How To Deal With a Micromanaging Boss

How To Deal With a Micromanaging Boss

How To a Deal With a Micromanaging Boss

By Mark Wager

They are the bane of the workplace. They drain the energy, the life and enjoyment out of the office and they are listed as one of the most common reasons why people leave their job. We are talking about the micromanaging boss. At some stage during your career you may have, along with many others, experienced the nightmare of having a micromanaging boss, someone who wants to be copied in on every email, who tells you what to do and when to do it, and keeps a check on your breaks and believes autonomy is something that applies to them and to no one else.

The micromanaging boss shouldn't exist especially in an age when there are mountains of studies available to everyone who demonstrates how autonomy is such a powerful motivator. Even if you have never read any study on successful workplaces just the idea of micromanaging someone doesn't make any sense. Why on earth would you spend so much time to find, interview and recruit the smartest person possible to do a job and then dismiss all that work and intelligence by micromanaging them. Yet micromanaging bosses still exist but why do they exist and what can you do if your boss is one?

Why does micromanaging exist?

There are two reasons why a boss micromanages. Both these reasons relate to trust. The boss either doesn't trust the employee to do the work or the boss doesn't trust himself to lead. If it's about trusting the employee, then hopefully the situation will change once the employee has demonstrated their competence but the second reason is more common and more difficult to deal with. When a boss doesn't trust himself to lead, the situation is usually due to having performed well as a subject matter expert and then finding himself in a position of being "rewarded" with a promotion, and in a role that requires a different skill set. To lead and motivate people requires a particular set of people skills which not many people have. When the former subject matter expert struggles with this new role he panics and during this panic he reaches out to micromanage what he believes he is losing control over. He controls the work which he himself was the subject matter expert of regardless of whether that work is now carried out by someone else. Let's look at how an employee can address each scenario.

When your boss doesn't trust you

If you have a boss who is a micromanager due to lack of trust, then there are a few things you can do. Firstly, you need to establish what your boss needs to see in order to have faith in your competence and then you need to proactively supply it. If you know your boss comes over to your desk every afternoon to ask what work you have done then you need to get that information across to him before he gets anywhere near your desk. You need to go out of your way to supply information on what you are doing, in fact you need to drown your boss in information until he has no choice but to leave you alone to do your job. Secondly you need to seek feedback on your performance, even if you are doing well. Just the fact that you are getting the boss to acknowledge your competence will reiterate that to him that you know what you are doing.

When your boss doesn't trust himself to lead

As mentioned above this is a more complex situation as the issue is firmly owned by your boss but you as an employee need to remember that you have ownership of how you react to the situation. You have control over how you perceive yourself, how you value yourself and your happiness and there's no boss in the world no matter how bad has the right to take that away from you. In terms of dealing with the situation the best way is for you to imitate a conversation with your boss in order to establish roles and expectations. However, I appreciate this is a difficult thing to do and many companies do not promote this especially cultures that allow micromanaging to exist. If a full conversation is not an option then you can focus on what motivates your Manager and the drivers for his or her behaviours. Find out what your boss really wants and try making this happen. Once these are identified you can make an honest and genuine effort to succeed and add value in the areas that your boss cares about which in turn will increase the level of trust and reduce the level of micromanagement.

The key to surviving a micromanager is finding ways to build trust and in many cases this works but there are a minority of cases in which micromanaging is deliberate and forms an ongoing pattern of behaviour. If this occurs then no matter how good the job is you need to consider whether the job is worth it. A whole working day is a long time to go without respect.

Posted: Thursday 25 August 2016

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