3 Ways To Use Malicious Compliance To Stop Your Boss From Micromanaging

Two can play the micromanagement game!

woman using malicious compliance to stop her micromanaging boss Giulio Fornasar / Canva Pro

There is absolutely no workplace situation more infuriating and demoralizing than a micromanaging boss. Their constant hovering can make a job a living nightmare. But it turns out there is an easy way to stop most micromanagers — by using their rules against them.

An employment attorney suggests using malicious compliance to stop your micromanaging boss. 

Now, first things first: What exactly is malicious compliance? Well, it's basically following a rule to the absolute letter so that its inherent flaws become unavoidably and punishingly disastrous.


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For instance, I used to work at a corporate restaurant that instituted a new script for greeting tables that was embarrassingly sales-pitchy and took absolutely forever. When management wouldn't listen, we servers executed it to the letter — and our bosses were inundated with customer complaints and a horribly delayed kitchen.


That was the end of that ridiculous process dreamed up by a bunch of suits in an office park who'd never waited a table in their lives.

So, how does this apply to micromanagers? Well, there are three main ways to use malicious compliance to stop your micromanaging boss and basically hoist them by their own petard.

1. Bury them with constant interruptions to keep them abreast of every moment of your day.

As employment lawyer and TikToker Ryan Stygar explained in a recent video, malicious compliance turns a micromanager's own ridiculous requirements against them and quickly makes them their problem, not yours.



Say you have a boss who is constantly on your case about where you are and what you're doing every moment of the day. "Then make sure that you tell them every little thing you are doing all day long," Stygar said. 


But literally EVERY. LITTLE. THING. Not just a reasonable amount of detail — all of it, right down to the minutiae. 

"Because one of two things is gonna happen. A: the micromanager will be satisfied and hopefully get off your back," Stygar said. "Or B: and this is more likely — they will be so sick of being so involved in every task you're doing that they'll just stop micromanaging you." Success!

2. Provide so much information in your work that it is overwhelming — novel-length emails are your friend!

A man on Reddit — where there is a MaliciousCompliance subReddit for precisely this purpose — provided the perfect example of how this might work. When a micromanaging boss requested "needless changes" to processes, he used ChatGPT to "write them back the longest possible email."

But not just a verbose letter — he included umpteen attachments, archived emails, and even flowcharts of business processes and other needlessly fulsome details. 




"Just give them everything on the subject," he suggested, and the more you can explain, the better. "Leave no rock unturned." By the time they get to the fifth page and the fourth pie chart-filled PDF, they'll see the error of their ways and back off because nobody actually has the time or the will for this.

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3. Do things exactly how they ask to the extent that your actual work cannot be completed. 

I once had a boss who was such an insane micromanager he would make us show him every — and I do mean every — email we sent to a client before it went out, even if it was just a "thanks!" Truly next-level micromanagement.


One day, he decided I needed to start taking notes on every conversation we had because he (baselessly) felt he could not trust me to retain the information. So I did exactly as he asked, making every conversation take an eternity. 

"Hold on, can you repeat that? I didn't get it down," I'd say. Or, "Can you elaborate on that? I just want to make sure my notes are as detailed as possible." Sometimes, I'd even pull a colleague into meetings "just so there's a third party to verify any wires I might get crossed."



Naturally, he'd become furious, and I'd just say, "I'm really sorry; I just want to make sure I have accurate notes because I know you have concerns about me retaining information!" And when all this time-devouring micromanagement totaled up to a missed client deadline? Well, that was the end of that!


As an extra bonus, I had meticulous notes AND a witness to back me up when he eventually tried to mess up my unemployment claim after firing me by saying I was terminated for lying. Oops!  

Now this may all sound petty, but even top HR professionals say that often, the only way micromanagers wake up and change their ways is by being "shocked" into realizing their management style doesn't work. 

The bottom line is, as Stygar put it, "a micromanaging boss is a boss who doesn't trust you, and you deserve better." You're often better off fighting fire with fire than just letting them ruin every workday.


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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice, and human interest topics.