June 27, 2012 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Management
To Cope With a Micromanager, Become a Macromanager
By James Grinnell
You’re trying to get your project completed, but every time you start gaining traction your boss interrupts with one of his all-too-frequent “check-ins.” It’s bad enough that you have to deal with the barrage of interruptions, but the worst part is that he keeps dissecting what you have done so far and tries to impose his system for how things should be done going forward. You, unfortunately, work for a micro-manager. Take solace, you are hardly alone. Surveys suggest that nearly three-quarters of all Americans have worked for a micromanager at some point in their career.
Before delving into how to manage a micromanager, let’s first figure out whether or not your boss really is a micromanager. What we often think of as micromanagement is anything but. Sometimes we are put under intense scrutiny, told that our work is subpar, and asked to go back to the drawing board simply because our boss has high standards (or our work truly is subpar). That’s not necessarily micromanaging. Sometimes we face a boss well equipped with detail merely because we live in a world where comprehensive analytic systems better equip our bosses with details. That’s not necessarily micromanaging. Sometimes our boss knows that there is zero room for error and therefore maintains stringent control. That’s not necessarily micromanaging. So, what does micromanaging look like in practice? If some combination of the following is present, you’re likely working under a micromanager:
- You have to seek permission for decisions that are rightfully assigned to your job
You are under constant post-mortem review focusing on the things that have gone wrong.
Your decisions are altered or overturned by your boss
You’re always wrong, your boss is always right.
You are told what to do, how to do it, and when to do it by.
If you have the misfortune of working for a micromanager, all hope is not lost. The trick to working for a micromanager is to meet their micro focus with a macro response. In another words, you need to take a proactive, big picture approach. Several strategies might be helpful.
- Don’t deal with the micromanager head-on. Remember, the micromanager is a control freak, and the thing control freaks loathe above all else is being questioned. Dealing with them head-on will very likely result in a very unpleasant response.
Build a strong case but avoid being threatening. When dealing with a micromanager, you should always have your i’s dotted and your t’s crossed. Build a strong reputation and let your results speak for themselves. But, avoid at all costs coming across in an argumentative manner. Very often, micromanagers are obsessive compulsive as well as slightly paranoid. If you act in a challenging manner, you’ll likely exacerbate your problems.
Proactively keep your boss well-informed. Your goal here is to keep them over informed. When doing so, make sure you clarify up front what method of receiving information your boss prefers. If they prefer email, stuff their inbox. If they like hard-copy memo’s, tell the supply clerk to stock up on reams of paper and printer toner. The goal here is to anticipate and accommodate the demands of your boss. Over time, you might find that he/she starts asking you to winnow down the information flow.
Make sure you are self-reflective. Maybe, just maybe, your boss is micromanaging for a reason. You might have done something to warrant said attention.
Try to take your boss’ perspective. Why is the boss micromanaging? Are they afraid of being blamed if things go south? Do they seem to have insecurities that causes them to be control oriented? Do they generally lack trust? Knowing where your boss is coming from gives you an edge in determining your macro-management strategies.
Dealing with a micromanager requires that you operate on a higher level. You are not going to change the behavior by dealing with it head on. You’re also not going to change things by being the victim. But, don’t lose faith and fall into the IIWII (it is what it is) trap. If you remain patient and diligent, your macro-strategies will begin to bear fruit. Behavior change doesn’t happen overnight!
James Grinnell is an Associate Professor of Management at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts. He received his Ph.D. in Organizational Studies from the University of Massachusetts. His areas of focus include leadership, organizational change & development, high-performance teams, and strategic management. You can read more from James on his blog.
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