Is there anything worse than a micro-manager? Your work is never good enough; they always have a better way of doing your job. You feel like you are constantly under a microscope. They watch your every move; seemingly waiting for you to mess up so they can swoop in and save the day. Not only is this stressful, it doesn’t make for a very motivating workplace.
What can you do? The short answer is to leave and find another job but that isn’t always an option. Plus, you don’t know what your next boss will be like. You can try confronting them, but unless someone is open to feedback and willing to change that isn’t always effective either.
There is good news. It’s not as hopeless as it sounds and you can avoid going to the extremes of running or confrontation. With a little creativity you can make an unbearable situation more bearable.
Here are 3 approaches for managing a micro-manager:
Go Ahead and Do It Approach
Admiral Grace Hopper famously said, “If it seems like a good idea, go ahead and do it. It’s much easier to ask forgiveness than it is permission.”
Some managers have a knee-jerk reaction of saying “no” to any idea you present, even your best ones. Instead of getting shot down, try the Go Ahead and Do It approach and see what happens. If you have a high-risk tolerance that is.
A lot depends on your boss. It may not bother them at all or they may ding you on your annual review for not collaborating or being too independent. Weigh the pros and cons and make sure you are willing to face the consequences before you try it.
One reason a boss gets classified as a micro-manager is that they are constantly checking in and asking for status updates. Not only is this annoying, it creates interruptions in your day. One study suggests that it takes 23 minutes to get back on track after every interruption!
If your boss has a tendency to ask for status updates, try being proactive. Say something like, “Boss, I know this project is time-sensitive and you need to know how it’s coming along. Would it help if I sent you a status update at the end of the day?”
This approach allows you to stay in control of your time and reduce interruptions while giving your boss the information they want. It’s a win/win.
Good Enough Approach
One of the biggest frustrations I hear from people in my business writing workshop is that their work is never good enough for their boss. No matter how much time and effort they put into a writing assignment the boss finds something to correct. Sometimes the boss even corrects their own corrections!
Instead of turning in your best work, turn in work that is 80% of your best effort. To be clear, I’m not suggesting you turn in sub-standard work. It should still be good, just not your best. Why put yourself through the time and effort of submitting your very best work when it is going to get revised anyway?
This approach will save you time and your sanity.
The bottom line is this: the micro-manager boss is not going to change unless they have a compelling internal desire to do so. In most cases, confronting them is not going to produce that necessary internal desire. The best thing you can do for yourself is to find the best approach for managing your micro-manager. There is a bright side. Learning how to manage this kind of boss is actually a great opportunity to build your own leadership skills in the areas of patience, perseverance, and influence to name a few.
Liz Uram is a nationally recognized leadership trainer and consultant who equips managers and supervisors with the skills they need to get better results, make a bigger impact, and influence others to do their best.