How to Work for a Micromanager

I don’t know of anyone who would say they actually enjoy working for a micromanager. But not all micromanagers are created equal. Some people micromanage out of a pure love and passion for their organization. Their enthusiasm overtakes them and they want to be involved in all aspects of their organizations. 

Those micromanagers don’t understand how they may be limiting the growth of their people. They also don’t understand that limiting the growth of their people is a sure way to limit the growth of their organization. I can’t help but cut this type of micromanager some slack. 

The other type of micromanager not so much. The other type of micromanager is a control freak. They believe they can control everything from their people’s thoughts to every action they take. Many of these micromanagers do not trust their people. I’ve got no research to support this but it’s my personal opinion that they don’t trust themselves either. 

Think about that. They hire someone they believe to be qualified and then refuse to let them do their job. It’s easy for me to believe that they didn’t trust their hiring decision. They also tend to think that no one can do anything as good as they can. They often have oversized egos. 

Working for for that type of micromanager can be especially challenging. It can make you feel frustrated, restricted, and hinder your productivity. However, it’s important to find ways to navigate the situation and maintain a positive working relationship. If you develop an adversarial relationship with your boss you almost always lose. That’s why making an effort to keep your relationship positive and professional is always worth it. 

Here are some strategies to help you work effectively with a micromanager.

  • Try to understand why your boss is a micromanager. They may have experienced past failures, have a strong attention to detail, or lack trust in their team. Recognizing their motivations can help you empathize and adapt your approach accordingly.
  • Establish clear and open lines of communication with your boss. Regularly update them on your progress, share your plans and ideas, and ask for feedback. Proactively keeping them informed can help alleviate their need to constantly check up on you.
  • Seek clarity regarding your boss’s expectations for your work. Understand their preferred level of involvement and the specific details they want to be informed about. By aligning your work with their expectations, you can reduce the need for constant supervision.
  • One effective way to gain your boss’s trust and potentially reduce micromanagement is by consistently delivering high-quality work. When they see that you’re reliable and capable of producing excellent results, they may feel more comfortable giving you greater autonomy.
  • Try to anticipate your boss’s preferences and requirements in advance. By taking the initiative to meet their expectations without being told, you can demonstrate your ability to work independently and lessen their need for constant oversight.
  • Establishing trust is crucial in any professional relationship. Be reliable, meet deadlines, and follow through on your commitments. Proactively communicate any challenges or roadblocks you encounter, along with your proposed solutions. Over time, your boss may develop more confidence in your abilities, allowing for greater autonomy.
  • Seek feedback from your boss to understand their perspective and expectations better. By showing a willingness to learn and improve, you can demonstrate that you value their input and potentially lessen their inclination to micromanage.
  • If you’ve developed a good rapport with your boss, you might consider proposing a trial period where you have more autonomy to work independently. Discuss the potential benefits of this approach, such as increased productivity and improved trust, and assure your boss that you will keep them updated on your progress.
  • When faced with challenges or obstacles, try to present potential solutions to your boss instead of only highlighting the problems. This shows that you’re proactive and capable of handling difficulties independently, which can help alleviate their need to micromanage.
  • Despite the challenges of working with a micromanager, try to maintain a positive attitude. Avoid complaining or badmouthing your boss to colleagues, as it can create a negative work environment. Instead, focus on your own growth, seek support from coworkers, and engage in activities outside of work to reduce stress.

Remember, working with a micromanager requires patience and adaptability. By implementing these strategies, you can improve your working relationship, gradually earn your boss’s trust, and potentially reduce their micromanagement tendencies.

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6 thoughts on “How to Work for a Micromanager

  1. You can’t win with a micromanager no what you do or how hard you try. You will spend more time working on your relationship with boss than actually do any work. The boss will always find a reason to criticize
    Change jobs or change companies-get away from them life is too short to attempt to manage another adult human being.
    Most of us can’t even manage our 2 to 3 year old kids yet an adult, who acts like a two or three-year-old.

    1. Mike, I think you meant to say that YOU can’t win with a micromanager cause I absolutely know I can. I know many others who have too. Yes, it requires some effort but if you think of the effort as an investment in another human being rather than an expense of time, you’ll find it easier. You’ll also find, andthis I guarantee, your find it incredibly rewarding to help someone overcome their micromanaging tendencies. They will actually, in many cases, be grateful.

  2. I am a fairly optimistic leader. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find one suggestion that I could endorse. It’s probably because most professional micromanagers appear to be control freaks. You indicated your lack of patience for some of those folks. It seems like the inexperienced leader is the the type of micromanager that your article is referencing. I could also see a leader who has recently been promoted as one who could be the subject of your article. Professional micromanagers are dangerous and cancers to organizations. Setting boundaries is the best way to survive those types of leaders. For example: Being clear about your preferred method of communication and sticking to that. There are tons of other ways to set boundaries but you just have to remain consistent. And, even if the leader becomes more focused on the big picture, it’s vital to keep that boundary in tact.

    1. I’m not sure I understand your reference to “professional micromanagers.” There really isn’t anything professional about micromanaging. It’s never good, even when the motives of the micromanager are good. But people can “lead up” and help their boss grow past whatever weakness is causing them to micromanage. You can certainly set whatever “boundaries” you like but one of the bigger challenges of dealing with a micromanager is that they could care less about someone else’s boundaries. If they understood boundaries they likely wouldn’t be a micromanager in the first place.

  3. One thing the article doesn’t mention is the emotional toll of having to deal with such a manager every day. One can try different approaches and be genuine in their willingness to mitigate and improve the situation, only to be torn down daily by someone with no empathy or desire to make things work. Instead, the manager’s efforts are focused on getting you out even when you are the best at what you do (as recognized by others in your organization, customers, and partners) because they are insecure. You can reach out to HR, and higher ups, but they may standby and do nothing because they like having a “bad cop” in the ranks — this way they can feign ignorance and pursue their work. Yes, as you say, one can make it their goal to overcome the situation and help their manager improve, but I do not find this realistic. It should not be a competition or a way to show expertise in your craft, as there are many other worthy ways people can prove themselves. Dealing with a micromanager involves real costs to mental health that can’t be discounted. There are managers out there who want control at all costs, even when it backfires on them with great employees leaving the organization…creating backlogs of work for the remaining people on the team. These managers then they turn around and play the victim, saying nobody likes them.

    1. Well first let me say it is realistic to say you can help a micromanager change their tactics. Unfortunately, the situation you describe is also very realistic. And I hate to say this cause it feels a little like a defeat but I’m those circumstances you must get the heck out of there ASAP.

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