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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.

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.

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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.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever worked with a micromanaging boss? Have suggestions or experiences to share? We want to hear from you. Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Padmaja Ganeshan Singh
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11 Comments on "7 Ways to Survive Working for a Micromanaging Boss"

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This was obviously written by a manager or supervisor, not someone who has actually had to deal with the demeaning and abusive boss. Thanks for giving us a big nothing for advice.


Here’s a thought.. if you are being micromanaged, find a new job..


Micromanagers are very insecure. That is something in them They are also very instable and make unrealistic requests which leads me to believe they have some medical mental issues. People who do there jobs well are just unfortunate that a person so destructive as entered their lives.


Ive done all the things written here. I copied her in all emails and still breathes down my neck for an update thats already in the email. She is inconsistent with instructions and when she makes a mistake she rants and make it as if its my fault. She doesnt admit mistakes and likes to copy everyone not directly involved on the conversation just to show that she’s the boss. Though most times her instructions and conclusions are wrong so I have to send her an email privately so she can correct herself. SO FRUSTRATING!!!


Thumbs down. This article did not help or really offer any realistic advise that doesn’t include kissing ass.

Thank you for your comments. I am in a situation of working with a micro-manager. I am very ambitious and would thrive overachieving to impress and gain more freedom. The issue at the moment is that I am working for 18-19 hours per day including bank holidays. I physically cannot do more and I cannot “work smarter” as she does not allow me to breath, take a step back and assess the best way forward etc. An open discussion may not work as her style is firmly set in her ways: she is the same way with everyone. Not sure… Read more »
I totally agree with cc. I work with the owner of the company which micromanage everything. I have tried everything written on the net with no result. all the emails have to be copied to her, anything we do need to be checked by her and of course she has to amend everything because she is the only one who can speak proper english she is the only one who knows what is best for the company. when she is around work is slow because she has to read and approve and forward all the emails. it’s a real nightmare.… Read more »
Have any of you just flat out told you manager that they are a micromanager and asked them to get help or asked them specifically to try to accept that they have a problem and try to get help to make themselves a better manager? I would be curious to know the outcome. I want to know if anyone has told their manager “Hey, you are a micromanager, I think you should do some research into that and look at the ways that being a micromanager impacts the work of the people you manage. I think that you should consider… Read more »

well … everyone here likes their job, were all salaried employees. the company owners are cool and so is one of the presidents, however, the other one micromanages the heck out of us.
he will even walk by our offices and tell us no music allowed. wth ??? and collects a “status” every single morning to see what were working on….
as much as i love my job, that is making me want to look somewhere else for employment.
i think its the insecurity.

My manager is a nice person and not a snake personality, but unfortunately he is an obsessive compulsive perfectionist who is driven by massive fear of things not being PERFECT. As a result we go round and round in circles and he ends up doing all the work over again because he just can’t help it. Nothing we do is good enough and he constantly changes his mind about our projects. We have a massive turnover of staff and no-one will work with him. We don’t do our re-work just a few times but more like 30 times over and… Read more »

Some good points. But why does the boss have to be male? I suggest using his/her and him/she.

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