A reader’s note: “Nothing is worse than being a creative, innovative and driven employee and having a manager who stifles that drive. Two people just quit my team. Both said 100 percent of the reason was because of our micromanager.”
Do you feel that pain? It’s a fairly common workplace complaint. But offering tips to control micromanagement isn’t a slam dunk. The problem is the usual starting point in boss-employee conflict – accurate self-assessment.
To get to the reader’s request to help manage a micromanager, let’s assume she and her departed colleagues truly are (or were) “creative, innovative and driven” or otherwise high-performing workers who show up every day on time and do what’s expected. Let’s say they would thrive without minute supervision. Let’s also agree to define micromanagement as over-the-top hovering, directing or unnecessarily duplicating work.
A micromanaged sufferer first needs to understand the micromanager’s pressures.
How is he measured? Who breathes down his neck? What past performance problems has she had? Observe carefully. Does she treat everyone the same way? If not, can you see why you’re singled out?
Be sure you understand the micromanager’s basic temperament. Does he have obsessive-compulsive tendencies or an extremely nervous character? That’s a tougher issue to handle and may not be yours to solve. Or does she lack enough to do, so she oversupervises or fails to delegate things she should?
This may call for deft office politics. Do you think upper management is unaware? Is there a non-career-killing way to send concerns up the ranks? Be very careful if attempting an end-around; the organization may be happy the way it is.
Regardless who is hypermanaging, you can try to beat them at their own game. Anticipate their needs. Know their to-do lists. Send them emails saying you’re “on it” before they have a chance to remind you. By getting ahead of them, you may help ease their insecurities.
You could say something like this: “I’m working to meet the usual 5 p.m. Thursday deadline. Just wanted to make sure you know to count on it.” If you do that often enough, it might sink in that you don’t need constant reminders and that you are working to the mutually beneficial end.
But what if the micromanager doesn’t get the repeated message? That’s when you should initiate the dreaded, closed-door, non-emergency private talk. The burden is on you to begin a frank and honest discussion. The thing about micromanagers is that they don’t see themselves as others see them.
Summon courage and tell her exactly how such ultraclose supervision makes you feel. Explain the effect on your morale. Suggest ways she could back off. You have to convince her that you’re in this together and that you crave a bit more space to fly. If nothing changes within a few weeks after that, then it’s time to truly fly – out the door.