How to Cope with Micromanagers
If you're more than five years into your professional journey you've probably encountered a Micromanager. Micromanagers are leaders in an organization who tend to hover over their direct reports, requiring constant status updates on your day-to-day responsibilities. They like to be overly aware of what you are working on, and may casually circle by your office space several times within the day to check the items on your desk or your screen background. They prefer to be included in majority of your email conversations (do you hear the phrase "cc me please" like all the time?), and they are quick to assign a task to you, as long as they can tell you exactly how to do it and monitor your progress every step of the way.
Before we talk about how to cope with a micromanger, its important to understand that everybody works differently - some prefer a clear blueprint of their role and can walk the same straight path of projects day after day. Others need a little more freedom while they work. These rules apply regardless of your role within a company. From the Chief Operating Officer (COO) to the Maintenance Technician we all have preferable work conditions.
Now, thinking about my last point, unless you're the CEO of a company, your boss has a boss. In every org structure there's usually a systematic cause and effect reaction. For example, let's say you're a SAP Developer who reports to the Manager of Application Systems. The Manager of Application Systems reports to the Director of Infrastructure. The Directer of Infrastructure reports to the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the CIO reports to the CEO. You sit at the bottom of strong line of responsibility, and with each step up the food chain the pressure increases. You may feel annoyed that your manager is checking up on your accounts and project progression, but take a moment to think about the bigger picture. Your job was created to a) take some weight off other team members; and b) fill a void in the department structure. Some of that weight likely came from your superiors.
Another key factor in micromangement behavior is control. When you take on a leadership role you are now responsible for the overall success (or failure) of your team. You are expected to lead your staff effectively and reach strict financial goals. Company executives look at each department to deliver results, which can cause a lot of weight to sit on the shoulders of leading staff. While I believe managers should focus on hiring the right talent so they feel comfortable trusting their competency, I do empathize with the struggle in establishing trust and releasing control, especially with new employees, or when the employee is showing signs of being unreliable and struggling to understand the material.
So what can you do if you find yourself stressed out and miserable because your manager has their hawk eye zoomed in?
1. Look Inward. Ask yourself, "Am I the cause [fully or in part] of this behavior?" - simply put, are you a reliable employee, always (or mostly) on time, completing assigned duties correctly, with little direction? This requires you to be real with yourself. If you are constantly inflexible to changes (i.e. hour changes, new tasks assigned, training) and make it clear through your behavior you're only at work for the paycheck you may be part of the reason your manager feels they need to keep an extra eye on you.
2. Hash it Out. Everyone has a breaking point, so before you let an action you can't control take you there bring the issue to your boss' attention. Schedule a half hour meeting on their calendar and be sure to have clear examples to make your point. Go into the meeting calm and open to receive feedback, not angry and defensive. IF you are uncomfortable going directly to your manager, reach out to your HR team.
3. Move a Little. It's no secret office roles can bind you to a seat for hours. When you feel your manager is getting to close take a 5 minute walk around your facility, go to the restroom or grab a tea from the breakroom. You may not be able to control your manager's actions, but you can create the space you need, every hour if you have to.
4. Be Proactive. Your manager is checking in on you because you aren't following up with them... at least not fast enough. Set the expectation of your follow up speed and stick to it. This is an opportunity to show your dependability and earn trust - remove the need for them to check in and instead send regular updates and have a bi-weekly "Touch Base" to review where you are on your projects and what their expectations of your are.
It's a tough situation to handle from both sides of the fence - as the employee and the manager - but micromanaging can be stopped with the proper tools and effort from both parties.