We’ve all had them -- a manager who wants to manage your business rather than the business. They can suck every ounce of ambition out of you and leave you frustrated, angry and annoyed all at the same time.
There’s nothing worse than putting in hours of work only to have it red-lined and re-worked by the manager him or herself. Fortunately, there are strategies you can employ to mitigate the micromanager factor. Here are seven of them:
1. Understand their decision-making process.
Knowing how your manager arrives at a conclusion is a huge step in saving all those precious minutes, or hours, of micromanagement that you’ll never get back. If you know the decision-making criteria he or she is looking for, you can get ahead of the curve by addressing those elements beforehand.
2. When in doubt, just ask.
There’s nothing wrong with asking questions. Generally speaking, there is no such thing as stupid questions, only stupid people (yes, they exist, and I’ve been one of them from time to time). Of course, there’s an art to asking questions because how and what you ask are equally, if not more, important than the content itself. Asking your manager something such as, “What can I do to save you time? (and not look over my shoulder every 10 minutes).”
3. Exceed expectations.
Once you know what your manager defines as “right,” surpass it. In other words, micromanagers typically exude control for one main reason: a lack of trust. It could be a lack of trust within themselves because they’re a recent hire and don’t want to become a “recent fire.” Or it may be because they’re unfamiliar with you so until they get to know your character and competency levels, they want to ensure your (read their) success.
4. Open the emotional floodgates.
To get to the heart of why your manager feels compelled to micromanage, demonstrate empathy by trying to view the problem from his or her perspective. Ask your manager, “Listen, you seem really concerned about the turnout of this project. How can I take the pressure off you so you feel better?”
5. Coach others.
When your manager sees you not only working in your role but coaching others in theirs, it sends a message that you have a firm grasp of the project requirements. Start with one of three criteria integral to any project: time, requirements or resources.
Related: The 3-Step Cure for Micromanagement
Namely, what’s the timeframe for completion? What are the requirements for success? What do we need that we don’t have, and can we operate without them? Asking these questions conveys to your manager that you’re capable of thinking more extensively than he or she previously considered (“So get off my back!”).
6. Be honest with yourself.
Not all micromanaging is unwarranted. We all do dumb things now and again, but if making mistakes becomes a habit then there’s probably a good reason as to why your manager feels compelled to hunch over your shoulder and say, “Do this. No, do that.”
Take time to reflect about your behavior to explore what you do well and what can you improve. What are you doing that beckons your manager’s attention?
7. Write out a plan of attack.
Once a project appears on the horizon, get ahead of the power curve by writing out a quick list of deliverables -- time, resources and requirements -- to consider complete for success. Present this to your manager. Doing so sends the message, “Hey, I’m all over this like sauce on ribs,” which means your manager won’t feel compelled to walk through each bullet point with you (but maybe a few).
It’s not easy dealing with somebody who needs such control. The sooner you learn to manage your micromanager the sooner your job becomes more rewarding.
Related: When It's Appropriate to Micromanage