Most of us have had the misfortune of being micro-managed at some point in our careers. Micro-managing bosses don’t assign tasks by describing the desired outcome and allowing an employee to determine the best process to achieve the outcome. Instead, they want to specify every step along the way, essentially insisting on having you do the job exactly the way he/she would have done the job.
Micro-managers appear to lack trust in their employees and/or they are tremendously fearful of negative consequences if something goes wrong. There may also be a compulsive aspect where a boss has decided that one—and only one—approach is or can be correct. This leads the micro-manager to constantly call, email, check in and demand reports. Handling a micro-manager boss is like having an additional job, because on top of getting the actual work done, you’ve also got to do the make-work necessary to keep the micro-manager reassured and happy.
Are you working for a micro-manager? If you’re reading this, you probably strongly suspect that you are. But just in case you’re not sure, ask yourself: Does any of this behavior sound familiar?
- The boss is highly controlling.
- Most or/all decisions need to be approved before proceeding.
- Wants things run their way, have rules that they expect you to adhere to.
- Rules and procedures are overly rigid and detailed, removing any opportunity for the employee to think independently or react to the situation as it unfolds
- Wants to keep a close eye on you and all their people.
- Calls/comes in to see you on a regular basis to inspect what you are doing despite regular, frequent updates.
- Asks you the same questions frequently and with repetition.
- Is not open to or interested in new ideas and suggestions, even when the existing structure either does not work or is inefficient.
- Is not interested in your input, observations or needs outside their areas of concern.
- Change or even questions (as well as suggestions) are seen as challenging their authority.
- Big on chain of command and protective of his/her status in the hierarchy.
- Encourages a cookie cutter approach rather than responding to the unique requirements of a specific situation even when the standardized approach fails.
- Rewards those who mirror the micro-manager’s behavior and/or adhere to the letter of the law without complaint.
- Big on busywork, reports, committees, collecting information and asking questions because the micro-manager believes in working harder not smarter.
- They distract you from doing your job by constantly demanding updates.
Once you recognize that your boss is a micro-manager, you can begin actively managing your responses in order to position yourself for success and save your sanity. The first positive action step to take is to update your resume and network for new opportunities. The second thing you can do is replace your boss with your own positive inner coach boss. Talk to yourself and treat yourself the way you want to be managed. Encourage, empower, appreciate and value yourself and your ideas. This will help lift your spirits until you can escape.