Thoughtful Leader Podcast Episode 21 – Micromanagement… and How to Stop It
Ever micromanaged someone? I certainly have, and it’s not a great thing for a leader to do. What I have noticed over my career is that micromanagement isn’t something that people want to do… but they feel like they have to.
In this episode, Ben talks about some of the issues with micromanagement and also some ways to stop your micromanagement tendencies from getting out of control!
Hi Ben, I’ve had to re-listen to this episode as my boss is a micro-manager to the extreme which I do think comes down to control and trust. Do you have any advice on how to approach your boss in a positive way when you are the one being micro-managed and are feeling imprisoned and deeply unsatisfied with your work? Thank you!
Hey Irene, thanks for the comment – this is a tricky situation!
You have already identified one of the key issues here, which is trust (or lack of it). In many cases, the lack of trust isn’t necessarily justified, it’s a side-effect of insecurity, a perception of poor performance or sometimes it can be that the boss doesn’t feel that their team members are invested (or care) enough about the work.
Whatever the reason, I think you need to work on that trust bit, so I suggest trying a few things:
1) Start providing frequent updates on your progress. Instead of waiting for the inevitable interruption by the micromanager, be proactive and give them an update. This shifts the communication to be on your terms instead of up to them, and will provide a feeling of transparency – that you aren’t hiding anything.
2) Try to show a positive attitude. When someone is micromanaging you, it’s frustrating and it’s easy to get annoyed at the person and start attacking them back. If your manager is insecure, they might try to “put you back in your box” by locking you down and controlling you, especially if they feel you are a threat. People who are helpful to them are far less threatening!
3) Make sure you clarify the expectations of your manager up front. If the manager’s instructions are vague, work with them to get the details right. Some managers don’t set clear expectations, and then tell you that you’ve done it wrong (even though it’s impossible to know!), so you can cut down some of the back and forth by getting clear and structured up front – “I just want to make sure I get it right”.
4) This might all take some time because the manager will need to adjust to your approach. If this isn’t working, I’d suggest potentially being more direct and expressing the challenges you are having. You can ask them what their expectations are and you’ve noticed that they may not trust you, using concrete examples.
This is not an easy conversation to have, but if you are feeling really bad about the situation and nothing else is working, this is a good avenue. Sometimes, bad managers don’t *actually* know the impact they are having on people – telling them how it makes you feel and working with them to improve may just be the secret to unlocking a change.
Hope that helps! This is a challenging situation… never easy to fix these problems but hopefully you can get a positive outcome over time.