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Dealing with Micromanagers at Work (1 of 2)

  1. control every part, however small, of (an enterprise or activity). 
It's hard, right? When you're a manager and you want to ensure the work is getting done in the right way and on time.... OR.... you're an employee and you're dealing with a manager who's trying to control and monitor every aspect of your work. 
Here are some ways to cope, from an employee's perspective. More advice to come for managers!

Ask: What’s the micromanager’s motivation?

People may micromanage for different reasons. Often, they don’t know how else to manage; they may have to deal with a micromanager themselves and require info from you to pass on; or, they may think they’re supporting you by checking on tasks. You may be able to figure this out on your own through reflection and observation, or, you may have to ask them - tactfully - about it. 

Example: “I notice that most of our conversations are about tasks rather than how we work or what’s happening in our lives. Can we talk about that in our next meeting?”

Plan: What you want them to know

Take your time to think about how you’d prefer to work, and consider your manager’s needs (now that you better understand them). If this is someone who either needs to report up on tasks, or has a need to feel in control through having more task-based knowledge about what their direct reports are up to, you may be able to negotiate the frequency and manner of task-based communications. 

Do: Continue the conversation & work how YOU want to

Once you figure out how you’d like to proceed, schedule another conversation and tell your manager your expectations. 

Example: I want you to know that I appreciate how you answered my questions about how we work. I’ve given it some thought, and I know that I am much more productive when I have more flexibility in how I report on all the very many tasks we manage. I realize you still need to know details, as my manager. So, let’s … (start using a PM software, set up an email reporting schedule no more than 1x/2x a week, etc.). 

Be direct, honest, and creative.

The kindest communications are direct. Don’t ask permission or state what you want ambiguously; tell your manager how you work best and assume that they will of course want to support you in that. 

The creativity comes in as you consider how you can still fulfill your manager’s needs. If the desire to know more really is genuine and/or necessary, you may need to fulfill it in some manner while working for them. Consider the myriad different ways we have to communicate these days: phone conversations, audio recordings, text messages, Slack messages, email, pictures, videos, PM software, intranet options… pick what’s easiest and most comfortable for you that still meets their need to know (for whatever reason). 

Most importantly: Be clear and consistent in your boundaries. If your micromanager is texting you in the middle of dinner about whether you wrote an email that day, and you’ve already let your micromanager know how you will provide them with updates, don’t respond until the next normal working hour, and do it by picking up the phone and speaking calmly. 

Example: As a reminder, I’m providing updates on tasks (in x manner). When you text me after hours with a question that will be answered another way, you create more work for both of us. 

If your manager can’t handle respecting your boundaries and your direct communication, it may be time to find a new manager. 



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