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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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).
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:
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.
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:
Your secret weapon to helping your team thrive in the best (and worst) of times.Download my free copy
100+ team building activities your remote team will actually enjoy.Download my free copy