How to Collaborate with a Micromanager

They are called the ‘helicopter bosses’. They hover over you. They rarely empower or trust you to do a good job or make the smallest of decisions. They make it highly impossible for you to stay consistently engaged and motivated. 

As an employee, you enjoy your work but cannot stand your manager’s style and attitude. You like your organization and do not want to leave. If only he or she was not such a control freak, you wonder…work life could be so much better. 

How can you deal with and collaborate with such a micromanager? 

The good news – micromanagement can be managed

Bosses will claim that they do not enjoy micromanaging but have to do so as they do not find their members accountable. Employees will assert that they need trust and empowerment to be self-starters in delivering their best. 

Like any other responsibility, there is no template for management that can be applied for universal success or satisfaction. For it to be both productive and fulfilling it calls for diligent effort, careful consideration and empathy – on the part of both employees and managers. 

Yes, micromanagement can be challenging, frustrating and inefficient - but there are also ways to deal with it. It needs an open mind and a will to understand and work together with your manager. 

Draw a mutual agreement on micromanagement

As much as you experience the heat of micromanagement, try to unbiasedly understand why it happens. You may have areas of inexperience that worries your manager. Equally, he may be a little uncertain in his role.

Start with putting yourself in your manager’s shoes. What could he need to feel safe and in control? What does success mean to him? What are the gaps he sees in achieving such success? 

Next, look at yourself. What makes you feel micro-managed? What is your threshold of being managed, and how much can you extend its boundaries? 

Now, evaluate your performance – critically and constructively. How satisfied are you that you are pushing your boundaries to exceed performance standards? When you have honest and unbiased answers to all these questions, you are ready to start the process of collaboration with your manager.

Communicate for collaboration

Start your communication with the premise that your manager does not intend to micromanage and is actually not aware of his or her behavior. Do not make the conversational personal. Make yourself authentic as a team member whose commitment to your manager’s success is total. 

Be calm, friendly and respectful when it comes to articulating your needs. Align your requirements to what your manager would like to see as success. Clearly spell out your willing involvement to achieve them, even as you ask for areas of autonomy. Assure him as to how he can look good as a manager if you could take some things off his plate. 

Reiterate and summarize your manager’s expectations of you and your responsibilities. Take care to find out his preferred style and mode of communication. Make it clear how you will report work status so that he feels in control of progress. 

You will need to smartly anticipate his concerns. Be ready to answer them keeping his success in mind and being open to suggestions.  

Only then, request for trust

Having built the bridge, it is now time to politely and firmly assert your need for his trust. Let him know clearly your thresholds of being managed so that you can turn out your best performance for his success. What is your ask to be more effective at work?

Simultaneously show him the milestones, checks and balances to reassure that things will not go out of his control. Build your request for independence and empowerment within these parameters and outperform on them so that your boss will voluntarily stretch the limits in your favor.

A few ‘Dos’ and ‘Donts’

Choose your battles wisely, and pick on issues that matter most. In doing so, request permission for doing it your way by providing your manager success parameters that appeal to him.

Consult your manager at all times before you make or when you anticipate a change from the agreed norm of working. This will infuse greater trust and confidence. When explaining the change, ask for feedback. Not only will this show your problem-solving skills but will also demonstrate your openness to feedback.

Check-in with your manager as to whether you are providing enough communication for his comfort. Keep improving on it based on feedback received. 

Avoid pushing back - aggressively or passively – against what you see as micromanagement. Make your point with open communication. This will increase the respect for you in the manager-member relationship.

Finally, think of a positive spin to your boss’ micromanagement trait. Can you take the annoyance out of your perception and look at it as a rigorous ‘on-the-job’ experience for your career development? As an opportunity to present yourself as a smart and capable team member of value, who is also willing to contribute to your manager’s, team and organization success?

You may then ‘wow’ your manager to the heights of comfort that will encourage him to be a willing ‘hands-off’ boss!  
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