You pride yourself on running an efficient office. Even though you’ve got a dozen people asking for 50 different things every day, from change-ups in travel schedules to keeping track of the office supplies, you manage to keep it together, and most days you do it with a smile. But the one thing that drives you absolutely crazy? A boss who gets way too involved your daily work.
A micromanaging boss is a hassle, and you’re not alone. Nearly 60 percent of workers say they’ve reported to a micromanager at some point in their careers, according to a survey by staffing company Accountemps. Take heart. You don’t have to grin and bear it. There are ways you can cope, if you understand what you’re up against. There’s even an upside to being micromanaged: you gain valuable job skills when you learn to deal with an overly “plugged in” manager.
A blessing in disguise?
We all like to toss around the term “micromanager” whenever someone gets too involved in our daily work. Generally speaking, a micromanager is a person who obsesses too much over unimportant details and has a hard time letting employees make decisions they can easily make by themselves. But not all bosses who are very detailed or super-involved are necessarily micromanagers. In fact, it’s a good sign that your boss is interested in your work—it means he or she cares. Think of “micromanagement” as simply an excess of attention that you must manage.
When you figure out how to effectively deal with the constant attention and still get your work done, you’ll feel less stressed. And, bonus: your ability to deal with a “challenging” boss makes you the office hero and builds your job skills. Others will wonder, “How does she do that?” and look to you as a role model.
Becoming the “Most Valuable Player”
Believe it or not, there are positive aspects to having a highly involved work team leader. Sidney Finkelstein, a management professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, sees an upside to some forms of micromanagement. In the BBC article In Praise of Micromanagement, Finkelstein writes, “The best micromanagers are often the best talent developers. Their attention to detail, their intimate knowledge of the business and their deep involvement in what’s going on actually enables more, not less, delegation.” What this means to you is that if you can learn from your manager’s intense focus on the details, you’ll learn important information about the business. And that makes you a more valuable member of your team. Look at the micromanagement as a form of mentoring from your boss.
5 tips for dealing with a micromanager
- Plan for the unexpected. Working with a micromanager means more interruptions. Productivity expert Hyrum Smith calls interruptions “unexpected events.” He says the best way to deal with interruptions is to always have a list of prioritized tasks at hand. When your boss interrupts you with a new request, say, “This is my task list for today. Which one should I defer in order to add this new one to the list?” Say it with a smile and a genuine tone of voice, and you might be surprised at the result.
- Ask for the responsibility. It’s true that micromanagers are often afraid to let go of control. It’s also true that you’ll rarely get something if you don’t ask for it. The next time your manager tries to wrestle a perfectly easy task from your very capable hands, say, “I’d like to take that on. I can handle it. Will you let me deal with it? I promise to let you know if anything happens that requires your attention.” Phrasing your request this way shows confidence, but also assures him that you won’t let things get out of hand.
- Keep the big picture in mind. People with a high attention to detail often fail to “see the forest for the trees.” If you feel yourself pulled into an overly complex conversation about a simple situation, take a step back. Breathe. Remind yourself about the overall goal. Doing so helps you stay focused and helps your manager get back on track.
- Figure out what constitutes “good enough.” Many times, perfectionism is at the root of micromanagement. If you work for a perfectionist, you’ve probably been burned by your boss’s multiple attempts to refine a process or document that was (in your mind) totally acceptable three revisions ago. Try this: make a list of all your tasks and ask your boss to prioritize them. Then you’ll know which items need to be more “perfect” than others.
- Learn to “let it go.” If your manager is an otherwise great person, you may just need to accept the fact that he or she checks in with you. A lot. There are worse things a boss can do.
Working for a micromanager has its challenges. Yet it doesn’t have to completely stress you out. If you keep the big picture in mind, set appropriate boundaries, and convey confidence, you can learn to deal with this challenging workplace situation. Learn to see those frequent check-ins as opportunities to flex your communication skills, and you’ll soon have your office back to running smoothly.
Tell us: How do you manage micromanagers?