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How to Manage a Micro-Manager

by | Nov 28, 2012 | General Career Advice

How to Manage a Micro-ManagerThere’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re being smothered, and micro-managers are really good at making you feel that way. They hover over you, constantly check in, offer instruction when none is needed, and expect you to do things their way and on their schedule. Micro-managers don’t allow you to have any freedom and eventually, work can start to feel like a prison sentence.

Truth be told, micro-managers are not a lost cause. Everyone is capable of growth and these folks are no different. Many micro-managers are new to management and don’t fully understand how to empower their team members. Some have been burned in the past and are overcompensating to keep it from happening again. Whatever the cause, you can help improve the situation by following the tips below.

Demonstrate Your Competence

Micro-management stems from a lack of trust and a need for control. Show your manager that you know what you’re doing through your actions. It’s not enough to assure her with words. By consistently performing you will eventually prove your competence and gain her trust…eventually.

Be Proactive

Do your best to anticipate what’s coming up and act early. That way, when your manager asks you to do something, you can show her it’s already under control. This can provide a much-appreciated sense of relief on her end, and you again prove that you’re capable and don’t need constant supervision.

(Word of warning: Yes, this can backfire. If your micro-manager doesn’t like your swift proactive behavior, let her explain that. Perhaps she will hear herself and realize she’s being a little overbearing.)

Keep Her Informed

Often, micro-managers just want to know what’s happening. Provide regular updates and share challenges—preferably, share them after you’ve resolved them to show that you handled it on your own.

Be Observant

There are likely certain tasks, situations, projects or people that escalate your manager’s behavior. Take note of these things and be sure they get extra attention. Show that you care and recognize the importance of getting these things right. This will help take some of the weight off of your manager. You don’t want her feeling like she’s the only one who “gets” it.

Give It Time

It takes time to build trust so don’t expect it to happen overnight. Consistency is key here. If you slack off, the problem will only get worse.

Be Thankful

When your micro-manager gives you some leeway (even just a smidge), be sure to recognize it and show your appreciation. It doesn’t hurt to also articulate how well you performed with that added level of freedom, just to reinforce it.

Ask for More

Your micro-manager might not even realize what she’s doing and how it affects you. Remain professional and polite, but call it to her attention by asking for more freedom.

One way to do this is to make it more about helping her:

I know you’re busy. Why don’t you let me take some of this stuff off your plate?

Or you can be more direct about it:

I think I can manage this on my own. Why don’t I take the lead and check in with you if I get stuck?

Or you can be even MORE direct:

I’d like to discuss my role and how I can earn more freedom/responsibility/independence.

This last one is opening a larger discussion that may be worthwhile. If you’ve been working with a micro-manager for a long time and things aren’t improving, it’s time to put together a plan to fix the problem. Notice how we say, “earn” more freedom, etc. This shows that you’re willing to take responsibility for making it happen and you’re also willing to do the work. Phrasing it this way will help ease the conversation forward.

Micro-managers can be high-strung and paranoid, but don’t let them stifle your growth or make you question your abilities. You don’t need a babysitter. You can stand up for yourself without getting defensive or angry. Be tactful and remember that you’re on the same team and you have the same goal: You both want to do a good job.

Photo Credit: Courosa (Flickr)

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About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and certified Professional Career Manager (PCM). She is an author, in-demand presenter and international speaker known for engaging, entertaining, educating and empowering audiences of all sizes and backgrounds. Learn more here.

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