We’re the largest online career community helping women achieve their career goals. Gain access to articles, jobs, events, and a supportive network of women and allies. Membership is free, always.
Your boss heard that delegating was important so that she could focus on priorities. Good for you! If you get an important task, you can showcase your creativity and earn respect from your team members.
But it doesn't turn out quite how you had hoped: Your boss becomes a control freak.
“Hey, I just stopped by to see how you were doing. Are you working? Oh...I see you found the time to go shopping, huh? Love your outfit! But tell me, how is it going? Did you do everything I said? Don’t you miss that deadline! Give me the updates! Did you collect enough data? Are you making any progress?”
The boss rolls out all these questions and comments in a single breath. You don’t know what to do. Can you just tell her to give you a break and leave you alone? No. This is your boss. You’re playing by her rules. When she asks, you answer. When she wants updates, you deliver.
Still, there are some ways of dealing with a micromanager boss without overstepping or losing your cool. You have to be subtle in your approach and play this game right, though. Here are four tips on how to stay in control of a difficult situation with a micromanaging boss:
1. Eliminate Any Reason for Doubt.
When managers micromanage, they want to make sure they are in control of every aspect of the project. If you notice you’re dealing with a control freak, try to nip it in the bud before she goes overboard.
Show your boss that you're on top of the project. She's going to ask for updates and remind you about the deadlines. You don’t want her to do that. So what do you do? Simple: you just send her updates before she asks.
While many managers don't need frequent updates on your day-to-day operations, if you're sure your boss has a more hands-on leadership style, it's a good idea to start sending frequent emails about your progress. Anticipate her needs ahead of time, and keep her updated before she asks.
For instance, if you know that your boss will ask for the first draft of a business report today, you should get one step ahead and say, “I just left the draft on your desk” as soon as you see her.
Your boss will appreciate your anticipating her needs, and it may be a step towards getting her off your back.
2. Build Trust.
Michelle Davis, career advisor from Resumes Planet, has this to say on the issue of micromanagement: “Let’s be honest: most people feel like they are being micromanaged by their bosses. They would like to get initial instructions and be left alone. But that’s not always possible. Managers are there to manage. If you feel like the manager is on your back for something, you should wonder: have you done something to provoke that?”
When you’re trying to find a solution, start by looking at yourself. If you missed deadlines or failed to deliver the expected results, you’ll have to work your way toward regaining trust. If you’re new at the company, you’ll have to start from scratch and make this boss believe in you.
So deliver the updates, and do your job in the best way possible. Make a commitment to keep the boss informed on the progress. Collaborate with the team members, and get help whenever you need it. Ask if there’s anything else you can do. If you’re not dealing with a true control freak, chances are the boss will stop micromanaging you with time.
3. If You’re Encouraged to Bring Up Issues, Bring Them Up!
Managers don’t want to micromanage. Most of them are not even aware they are doing it. They can still be good bosses; they just need some time to grow, like we all do.
If your boss encourages the employees to bring up issues, you can certainly talk to her. It’s best to make this a one-on-one conversation. Remember: you’re not criticizing; you’re just bringing up suggestions that could help you work more productively.
Try this: “I believe a tad more flexibility would allow me to do my job better. I'm concerned that you might not trust me. I absolutely need guidelines and want to follow them, but I feel like I need some space for creativity.”
This is a risky step. It won’t work in every situation. If you feel like you could talk to your boss this way, do it. It may help you earn the flexibility you crave.
4. Learn the Lessons.
Even bosses who micromanage offer important lessons. They teach you to be detail-oriented. They will remind you to pay attention to the smaller pieces while keeping the big picture in mind at the same time.
This kind of manager holds you to a higher standard, which you can most certainly meet if you try hard enough. So bear with the pressure for a while. You’re learning the most valuable lesson of all: there’s always room to grow.
Instead of focusing on your boss and being frustrated about her management style, consider: Do you still want this job? Do you feel you’re good enough for it?
If you answered yes to both questions, then you should just keep going. Gaining the trust of this type of boss is not easy, but it’s a big step toward career development.
So how do you deal with a micromanaging boss? You try to point out the issue, and get more flexibility if possible. If you don’t see any chances for that, you just work with the boss. When you gain her trust, the micromanaging may let up. Eventually. If it goes on for years, and you see zero chances of improvement on her end, it may be time for drastic measures… like considering other career opportunities.
Eva Wislow is a career coach and HR Executive from Pittsburgh. Eva has a degree in psychology and is focusing on helping people break down their limits, find their dream job, and achieve life and career success. She finds her inspiration in writing and peace of mind through yoga. Connect with Eva on Twitter.