How to Get a Manager to Stop Micro-Managing

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In the more than 10 years I’ve been blogging on communication issues, no one has ever asked about the important topic Rahul emailed about recently on LinkedIn:

I have a team lead who has micro-managing habits. I have a meeting soon with him and I’m getting help from your videos. But how do I solve this problem?”

The habits of a micro-manager

Before you communicate one-on-one with a micro-managing boss, observe his or her habits in general. Here’s a checklist for your consideration:

  • Does the boss seem to micro-manage everyone or just you? (If the micro-managing focuses on just you, you need to have a talk to find out why.)
  • Does the boss seem distrustful in general — of his or her own boss and peers in other functional areas? (If generally distrustful, the micro-managing habit may or may not be solvable.)
  • Is the boss confident of his or her own abilities? (If the boss lacks confidence personally, then it stands to reason that insecurity will extend to a lack of faith in others’ ability to perform well without constant supervision.)

But if the above checklist suggests that your boss’s micro-managing is focused solely on you, then it’s time for a heart-to-heart discussion.

What to ask in that heart-to-heart discussion

Here are some key questions for that conversation:

  • Is there a past project I’ve handled that has made you feel uncomfortable about my current performance?
  • Is there a key skill that I need to improve or a work habit that’s causing you to feel that I might not be able to deliver on the XYZ project?
  • Would it make you feel more comfortable if we set up more frequent check-back points on this current project? At what points in the project, would you like me to check back with you?
  • I understand that there are different levels of delegation. Which level do you feel most comfortable with between us?
    • ––“Here’s what I’ve done. Let me know if that’s not okay.”
    • ––“Here’s what I plan to do. If I don’t hear from you otherwise, I’ll go ahead with this action.”
    • ––“I recommend we do X. Do I have your approval to move ahead?”
    • ––“Here’s what I’ve discovered. What action would you like me to take?”

Focusing on long-term change

You may feel as though you’re “caving in” to the micro-managing boss with even more frequent report-backs, status reports, approval requests, and so forth.

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And you may be — for a period. But if your goal is to call attention to the issue and change the situation, this focus on the habit can bring about long-term change.

At best, such frank communication gives you solid feedback about performance and perception. At the least, such a discussion communicates to a boss the need to clarify expectations to improve the relationship.

This was originally published on Dianna Booher’s Booher Banter blog.

Dianna Booher is the bestselling author of 47 books, published in 60 foreign language editions. She works with organizations to help them communicate clearly and with leaders to expand their influence by a strong executive presence. Her personal development topics include leadership communication, executive presence, life balance, and faith. Her most popular books include What MORE Can I Say?, Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader and Communicate With Confidence. Look for her newest book in June 2017: Communicate Like a Leader: Connecting Strategically to Coach, Inspire, and Get Things Done. National media such as Good Morning America, USAToday, The Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, Bloomberg, Forbes.com, Fast Company, FOX, CNN, NPR, Success, and Entrepreneur have interviewed her for opinions on critical workplace communication issues. www.BooherResearch.com  817-283-2333  @DiannaBooher

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3 Comments on “How to Get a Manager to Stop Micro-Managing

  1. It’s important to understand that managers can micro manage for different reasons. One is that they may have a psychometric profile that means they will always focus on the detail, be analytical (meaning less consultative, or emotionally intelligent), or highly driven and have expectations that others should be like them, so tend to push. The other reason can be the politics of the organisation or that they are not a confident person, so feel the need to control outcomes. It’s not always about the individual being micro-managed. The steps outlined about are a good start to find out if it is about you as an individual.

  2. My manager is not only a control freak, but a “nice” one, who is always wearing a gigantic creepy puppet-like grin. He literally makes my skin crawl, so bad that I’m often scratching my arms or back profusely when he is standing nearby and watching me. I don’t think I can work this this son of a bitch much longer, but I don’t want to start looking for another job, and I don’t know how I can go about asking for a transfer to another store in the company without offering this incredibly stupid-sounding reason.

  3. There is another species of nano manager and that’s the correcter. They don’t know what they want but they never stop demanding changes to your work. Whatever it is it’s wrong and it’s your fault and you’re a retard or willfully disobedient. And as the changes and revisions pile up they eventually are demanding corrections to their corrections to their corrections. But the demands never stop. Eventually they make a big show of calling in their boss and their boss to ‘address’ your issues so you better have a paper trail of their abuse. Their defense is always ‘you’re the professional I’m not going to micro manage you’ but of course that’s what they do. Since there is zero career path in this job and there’s a fairly low risk of being fired (bullies need people to bully) you have two options; quit or unplug your brain and become a drone.

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