If you're wondering how to deal with a micromanager, you're not alone.
We’ve all known that one coworker. The one that never leaves you alone.
Can I show you how to deal with that file?
Here’s how you should do this.
When are you going to get that project started?
Have you filed those TPS reports yet?
These are the hallmark questions of the commonly spotted micromanager. Most of us will encounter one at some point in our working lives, and they can be a source of stress and resentment if you aren’t equipped to handle them. So here’s our advice on how to spot a micromanager and diplomatically stop them from harming your productivity and happiness.
What is a micromanager?
To figure out how to deal with a micromanager, we first need to define what a micromanager is.
Put simply, a micromanager is a person who unnecessarily interferes with the work of people in the workplace. The word can refer to a business owner, direct manager, or coworker.
A micromanager boss closely observes and controls their employees or subordinates' work with excessive supervision. Instead of telling them what task needs to be done by when, a micromanager will continuously remind them of the work and closely watch their actions. They also might continuously provide rolling opinions and criticism of your work and methods.
Instead of devoting time to strategic thinking and direction, a micromanager will monitor and evaluate every step of a task, refusing to delegate even the most irrelevant job to someone else.
Micromanagers really don’t like it when a subordinate or coworker makes a decision without consulting them. Even if they have the authority to do so, they’ll be prone to irritation when their control is undermined.
Annoyed yet? It raises the blood pressure just writing about it. But the good news is that spotting micromanaging habits early means you can deal with them more effectively.
Hope is not lost. You can learn to manage the micromanagers, and gain your sanity back.
How to deal with a micromanager boss
A micromanager boss often focuses excessively on procedures. They want continuous, detailed performance feedback, rather than being able to look at the bigger picture. This gets in the way of things working smoothly and tends to antagonize people.
Interfering bosses, particularly those with narcissistic tendencies, can deliberately micromanage for strategic reasons. They often delegate work to others just to fixate on their performance in an effort to make themselves look good, or important, or busy. This enables them to blame their delegate for a negative result or take credit for the positive result; quite the Machiavellian scheme.
No one likes a boss who hovers over them like a helicopter. Nothing is more demotivating than having someone monitor every step of your working day, particularly when you're experienced enough to handle the task without supervision. It’s especially grating when you know more about the subject than they do.
Management isn’t easy, of course; everyone has targets to hit and performance levels to achieve. Your excessively attentive boss may well be suffering under someone else's helicopter management themselves. But it’s a situation that needs to be dealt with for the good of everyone in the company, or else tempers are going to fray and good work just won’t get done.
Hopefully situations where your boss won’t leave you alone are rare in your working life. But for those times where you’re under the spotlight more than usual, here’s a few strategies for how to deal with a micromanager boss.
Understand the reasons why they micromanage
Knowing why your boss needs such control will make it easier for you to create strategies to deal with them. There are some of the possible reasons why a boss might micromanage:
- Fear of failure.
- Fear of losing control.
- Fear of being forgotten or ignored.
- Perception that their employees are inexperienced.
- Mistrust of their employees.
To figure out where these feelings are coming from, the first thing you have to do is be honest and take a hard look at yourself. Are you making their job harder at the moment?
Consider your recent productivity, attitude, and record to make sure your actions aren't warranting this behavior from your boss. Ensure that you're managing deadlines, keeping pace with your projects, and not procrastinating on everyday tasks. This might not sound too sympathetic, but it’s a potential cause that does need to be ruled out.
If this isn’t the case, you can have a one-to-one conversation with your boss to find out where these motivations are coming from. Don’t go straight in there with “why won’t you leave me alone?!” but it’s worth digging a little to see if there’s any reason for their persistent concern.
If they have a genuine fear of failure, ensure that you will always have their back and will work hard to make things happen. Alongside that, assure your boss that you'll give them regular feedback to make sure that things are going as desired, and that you’ll let them know straight away if there’s a setback.
