Being micro-managed is frustrating and discouraging. Your progress is often blocked by your boss’s need to approve everything, and since you never have the chance to suggest improvements or demonstrate your own ability, you have no opportunity to shine on your own. In fact, if you did make any improvement, the micro-manager might feel threatened by your success, which he/she would interpret as a personal criticism. The micro-manager’s scrutiny, and attention to detail takes time away from your job, putting you in a no-win situation. You may also feel confused by contradictory messages and information you receive from your boss, which reflect his/her shifting (and sometimes mutually exclusive) priorities and goals.
Knowledge is power and you don’t have any. Micro-managers horde information and control the amount they share with you. This limits your perspective of your job and how you and your work fit in with the company, which in turn interferes with your ability to make informed decisions.
The good news is that you can reduce the stress and strain of working for a micro- manager. You can help yourself, but you won’t be able to rehabilitate your micro- managing boss. 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 should help buoy your spirits until you can escape. Then begin to look for other opportunities inside and outside your organization where your abilities will be honed and appreciated.
In the meantime, here are a few tips to manage your boss until your new job arrives:
- Prepare in advance for scheduled calls/visits and be ready for surprise calls and visits. Always have an update on the tip of your tongue. If the boss is nearby, expect a visit and have a detailed response ready.
- Have your boss meet with your clients and hear the situation updates directly from them. This forces your boss to be more hands on, responsible, and invested.
- Learn your boss’s pattern and anticipate it. He/she will call you less if you always have the info ready and may call others more who are less prepared.
- Pay attention when your boss shows you his/her priorities and concerns, then play to those aspects.
- When presenting options, provide two equally acceptable alternatives so that no matter which one your boss picks, it’s exactly what you really wanted.
- If he/she calls unexpectedly and you are dealing with a time-sensitive problem, ask if you can get back to them. They will generally call someone else.
- If the boss won’t listen to your perspective, enlist the aid of statistics, representatives or other authority figures whom the boss respects to win your point.
- Be industry savvy, have examples and specific information about new methods and equipment as well as what updates on what the competitors are doing.
- Communicate to the micro-manager’s strengths and comfort levels, using customers, favored people, articles, news reports and competitors’ information rather than your opinion against theirs.
- Watch your back. Micro-managers are usually insecure people, and some will take credit for your ideas. Copy other people with your plans and ideas so there is a paper trail of intellectual ownership.
- Keep up with company politics and stay on good terms with as many people as possible. You’ll need allies, support systems, and a solid reputation as you look for a new job, since you can’t count on the micro-manager for a great review.
- Alert, warn, and inform your boss about important things to show you have his/her back on issues and potential issues. Reinforce that you are on his/her side.
- Use the boss’s own beliefs, preferences and concerns when presenting suggestions, ideas instead of arguing.
- Ideas may be coming from your customers—present them as such.
- Play your relationship like chess–learn the rules and then play the game.
- Keep an email trail of the communication between you and your boss.
- Send an email, and follow it up with a concise voice mail summary of the email. If they say the never got your e-mail you have a voice mail backup and can resend the e-mail.
- Avoid direct confrontation.
Instead of following the rules to the letter, keeping your head down and hoping for the best, empower yourself and do things you know are good for the business and good for the company and then apologize later. Remember, you are a valuable asset and very soon your networking is going to uncover a new and exciting opportunity for you to pursue!