Working with a micromanager? Here’s five tips to help take your power back

- November 9, 2022 3 MIN READ

People management specialist and author of the new book, Be A Better Manager in 5 Minutes a Day, Dr Dominic McLoughlin, explains five ways to cope when working under a micromanager.

Many people do not like having someone constantly looking over their shoulder, and the evidence suggests that this micromanagement causes people to leave their job.

But what about the other side of the coin? Is there anything that you can do if you find yourself working for a micromanager?

5 tips for working under a micromanager

micromanager using magnifying glass to check on worker

1. Understand the situation

There isn’t just one reason for someone to micromanage, so it is important to understand where it’s coming from.

Sometimes, it is just because the manager has not had any training in how to manage people. Others micromanage because they are insecure – they are worried that any mistakes will reflect badly on them. Some managers genuinely believe that no one can do the work as well as they can. Finally, some managers become a micromanager when someone is not producing the quality of the work required, or has made a big mistake in the past.

Your response to a micromanager will depend on the reasons for the behaviour.

2. Attend to your wellbeing

When you haven’t performed poorly or made a big mistake, it can be very stressful working under close supervision. This in turn can start to undermine your own self-confidence, making you doubt that you know how to do the work properly.

Therefore, it is very important to understand that micromanagement is not about you.

Reminding yourself of this, and combining it with good diet and exercise, helps to keep you resilient under the pressure of constant instructions and corrections. Attending to your own health also helps you to remain calm at work.

Find someone you trust to keep confidences who you can vent to – outside of work is probably better.

3. Learn from others

Observe how others deal with the micromanager.

  • How do they keep the micromanager happy?
  • How often do they communicate?
  • What updates do they supply and with what frequency?

Supportive boss with hand on employee's shoulder

4. Build the manager’s trust in you

Frequent communication can really help you to deal with a micromanager. Take the initiative to inform the manager of what is going on. That gives them less reason to be checking on you.

Similarly, you can try to set some guidelines before any project even begins. Have a conversation about what the micromanager would like to be kept updated on, and how frequently they would like to be updated. Sharing your work and progress reports for feedback and approval can help to allay any fears they have that things are out of control.

Another option that can build trust is to take one aspect that the micromanager keeps targeting. If you focus on getting better in that area and then move onto the next area, you will continuously improve. Doing so allows you to build your own skills, your own employability, while also showing the manager that you are listening to their feedback.

Once a micromanager sees that you are improving and keeping them informed, they should trust you enough to reduce the amount of checking that they initiate. You will have shown that you can be trusted with some independence.

5. Conversations about goals

One way of assisting a micromanager is trying to ensure that there are many conversations about the goals for you (or the team). By turning the focus of discussion to the end result, there is less time spent talking about exactly how each person has to get there. Over time this can assist a micromanager to focus more on the outcome, rather than the process.

It can be helpful for your own career to start reading, watching and listening to leadership and management resources. This can allow you to make helpful suggestions to the micromanager, while also improving your own knowledge. Ensure that suggestions are presented as relevant and useful for the micromanager to achieve their goals, rather than trying to upstage or undermine them. Once you get to know the micromanager better, it may be possible to recommend some resources that would assist them.

Finally, it can be worthwhile having a look at the other roles that are available. Just knowing that there are other options available to you can be calming. There may also come a point where you decide that you have had enough micromanagement and want to work elsewhere!

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Now read this: 

Why micromanaging remote workers is a bad idea – and how to stop it

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