Free Yourself from a Micromanager with These 5 Strategies

December 9, 2019

free yourself from a micromanager

Working with micromanagers can be soul-crushing. When they’re constantly checking in or hovering, they make it difficult to get things done efficiently and chip away at your confidence.

These kind of bosses may think they’re being helpful. But if you’re reading this, chances are they’re not acting in a way that motivates you to get things done. 

“You can't change your manager, but there are things that you can do to make the experience much more enjoyable and sustainable,” says career coach Jena Viviano in How to Work with a Micromanager

Use these five strategies to build trust and encourage a healthy relationship, and soon you’ll be working with new levels of independence, confidence, and ease.

#1 Set clear expectations

“A lot of micromanaging tendencies come from both parties not being clear on expectations,” says Viviano.

So step one is to get on the same page. Call a meeting with your boss to discuss important questions like: 

  • “What are your top three priorities for me in my role?”

  • “When you’re evaluating my work on a project, what does ‘done’ look like?”

  • “What metrics will you use to evaluate my performance?”

While this is valuable insight to get from any manager, it’s especially important for navigating—and shifting—your relationship with a micromanager.

#2 Meet your deadlines

If your manager is prone to excessive supervision and control, they may be anxious about their own ability to deliver. And nothing sets off a micromanager faster than a missed deadline, says Viviano.

“The easiest way to build trust with your manager is to stick to your promises,” she explains. 

Instead of setting aggressive deadlines, under-promise and over-deliver. Over time, your ability to consistently follow through on every commitment will help to loosen the grip of your boss’s micromanaging tendencies.

#3 Update. Update. Update.

“One of your manager's biggest concerns is not being in the loop and in turn looking foolish,” says Viviano. 

Avoid this issue by being proactive about keeping them informed:

  • Anticipate concerns before they arise. If you know your boss gets anxious the days leading up to a big presentation, get ahead of it and communicate you’re prepared. Send a daily status update that lists out action items and shows you’re on it. 

  • Eliminate surprises. Let’s say you have an unhappy client. Don’t wait for them to email your manager! Get to your manager first and explain how you’re handling the situation.

  • Be a problem-solver. Bring solutions, not problems, to your micromanager. Instead of piling more on their plate, you’ll prove you’re responsible, capable, and maybe don’t need to be micromanaged after all.

Consistency is the key. Get in a regular rhythm of updating them at the same time, in the same way, every single day. 

It may feel excessive, but this overcommunication is a winning strategy for efficiency, trust, and best of all: autonomy.

#4 Flip the script on how you process feedback

“You can let [a manager’s] negative feedback affect you like a dagger, a burr, or a ping-pong ball,” says Viviano. 

When negative feedback is a dagger, you take it personally. When it’s a burr, it’s an irritant. But, when it’s a ping-pong ball, it bounces right off. 

That’s the tactic to take with a manager who’s always picking apart your work.

Instead of feeling defeated, shift your mindset. Even if your manager can’t build you up, you can build yourself up by reminding yourself of all the ways you’re contributing.

#5 Express your concerns in a non-threatening way

If things get overwhelming, it may be time to confront your boss directly about the mismatch in management style. 

Just make sure to speak your mind in a calm, clear way that doesn’t make your boss feel attacked. Here’s a script to keep you on task.

Provide a specific example of what they are doing: 

“I’ve been feeling overwhelmed this week, specifically when you check in multiple times a day on my status.”

Explain why it’s frustrating: 

“When you do that, it makes me feel like you don’t trust my judgment.” 

Ask how you can both agree on a path forward:

“Would you feel comfortable if I gave you a daily update on the progress instead?”

“At the end of the day your micromanager doesn't want to be a micromanager,” says Viviano. “They want to have a successful, thriving team. And sometimes they just need a little nudge in the right direction.”

Watch How to Work with a Micromanager for more advice from Jena Viviano, including four questions you can ask in the interview process to help you uncover if your future boss is going to be a micromanager.

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