Proactively share how you’re dealing with problems
Micromanagers crave frequent updates. They need that reassurance that you’re on track, and won’t let them down. But asking for it comes at an irregular schedule; whenever their fear manifests and emotions cause the need for a check-in.
To avoid this situation, keep them regularly updated before they ask for it.
A proactive, systematic approach is the way to keep things calm.
Take the chance to set up a system that works well for both you and them. If you don’t quite know what that is yet, experiment, and test things out to see what work.s
For example, each evening, you could send an email or Slack message outlining what you've achieved, what you planned to achieve and what your concerns are if you have any. This means that early on in the next day, your boss can start their day reassured of what you’re doing and you can get the answers you need to any questions.
Doing so will help them know where exactly you stand and where their current workload for managing you stands. They’ll be able to address your questions, suggest ideas, and provide input. This will help them feel involved as well as prevent her micromanaging. Which means they can get back to doing whatever work they usually do (or avoid), and the same goes for you.
Positive proactivity is also a strategic move; it marks you as being a responsible problem solver and communicator. (Plus you can refer to such endeavors in your performance reviews).
How to deal with a micromanager coworker
It’s not just your immediate superiors that can be pushy with their governance. There are plenty of toxic coworkers that really seem to enjoy telling you how to do your job. It’s hard enough to tolerate micromanagement from a boss or manager, and even worse when your supposed partner won’t get off your back.
But this does happen, and when you’re given a project to work on together it can quickly fall apart when one party dominates the delegation.
Dealing with heavy-handed people like this can be frustrating. But it’s not a lost cause. Here’s a few useful strategies for dealing with micromanager coworkers:
- Stay calm. Although it's frustrating to be constantly told what to do, it's important to keep composed and not lose your temper. By losing your temper, you might inadvertently help them take advantage of your strong reaction to play the victim card and put you down in the eyes of the higher-ups. Calmness benefits you and those around you.
- Be direct. One must be assertive and direct in a micromanaging situation. Be calm. Keep your professional tone, be respectful in your discussions, and avoid making a scene.
- Just ignore them. Remember that your coworker's officious behavior is not necessarily related to you, but instead reflects more on them. Never let their words and behavior affect you personally.
- Set healthy boundaries. Set your boundaries and consistently assert them so that people know not to cross them. Be consistent and they’ll eventually get the message.
- Seek additional support. If your overbearing coworker doesn't stop interfering in your work, you can seek help from an HR manager or your supervisor. You can also ask for support from other coworkers who might be annoyed and frustrated with said control freak. They can ease your concerns and back you up if necessary.
Although dealing with a micromanaging coworker is annoying, you can minimize your frustration by staying calm, being firm with your boundaries, and exercising compassion towards them.
How to stop yourself micromanaging others
Are you guilty of helicopter-style management? Feel the need to look over your team members’ shoulders on the regular? It might be a hard habit to break, but there are some ways you can avoid being called a control freak. Try these:
- Practice delegating. If you're not able to delegate effectively, you’ll likely be tempted to start micromanaging your team. Knowing your team's strengths and shortcomings will help you assign tasks according to what really needs to get done. This should help team members learn more and grow in their field.
- Set clear expectations. Set expectations for the team right from the beginning of the project. If you fail to do this, you will end up taking on more of the work burden than you should. Your employees will be better able to perform when you step back and get clear about the project objectives, benchmarks for evaluation, and clear deadlines for completion.
- Let go of perfectionism. When you realize that a task or project can be achieved through various different methods, you’ll gain the freedom to stop micromanaging your team. Empowering them to test new approaches to issues and experiment with their ideas will help them grow and trust you more instead of focusing on perfectionism, be open to things not going exactly to plan.
- Hire the right people. Easier said than done, but bringing in a qualified team of superstars when possible will reduce the need for you to hold everyone’s hand when working on important things. If you’re not responsible for hiring, you could at least explore how you can influence the staffing decisions that affect who you end up working with. There’s no guarantee it’ll work, but if you make everyone aware of how they can best work with you, it can only work to your advantage over the long term.