How to Deal with Micromanagers — and How Not to Be One

What do you think of when you hear the word “micromanage”?

Micromanaging is a costly affair. It leads to negative company symptoms such as low morale, reduction in productivity, and even a high turnover rate; in fact, it’s been reported as one of the top three reasons an employee will leave their job, which is expensive by itself.

This little how-to guide can help you work with a micromanager, and if you are that person, it can help you overcome those tendencies and improve company production.

How to deal with the manager

  • Look at yourself: Does what you’re producing deserve it?
    You need to start by looking at your own work and habits. If you’re constantly late to your job, calling in sick, missing deadlines or emails, that might be why your boss is micromanaging you. Trust, or lack thereof, is a major reason for micromanaging, so if your boss feels like you don’t deserve it, they may start to nitpick what you do.
  • Be proactive, not reactive
    Sometimes, the thing you need to do is take some initiative. If you finished your project, or hit a checkpoint along the way, tell your manager before they inquire. Let them know what’s going on. This can foster trust and demonstrate that they don’t need to worry about your performance.
    Also, it’s okay to ask questions. Don’t wait for them to come and check in, send them a quick email or stop by their office. It will help build rapport.
  • Seek feedback
    Ask them, “How am I doing?” And then listen and take their advice. It’s a very important skill to be able to take feedback and another good one to apply it.
    If they have problems with how often you communicate, and they tell you that, thank them and do better. But, if they say your work is great, take the opportunity and explain to them you feel micromanaged because they need the feedback too.
  • Be honest
    If you never tell your boss they’re a micromanager, then they’re not likely to stop. Sometimes, they may not even know they’re doing it. Tell them how you feel when it happens. Tell them what it does to your work ethic, self-esteem, morale and productivity. And above all, do it respectfully! Wait until you’re calm, level-headed and able to hold a conversation without blowing up. Don’t get defensive, use “I” language and be clear about what you want.
  • Other points of advice
    • Ask yourself why they micromanage. Is it a rewarded behavior in the company? Are they under a lot of stress and need the project done now? Figure out what’s going on in their head, and it may help you figure out why they do what they do.
    • Offer to help them. Offer to take a load off their shoulders if they are getting stressed, as long as you have the time for it.
    • Define what it means to you. Micromanagement to you may be considered free rein to someone else. Figure out what types of words and actions make you feel micromanaged.

How to stop being the micromanager

    When you delegate, don’t give them the step-by-step. Just tell them what you want done and when. If they have the tools and skill for the job, you won’t need to worry.
  • Expand the pie
    In the book, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, the authors use the phrase “expand the pie” when explaining how to come to a mutually beneficial decision in negotiation. What that means is you need to realize there are multiple right answers.
    This works in company projects, too. It’s not always the way you would have done it, and that’s okay. Other people have good ideas, and that’s something every manager needs to know. It’s also an important thing to learn when you want to overcome your micromanaging habits.
  • Get the right people
    Make sure you hire people with the right stuff. You’re more likely to micromanage when the person working beneath you doesn’t have the right skills, experience or education. So, when in the hiring process, if you don’t want to be a stickler, get someone that meets the qualifications. If you need help in this area, contact our Salt Lake City placement agency.
  • Set expectations at the beginning
    Before you start a new project, ask the team what they want from you. How often should you follow up? What methods will you use to follow up? With email, in person, or phone calls? Do they want you to be there at every point along the way? Or do they want you to maintain a respectful distance while they work?

Just remember, micromanagement can hurt everybody: the company, the supervisor, and the employees. When it’s done to you, communicate clearly and improve where needed. When you’re the one doing it, you may need to change your mindset to be more open and trusting; that’s when your employees will improve productivity.