It was my first job after college. I was bright-eyed, nervous and excited about my first taste of financial independence. That morning, I woke up early, guzzled down coffee and got ready, anxious about meeting my colleagues. It was as great as first days go, with everyone being pleasant and welcoming, slowly easing me into the workload. At the end of the day, I was asked to send my daily report, to which I added the titles of the articles I wrote that day. Little did I know how wrong I was!
The next day, my manager sent me a colleague’s report to use as a template, which- I kid you not- had a minute-by-minute account of what was done during the day. Furthermore, I was asked to define how long it takes to write an article, and stick to it. This is possibly a writer’s worst nightmare! Just like snowflakes, no two articles are exactly the same. When you hire a writer, research and reworks come free- so how do you quantify articles?
That was just my first brush with micromanagement and, sadly, became one of the reasons why I eventually left- but not before learning all I could about dealing with a micromanaging boss!
If you often feel claustrophobic and untrustworthy under your manager’s watchful eye, here’s how you can take back your power without causing an uproar.
1. Establish Boundaries
If your boss comes to your desk during the day just to ‘catch up on work’ or intervenes wherever possible, it’s time to indirectly establish some boundaries. One thing that works well is focusing on a gap in the process and re-structuring it. Clearly mention each person’s role in the process and the specific stages where they need to step in.
Keep it detailed yet crisp, with no room for blurred lines.
Another way to establish boundaries is to reply with “The work is in progress and needs some improvement. I’ll send it to you once it’s done.” This should, once again, iterate that there’s no need to step in halfway.
2. Have A Conversation
You’ll be surprised at how many problems are solved by just talking about them. Sit down with your boss, and mention how you’ve been feeling at work lately and what might help ease your feelings. Often, micromanagers aren’t aware of their behaviour and its effects, so explaining to them how it makes you feel can open up the conversation for change.
Make sure you’re being diplomatic and using more positive than negative words, as your boss is still your boss at the end of the day.
Ask questions about why you’re being supervised so closely and if there’s anything that could help give you more accountability. This way, it’ll feel more like a conversation and less like an attack, making your manager more open to change.
3. Be Proactive
Once you’ve dissected your manager’s questions and responses to certain situations, be proactive and beat them to the punch, before they’ve had the chance to ask for something. Periodically send them updates, so they know you’re on top of things. If you have questions, take the opportunity and ask them at the earliest, so they know that work is ongoing.
Going the extra mile will allow your manager to relax and not make constant check-ins a priority.
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4. Understand Triggers
There’s always a reason why people micromanage situations, so understand why your boss chooses to do so. In some cases, people may have a problem letting go or lack confidence, and taking stock of the situation might make them feel more in control. Personality traits such as organisational tendencies can also cause this.
Once you know what makes your boss a micromanager, it’ll help you mould your response and behaviour so it doesn’t get in the way of work.
Speak to colleagues or observe your manager’s behaviour around them. If it’s starkly different from how you are treated, look inward and ask yourself if there’s something you may have done lately to make your boss feel the need to micromanage you. For example, have you been coming to work late? Or have you failed to meet timelines lately?
If your answer to any of the above is “yes,” it could be what is causing this behaviour.
Once you self-correct, your manager will start trusting you more and the situation should get resolved.
Dos And Don’ts In Dealing With A Micromanager
- Use more “feeling” words than “blame” words. For example, say “I feel undervalued” rather than “You make me feel undervalued.”
- Don’t bring up the issue as a group. Even if your whole team feels a certain way, going up to your boss as a group will only make them feel attacked.
- Clarify your role in the organisation to ensure you’re not missing out on a task or are doing something incorrectly.
- Don’t get too personal. In their effort to build trust, many employees may reveal more than they’re meant to. This can, once again, cause boundaries to get blurred.
- Maintain a pleasant demeanour. A smile and laughter can do wonders in getting your point across.
Shifting a micromanaging work style won’t be sudden, and it won’t be easy. But when dealt with smartly, you can inspire a change in behaviour. After all, the key to a good working relationship is trust, confidence and clarity.
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