October 16, 2023

9 Strategies for Dealing with a Micromanager

One of the most challenging and frustrating aspects of work we can experience is being managed by a micromanager. While the motivations behind this particular style of management are varied, micromanagers are generally known to closely monitor and control many aspects of their team members’ work. What is consistent across the board is the impact of this leadership approach, which stifles creativity, hinders productivity, and causes burnout.

Despite the difficulty inherent in working under a micromanager, it is indeed possible to more effectively work with such a leader and maintain your sanity. In this blog post, we will discuss how you can identify micromanagers and share nine strategies to help you thrive.

Why do leaders micromanage?

Leaders micromanage for a number of reasons. It could be low self-esteem, anxiety, an inability to let go of work, or something else entirely. Here are some of the more common factors contributing to the prevalence of micromanagement.

  1. Comfort with the familiar — Many managers find it challenging to relinquish their previous roles or methods when they advance in their careers. This reluctance to let go of familiar tasks, especially if those projects are what led to their promotion, can lead to micromanagement. At higher management levels, leaders should prioritize strategic work over daily operations, which may require them to step out of their comfort zones.
  2. Lack of trust — A lack of trust within a team can give rise to micromanagement. Trust forms the foundation of effective teamwork; without it, leaders may feel compelled to exert more control. This issue often originates from leadership and management failing to demonstrate trust themselves.
  3. Need for control — The desire for control is natural, particularly in our professional lives. Managers, however, must strike a balance between control and fostering their team’s growth and empowerment. Excessive control can hinder teamwork, trust, and adaptability, especially in fast-paced environments where change is constant.
  4. Quest for relevance — Micromanagers may justify their actions with the belief that they are the only ones who can get things done. This often stems from the desire to feel indispensable at work, given the significant time spent there.

How do you know when you’re working with a micromanager?

There are a handful of behaviors that are likely to clue you in as to whether or not you’re working with a micromanager. Let’s take a look at these most common symptoms.

  • Ad-hoc updates — Micromanagers request very regular updates, often diving into unnecessary details. You’ll frequently find them lurking in documents and offering unsolicited feedback.
  • Instant check-ins — Swooping in early and frequently, even before someone’s project has even begun, is a good sign that you’ve got a micromanager on your hands.
  • Inability to delegate — Micromanagers struggle to delegate without becoming instantly immersed in the work themselves, and that includes minor details. True delegation is rare, which causes frustration for everyone else and leads to missed career opportunities for managers.
  • Hyperfocus on minor details — If your boss is a micromanager, you’ll find they fixate on minutiae, like grammar errors, while neglecting the bigger picture. They don’t see that internal concerns may not align with customer priorities.
  • Excessive process — Micromanagers overly prioritize processes, too often for the sake of process itself, rather than efficiency. You might even find that they uphold outdated processes without considering their practicality.

9 tips to help you work with a micromanager

So, you’re pretty sure you’re working for a micromanager. What do you do to make a not-so-good situation better?

This is a hurdle, albeit a tall one, that you can overcome with the right strategies. In this section, we’ll share nine helpful strategies to help you work more effectively with your manager. While these tips won’t change how your manager shows up, they will help you take a more proactive approach to managing your relationship with them. In the end, you will be much more likely to foster a more productive working relationship.

  1. Understand their perspective — Before jumping to conclusions or resenting your micromanager boss, try to understand their perspective. Micromanagers often have their reasons for being so controlling. As we’ve shared above, they may fear things going awry, lack trust in their team’s abilities, or feel responsible for every detail. Acknowledging their concerns can help you approach the situation differently, even with empathy, potentially helping to begin shifting the relationship.
  2. Communicate openly — Effective communication is key when dealing with a micromanager. Be proactive and schedule regular check-ins to update your boss on your progress and set clear expectations. This is a form of managing up. Share your plans and goals, and ask for their feedback. Show that you value their input, but also emphasize your need for autonomy to perform at your best.
  3. Set clear expectations — One of the primary reasons bosses become micromanagers is due to unclear expectations. Establish a clear understanding of your role, responsibilities, and goals with your boss. Document these discussions to refer back to in case disputes arise.
  4. Be proactive — Anticipate your boss’s needs and address potential issues before they become significant problems. By taking initiative, you demonstrate your competence and lessen the need for constant oversight. This proactive approach can gradually build trust with your micromanager, possibly leading to changes in their behavior.
  5. Provide regular updates — Keep your manager informed about your progress. This can be done through regular status reports, emails, or quick updates during meetings. By sharing your accomplishments and any challenges you face, you can give your boss a sense of control without feeling like you’re constantly under surveillance.
  6. Seek feedback — Proactively seek feedback on your work from your boss. This shows your willingness to improve and grow. When you ask for their input, they may be less inclined to interfere with your day-to-day tasks because they see you taking responsibility for your performance.
  7. Avoid reacting emotionally — Dealing with a micromanager can be emotionally taxing, but it’s important to maintain your professionalism. As challenging as it might be, avoid reacting emotionally to their constant scrutiny or criticism. Instead, focus on the facts and how you can address any issues constructively.
  8. Suggest trust-building exercises — If you’ve established rapport with your boss, consider suggesting trust-building exercises. For instance, propose a trial period where you handle tasks with minimal oversight. Once you’ve proven your capabilities, it may lead to increased trust and a more hands-off approach.
  9. Seek guidance from a Bravely coach — If everything you’ve tried isn’t working, consider discussing the issue with a coach. A coach will offer empathy, guide you to see other perspectives, and challenge you to brainstorm alternate solutions.

Conclusion: Thriving amid micromanagement

Working with a micromanager is a challenge that requires patience, resilience, and strategic communication. By understanding their perspective, maintaining open lines of communication, and demonstrating your competence and trustworthiness, you can gradually demonstrate to your boss that you should be granted more autonomy. Remember that with these strategies and a resilient mindset, you can thrive in challenging work environments and create a more harmonious working relationship with your micromanager.

Want some additional help dealing with a micromanager? Book a session with a Bravely coach!

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