How to Stay a Step Ahead of a Micromanager

No one likes working for a micromanager. Luckily, there’s plenty you can do to handle a micromanaging boss.

March 7, 2023
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No one likes working for a micromanager. 

It’s frustrating, patronizing, and totally demotivating.

And worst of all? It’s rarely a reflection of your ability to do your job and almost always a symptom of your boss’s own insecurities.

Luckily, there’s plenty you can do to handle a micromanaging boss. Read on for some effective strategies for dealing with a micromanager.

What are the signs of a micromanager?

So, what is a micromanager?

You know you’re working for one if…

  • They rarely – if ever – delegate work to you
  • They rarely – if ever – praise your work
  • They never discuss your career growth with you
  • They always change at least one thing in each piece of work (even if it’s just the font size)
  • They want to see everything you do – sometimes down to being cc’d into every email you send
  • They don’t just tell you what to do, they tell you how to do it (and want you to do it again if you don’t do it “their” way)

Micromanager or demanding leader?

One thing to beware of before we dive into our top tips for dealing with a micromanager is that there’s a fine line between a boss who holds you to high standards and a micromanager.

Some managers are more demanding than others. Yours might regularly ask you to redo work because it hasn't met their high standards. And a boss like this can be worth their weight in gold when it comes to your career growth. Work alongside them long enough and you’ll quickly become excellent at what you do.

Of course, demanding bosses share some traits of micromanagers. But it’s a clear sign you’re working for the former rather than the latter if:

  • They recommend big-picture changes, not changes for the sake of it
  • They explain why they want you to make the changes they’ve suggested so you can get better 
  • They make less changes to your work over time as you improve

If your manager ticks those boxes then they might have high standards rather than be a micromanager. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Book a demo of Assembly to see how easy it can be to keep track of your employees’ relationship with their line managers

How do you deal with a micromanager boss?

Read the list of micromanager’s traits and recognize them all in your boss? We feel for you.

Luckily, there’s plenty you can do to make working under a micromanager bearable. Here’s how to handle a micromanager – without them getting defensive and doubling down on being controlling.

Bring everything back to the big picture

You send an internal document you’ve been working on to your micromanager boss to check before you share it with the wider team. 

You’re looking for their input on the overall strategy you’re suggesting… and you get their feedback on the font size. 

In fact, it’s not uncommon for a micromanager to reword an entire document because they can’t stand the thought of not being in control of every little thing. Afterwards, the document will say the same thing – just worded differently.

Figuring out how to stop a micromanager from focusing on details that simply don’t matter can be a serious struggle. So here’s a tip: a little bit of flattery goes a long way. Suggesting that they’re such a valuable asset to the company that you can handle the little details so they’re freed up to focus on bigger picture things can go a long way to relieving the anxiety that’s driving your boss’s micromanager tendencies.

Err on the side of over-communicating

Some managers are happy for you to loop them in when you need them, but otherwise just deliver results in your own way. 

But if you’re reading this article, your manager probably wants to be a lot more involved in exactly what you’re doing – and when you’re doing it. 

You can avoid a lot of headaches if you lean into this and proactively over-communicate with your manager. For example, you could follow up after every one-to-one with your manager with the action points you’ve taken away from it and share your list of priorities for the week ahead on a Monday morning. 

They’ll be able to flag straight away if they want to change anything, giving them the feeling of control they need to be comfortable. And this will give you some breathing space during your working week to get on with your work.

Trust us: this simple trick can do wonders for your working relationship with a micromanager.

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Be a problem-solver

Your boss micromanages you because they think if they leave you to your own devices, your work won’t be good enough.

Of course, you know that fear is totally unfounded and you’re perfectly capable of doing your job (why else would you have been hired for it?). And you also know your boss is micromanaging you because of their insecurities rather than your inadequacies.

But the point stands: they think they need to check everything you do or else standards will slip.

With that in mind, be sure you never draw attention to a problem without also suggesting a solution.

Everyone loves a problem-solver. And the more of your boss’s headaches you take care of for them, the more they’ll learn to trust you – and the less they’ll micromanage you.

Ask “how can I make their life easier?”

Here’s what to say to a micromanager: “how can I make your life easier?”.

Your manager has targets to hit, a team to look after, and their own manager to keep happy. That’s a lot for them to shoulder. No wonder they get anxious and insecure. Unfortunately for you, micromanaging their reports is an easy way to ease those insecurities.

But, the more ways you can find to ease their burden, the more they’ll come to see you as an invaluable ally in hitting their KPIs rather than another problem they have to solve. 

So, be sure to regularly ask your boss if there’s anything you can take care of for them so they don’t have to worry about it. Over time, they’ll hopefully come to realize how much easier their life is if they take you up on the offer.

Book a demo of Assembly to get all the tools you need to manage your team in one place

How do I tell my boss to stop micromanaging?

Micromanagers generally fit into two camps: well-meaning bosses that are overbearing because of their own insecurities and people who like showing everyone they're the one who’s in charge.

If you think you’re dealing with a manager who’s heart is in the right place, we’d recommend you start by trying out the tips we’ve outlined above. Accusing them of being a micromanager is only going to make them feel more insecure, which is ironically liable to make them double down on their micromanaging tendencies.

But if you’ve followed all the recommendations in this article and you’re still being micromanaged, the next step is flagging the issue in your next annual review or stay interview – preferably with someone from HR present. If you take this route, be sure to soften the blow by explaining you like working with your manager, but you think you’d work better together if they placed a bit more trust in you. Again, it’s well worth framing the situation as letting you worry about the little things so they can focus on the big picture.

And want to know how to deal with a micromanager who seems to enjoy letting you know they’re the boss? Leave for another job – and make sure you flag their behavior in your exit interview.

The final word

If you’re unfortunate enough to work for a micromanager rather than one who’s learned a lesson or two from Ted Lasso, then you’ve got to master the skill of managing your manager

The tips we’ve outlined in this article will hopefully help you earn your micromanager’s trust and build a much healthier working relationship with your boss.

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