What to Do if You’re Being Micromanaged

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If you’ve ever been given a project and then found your boss breathing down your neck, scrutinizing every little detail, you understand the frustration of being micromanaged. You aren’t able to make decisions on your own. He or she is constantly hovering to see how you’re progressing … the focus is on your process rather than the results.

First, let’s consider that the micromanaging is intentional and is designed to benefit you. To illustrate, David Goldsmith of Fast Company advises managers: “Effective micromanagement through setting structure, developing strategy and plans, creating reliable systems for others, and teaching people to be independent thinkers can actually empower others to do their jobs with little involvement from you at all.”

Now, here are some favorable situations outlined by Christine Riordan in Forbes:

  • When your company is taking on a new endeavor: Venturing into uncharted territory means there could be unforeseen obstacles. Having your supervisor working closely with you means two heads to solve problems and find alternatives if you need them.
  • When you’re new or your boss is new: Your boss has no experience with your work. Even talented professionals need guidance in a new role. Setting priorities, interpreting situations, understanding existing systems and procedures, introductions, etc., all help smooth the way for your future success.
  • When you’re not finishing projects or getting results: If you’re struggling on a project, having your manager work closely can help give him or her a better picture of the obstacles you’re encountering — from missing information or training to slow-downs in other departments.

If none of those scenarios exists— you’ve been with your company a while and your work is good — but you’re still coping with a micromanager and feeling stifled and patronized, it might be time to take steps to turn things around. Changing this behavior might not be an easy fix. But here are some tips to help you begin.

  1. Assess your behavior. Are there things you’re doing that might be a concern to your boss? If you’re a procrastinator and your boss has a stricter timeline, this could be affecting her trust in your work. What are you doing right and how could you improve? You might need to ask your manager for clarification. Keep track of your improvements and share these with her.
  2. Understand your manager and his or her objectives. The goals of your manager direct his behavior. If you can anticipate those needs, you will better understand your role in reaching them.
  3. Be clear on your responsibilities. It’s easy to get mired in the little details. Take the time to fully understand your responsibilities. Know what the goal is. What does success look like? What’s the timeline? Set a time to discuss these things and agree to your responsibilities. If there is interference, remind your boss of this prior discussion and your commitment. Ask to do the task on your own.
  4. Communicate frequently. Anticipate information needs of your manager. If you’re new or your boss is new, send daily updates about the progress on your projects. Make note of where things are working smoothly and where you could use input. Set up weekly one-on-one time to review and get feedback. The objective is to build a positive relationship with your boss — one where he or she feels confident in your ability to get the job done. (For more details, check out Building a Productive Relationship with Your Boss.)

Being micromanaged can leave you feeling stifled. First, take stock of the situation to identify a reason. If you don’t see justification for the close supervision, it might be time to act. Start with clear communication and a commitment to the goals and timeline of your boss.

Agree? Disagree? Add your insightful comments here.