Dealing with a micromanaging boss can be pretty uncomfortable. While a manager should guide and support employees, constantly looking over people’s shoulders is rarely helpful. Any team member wants to feel autonomous, competent, and trusted enough to complete their work without continuously having their leadership checking in on them and every detail of the task at hand. It takes time, trial, and error to build a management style that works well for each individual within a team, but micromanaging simply doesn’t leave people feeling empowered. If your boss is micromanaging you, we encourage you to step in so you can take control over the situation. This article covers exactly how to do so.
What is micromanagement?
Micromanagement is a management style where someone in a leadership position closely observes and sometimes even controls the work of their team members or employees. Because micromanagement deprives employees of freedom and an autonomous working environment, it’s considered to be a negative management trait. If every single task on your to-do list needs approval, if you’re required to give constant updates, if your boss has significant issues delegating, or if instructions seem overcomplicated, you’re likely dealing with a micromanager.
The problem with micromanaging employees is that it makes people feel badly about themselves. Whether it is causing you to doubt your abilities or become increasingly frustrated at work, micromanagement is something that needs to be addressed.
Level up your management skills
Foster trust and stay on top of team members in a healthy manner by hosting meetings with a collaborative agenda that the whole team can contribute to. Try using a tool like Fellow!
Why micromanagement happens
Micromanagement happens for several reasons, including a leader being too invested in their employees’ work, feeling a loss of control, lacking experience as a manager, feeling insecure in a management position, or not trusting their team. Micromanagers tend to like being the only decision maker, which creates many barriers for collaboration and co-creation. Let’s dive deeper into some of these factors.
Sometimes individuals in positions of leadership micromanage because they feel insecure being in a position of management. If someone feels insecure about their abilities at work, you’ll often observe a projection of these feelings of inadequacy. As a manager, this projection often surfaces as micromanaging employees to demonstrate to their team that they are knowledgeable and competent as a manager.
2Need for control
Some managers feel a need to control every outcome from their team. Ultimately, this leads to micromanagement because this type of leader wants to be able to control the entirety of their team’s output. This need for control typically stems from fear of a result that is less than optimal, but it can also surface as a result of perfectionism.
3Lack of trust
Micromanagement sometimes takes place because managers simply don’t trust their team members. When some leaders don’t trust their employees’ work, they feel the need to constantly check in and step in for them, even though it would be far more effective to support and guide an employee through a specific task or responsibility instead. Trust is built from communication and empowerment but it often seems “easier” for managers to constantly check in rather than to look at the root of the issue, which is their lack of trust.
4Absence of experience
When managers don’t have a lot of experience in a position of leadership, they sometimes micromanage their employees for fear of leading a team whose results are not up to standard. This absence of experience is an insecurity and for that reason, the manager tries to overcompensate for their lack of leadership experience by overdoing the amount of approvals and check-ins that are actually required.
How to deal with a micromanaging boss
- Give them your feedback
- Ask for their feedback
- Seek advice from coworkers
- Talk to their boss
- Provide them with regular updates
- Create alignment
- Look at things from their perspective
- Foster more trust
1Give them your feedback
Feedback is something that goes both ways, meaning not only should your manager give you feedback, but you should also provide some feedback to your boss about what kind of management style best suits you and how you feel they may be able to better accommodate your productivity and efficiency. A one-on-one meeting is the perfect opportunity to have this conversation. Be sure to prepare an agenda in advance of the meeting to ensure that all of your feedback, comments, questions, and concerns can be voiced. One-on-one meetings build trust and improve communication which will also help to combat micromanagement. It’s important to be honest (so long as you’re being respectful).
2Ask for their feedback
It’s important that you also ask your manager for their feedback to make the relationship reciprocal. Doing so demonstrates that you’re keen to take initiative and want to continue to learn and grow. Fellow enables your team to share and receive real-time feedback on meetings, projects, and performance. This way, you can keep track of feedback over time so you ensure that the micromanagement is being worked on and that you’re also doing your part to gain the trust of your manager.
3Seek advice from coworkers
If there’s someone you know that you can trust at work, be sure to ask them for their advice. Often our coworkers have been in similar, difficult situations and can help point us in the right direction. Be diligent and consider having these conversations in a private space or away from the office so you can feel comfortable speaking completely candidly. Gaining the perspective of another person who can likely relate to your own experiences will give you the reassurance and guidance that you need to address the leader who is micromanaging you.
4Talk to their boss
After you have tried speaking to your manager and you feel like unfortunately, things are simply not improving, consider speaking to their boss. Again, if you’re going about the micromanagement issue in a respectful way, there is absolutely no problem with speaking to another person in a leadership position. They may have really helpful advice for both you and your manager, and they’ll try to find the best way to address you feeling micromanaged at work. Often, the boss of your manager can act as a mediator to ensure the issue of micromanagement is addressed in the most amicable way possible.
5Provide them with regular updates
When you provide regular updates to your boss, it gives them less reasons to micromanage you. These updates can be informal so long as you’re taking the time to inform your manager on what has been completed, how you’re progressing on other tasks, and what you have on your plate. Not only will providing these updates help with micromanagement, but this way, your boss can also help support you with resources and tools, or set you up to collaborate with coworkers on some of your responsibilities as needed. This way, you’re better supported and empowered.
Team alignment fosters productive and efficient work by ensuring that all team members work towards a common goal. If you create alignment with your manager by communicating clearly, tracking objectives and key results (OKRs), setting goals for yourself, reviewing your progress regularly, having regular one-on-ones, being transparent and cultivating a growth mindset, you’ll notice that you’re building trust with your manager and gaining autonomy. Creating alignment will allow you to work more effectively and with more freedom because you and your manager will be on the same page.
7Look at things from their perspective
It’s important to look inward and consider your manager’s perspective. Why do you think they’re micromanaging you? Think about your work ethic, your attitude, how much effort you put into tasks, how you apply your knowledge, and how you conduct yourself at the office. For example, if you aren’t taking initiative at work and your boss has to constantly remind you about tasks that are due (or maybe even overdue), you should consider working on your organization and time management skills. If you think that there is a misunderstanding between you and your boss, it’s better to hash it out and get to the bottom of why they feel like you need to be watched so closely.
8Foster more trust
Trust is a pillar for gaining more freedom and autonomy from your manager. Creating and maintaining high levels of trust with your boss will enhance your own engagement and therefore also enhance your manager’s satisfaction with your work output. A culture of trust can only be created with consistent time and effort, and the quality of your work needs to speak for itself. When the work you’re completing is well done, it speaks to your level of competence and will allow your manager to give you some more space because they can clearly see that you’re more than capable.
It’s not always simple dealing with a micromanaging boss. That said, it is something that can and will improve if you take the initiative to be honest with and voice your concerns to your boss. Continuous and reciprocal feedback is essential for you and your manager to work on your feelings of being micromanaged. Be sure to seek advice from your coworkers, and if you speak to your manager and they aren’t responsive, be reassured that it is completely okay to speak to your manager’s boss. Provide your manager with regular updates, seek to create alignment, look at things from their perspective, and most importantly, focus on building trust.