actions and Act on It
Stay one step ahead of the game and perform the duties that are required of you before she has a chance to pick on you.
The simple rule of the micromanaging game is — if you want to stay off their radar, you need to come through with the update before they ask for it.
A great technique to stave off angry bosses is to send them the weekly reminders of anything important and critical within the company.
This allows them to prioritize the tasks they are about to provide to the team and if they commit fewer mistakes, you get the benefit of enjoying a stress-free day.
Since your boss likes to be in the driver’s seat, it’s your responsibility to let them feel in control while accomplishing the task without them needing to oversee the situation.
If your boss receives the report well before the deadline, she is bound to ease up on her aggressive behavior and focus her anger on the less responsible employees in the company.
Actions to Implement
- Plan your steps before the boss has a chance to instruct you
- Increase your trust factor by completing your work on time. This allows you to be the last person to be accounted for when a board meeting is called for
- Create upfront agreements and discuss your plan of action before you take up the project
- Understand what motivates your boss and try to act on it
- Build a trust factor with your boss
CASE STUDY: WHY YOU SHOULD BE ATTENTIVE TO YOUR BOSS’S CONCERNS
Marcy Berke used to work for an Insurance company in 2006, in the United States. Marcy’s boss’s boss was a woman named — Barbara. Efficiency was a critical component for Barbara and she enabled her work team to provide her with timely reports on the happenings of the company.
Marcy understood this and spent a couple of minutes each day preparing a detailed report on the production figures and various tasks laid out for the day.
“I would make certain to email Barbara, early and often, with any questions I might have about what her expectations were and give her an outline of what my team was working on and the anticipated date of completion.”
Marcy was fully aware of Barbara’s micromanagement nature and clearly stayed out of the line of fire until any relevant information was to be provided and ended up working with the company for a period of 4 years. In this way, Marcy was able to endure her micromanaging boss and left the firm to start her own company and gained valuable knowledge in the process.
The following case study demonstrates to us the key role of being progressive within a company by fulfilling our responsibilities before they are encountered.
Marcy understood that “efficiency” was the key attribute to keeping Barbara happy and she ensured that there were no drawbacks in satisfying this key requirement. Marcy created regular updates and ensured she emailed her boss regularly to keep her well-informed and this brought her micromanaging boss under control.
Similarly, it’s important to understand the main requirement of your boss when trying to keep them happy. If your boss spends more time in wanting commitment, then “commitment” is the single attribute that you need to focus on to help you tame the micromanaging boss.
During your period of stay, reflect on your own responsibilities and understand that the work you do in the company is temporary. Any experience gained in handling a micromanaging boss is invaluable in the later stages of your life.
If you’ve solved the problem of working with a micromanaging boss, you can do much better in all future career prospects and can single-handedly enjoy the responsibilities of a fulfilling career.
Even a dreaded micromanaging boss can be transformed into a tame beast utilizing the right perspective. It’s important to practice patience to deal with angry situations that are beyond your control. By staying grounded and remembering your true goal, you can come out of this unscathed.
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