7 Ways to Survive Working for a Micromanaging Boss

Working for a micromanager is frustrating and stressful, and can make it hard to get anything done. The first step toward improving the situation is understanding why your manager acts the way he does. From there, you can learn how to adjust your own behaviors in order to take back your time and enjoy your work again.


(Photo Credit: JD Hancock/Flickr)

There could be many different reasons why your boss feels he needs to control everything about himself and the team, including: a) he is new  to the role, and wants to learn everything very fast b) he is inherently control-driven, c) he is insecure in his role, or isn’t competent, or d) he isn’t challenged enough and need ways to keep himself busy.

While you obviously cannot work around all the reasons, here are a few tips that you can use to better your situation:

1. Start from within: Before trying to gauge why your manager is acting the way he is, take a step back and assess if there’s been a change in your performance and conduct. Have you been delivering, meeting expectations from your role? If you are not doing what you are expected to do, then you are the problem. So, start with yourself. Focus on your job and you may soon notice that there is no rigorous scrutiny any more.

2. Give it time: Newly hired/promoted managers may behave differently once they understand how the team works and what the expectations are. It just takes time to build trust and a healthy rapport. Even if you’ve worked in the department for several years before the new manager took the reins, stay patient for a few months to see if there’s any change in behavior. Often, familiarity with the role and the team could ease the working relationship.

3. Observe behavior: People act differently when stressed. See if this is the case with your manager. Notice trigger points, such as budget sessions, or meetings with his boss. If you identify what gets him worked up, you can be better prepared for what’s to come. Maybe prepare a project status report before the big meeting with the super-boss or crunch the numbers a few months before the budget session. This also helps you reassure your manager that you are on top of things and can be trusted with tasks that are important to him/her.

4. Keep them updated: One of the biggest fears for micromanagers is being unable to answer a question about a project their team is working on. They want to know everything, and they don’t want to be surprised. Do your bit, and keep him /her updated via email or one-on-ones.

5. Make him look good: Seek help, ask for advice, and ease away any feelings of insecurity. By seeking counsel, you are letting him know that you trust in his judgment. Appreciate and acknowledge his support whenever you can.

6. Keep him busy: Include him in projects or seek his help in overcoming obstacles. This has the added benefit of keeping them busy with other projects, which allows you to easily work on your own.

“Don’t make the mistake of giving projects out without following up,” warns Julie Adamen, of consulting firm Adamen Inc. “Many micromanagers appear to want to be truly involved in what you are doing, or appear to be competent in what they are trying to micromanage. Most micromanagers think they want to be involved in a lot of things — until you involve them in a lot of things. …Don’t make what could be a fatal mistake by either missing a crucial deadline or, worse yet, making the micromanager look foolish.”

7. Talk it out: Sometimes micromanagers may not know that their behavior is throttling your work-life and creating a stressful environment. Having an honest and open discussion could help, but be very tactful in your approach. You could start with reassuring your manager by doing an excellent job on a low-impact project that won’t impact him gravely. When you do get the opportunity, go above and beyond expectations. Once you are fairly confident you’ve earned your manager’s trust, seek more challenging opportunities to work on your own.

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