8 Clever Ways To Deal With Micromanagers

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In the workplace, micromanaging behavior does a lot more harm than good. High turnover, low morale, and decreased productivity are just a few of the ways micromanagers can be detrimental to a company.

Though micromanagers’ work life is the usual topic of discussion, these are people who don’t trust others to do good work and can really be found anywhere.

What is a micromanager?

If you’ve ever experienced a micromanager, you know they are people with the "if I want it done right, I have to do it myself" mentality. They always need to be in complete control of every aspect of your work and theirs.

No, they aren’t necessarily going to step in and do the work, but they will hover over you, scrutinizing every action you take and decision you make in the process of doing the job they gave you.

A micromanager will give you a problem to solve but won’t truly trust you to deal with the situation. Their lack of confidence in you will cause them to check in more than necessary or second-guess everything you do.

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There are a number of reasons people micromanage. According to a Harvard Business Review case study, the two main reasons are that micromanagers want to connect with "lower-level" employees, or they are more comfortable in their former non-supervisory role.

Author and leadership expert Mark Murphy says that fear is a major cause of micromanagement. People want to protect their position or status so much, they do all they can to make sure no one damages their reputation.

But, as you might have suspected, power is a big influence on micromanagers as well. According to an online survey, “Are You Motivated By Power Or Achievement?” 41% of 5,000 leaders chose power.

If you find yourself reporting to a person who needs to approve every task, wants constant updates, is unable to delegate, has to be copied on the most mundane of emails, and believes they are the only person who knows how to do the job right, you are dealing with a micromanager.

How To Deal With Micromanagers

Once you end up with a micromanager, the place of work, whether personal or professional, can start to feel like a prison you yearn to break out of.

But what if you learned how to deal with a micromanaging boss or, better yet, how to get them to stop micromanaging altogether? Here are some of the best ways to deal with a micromanager.

1. Talk to your boss.

If you feel you are being micromanaged, it is important that you call out the behavior.

This doesn’t mean telling them that they are “a micromanager.” Instead, let them know that you have noticed how attentive they are to your work. Ask if there is something you can do better so they feel comfortable enough to take some of your work off their plate.

2. Get to know your manager or supervisor.

Most interpersonal problems start from a lack of communication. People could truly benefit from a process where we learn each other’s work, style, build trust, and then work more efficiently together.

But that’s not how it works. Many times, strangers are thrown together and expected to make magic. A simple conversation about preferences, and strengths and weaknesses could go a long way with a person knowing when help and direction is necessary.

3. Don’t always assume the worse.

Working with others is tricky. Because so many people have had several bad experiences in the workplace particularly, Corporate Traumatic Stress Disorder can cause you to find ill intent where there is none.

Be careful not to confuse a boss who is detail-oriented and simply likes to get "into the weeds," with a micromanager.

This type of boss has consistent behavior across everyone they manage. They are helpful, but allow autonomy; their "attention to detail" doesn’t impact your work, and when they get involved they bring value.

Micromanagers, on the other hand, want to exert power and let you know they are in charge. They have an obsession with control and seem more like a detective looking for evidence of wrongdoing than a resource you can learn from.

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4. Work out the details ahead of time.

If you are aware that your boss is a micromanager, set up agreements on how you work on projects together. Add details about how often you meet, what information needs to be shared, and who is responsible for what.

Lay down in painstaking details exactly what the expectations of everyone working together are, including your manager. This can improve the experience and help all parties involved be more productive and confident in the work they are doing, leading to extraordinary outcomes.

5. Show that you know what you’re doing.

A great way to get your manager or supervisor to back off a little is to proactively address their concerns. Give more updates than you need to. Send them an email with the status of the project before they ask. Proactively address any questions that come up.

If you have had a pattern or history of making mistakes in your work, be more attentive. Make sure that when they go digging for a mistake, everything you completed is top notch. Eventually, over-analyzing your work will be pointless.

6. Don’t lash out.

The worst thing you can do with a micromanager is allow yourself to become upset and show how angry you are. Straight up accusing them will only serve to make them believe you have something to hide or are out to get them, and the micromanagement will increase.

Instead, be observative. Try to get a picture of why it feels like they are constantly in your orbit, creating anxiety and uncertainty. You need to have an informed response and have specifics and facts to back up these accusations.

7. Be transparent.

One way to build trust with a micromanager is to keep them in the loop.

Sometimes, workers tend to band together in their own mistrust of an authority figure. People in leadership are not exempt to feeling excluded.

Knowing that people are keeping secrets from you only leads to more distrust, and you have a vicious cycle of toxicity and dysfunction. Be open and honest with everyone you work with and demand the same from them.

8. Ask for their expertise.

A person might be a micromanager because they are unaware of the boundaries between being a good boss and making people uncomfortable. Look for appropriate opportunities for your manager to give you guidance.

Most managers want to be seen as subject matter experts. By giving them chances to do just that, they unwittingly learn how to best help you. They know that you will come to them when you are in need, so feel less inclined to overstep.

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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and author of seven books. She covers lifestyle and entertainment and news, as well as navigating the workplace and social issues.