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The Champion Forum Podcast

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Moving Past Micromanagement: How to identify and deal with a micromanaging boss

Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! Have you ever left a job because your boss was a micromanager? If so, you're not alone! Nearly 4 in 10 employees report changing jobs because their boss micromanaged them. The good news is that you can thrive, even with a micromanaging leader! Many leaders feel forced into micromanagement due to unrealistic expectations from their leaders, personal insecurity, and perfectionism. However, micromanagers can be frustrating and often create disengaged, distrusting teams. In today's episode, we'll discuss why leaders micromanage, the signs of being a micromanager, and how to thrive on a team with a micromanager.

Why Leaders Micromanage

1. Need For Control

When you're in control, you feel stable and calm. However, managers must nurture and grow their direct reports – which innately means giving up some of that control to empower them.

2. Lack of Trust

Micromanagement develops when you don't have a strong foundation of trust in your team and a culture that supports it, especially if your company's top-level leaders don't already display trust. 

3. No One Can Do it Like Them

Micromanagers fear jobs being done incorrectly, but leaders realize mistakes are valuable to employee growth and development.

Common Signs of Micromanagement:

1. They do not do well in empowering others to earn the right to delegate.

When a micromanager delegates something, they tend to become involved in the work, even the —or details.

2. They need constant updates.

Effective teamwork starts with solid communication. If you're working with a micromanager, they'll want to know every little detail and usually ask for constant updates.

3. Swoop In Uninvited

Micromanagers swoop in and redefine how you should do your work without you asking for help. Often, their ideas could be better thought out, and it takes time to sort out how to move forward.

4. Hyper-focused on the small stuff

Many micromanagers overfocus on relative minutiae instead of focusing on the big picture. Typos and other minor errors are not ideal, but a lot of what companies care about internally is not what customers will ultimately care about. 

How To Deal With Micromanaging Bosses

1. Try to Understand Them

Remember, leaders rarely set out to be a micromanager. Gaining some perspective and thinking about why micromanagement might be happening is always useful. Are they uncomfortable in a leadership role or insecure and anxious that their team will reflect badly on them? Viewing the situation from another perspective can help you prepare your communication style and deliver it in a way that will help you build trust.

2. Have an Honest Conversation

Speak honestly and professionally about how you're feeling. Start with high empathy and the proper tone by highlighting certain words or actions that make you feel anxious or not trusted by your leader. Reference a project you recently completed on your own and ask them to give you some freedom to attack the project on your own. To ease them into this, try offering a timeline for when you will next update them.

3. Try and Get Ahead

For example, if you know your manager asks for constant updates, try updating them on important topics before they have a chance to ask. This will help build trust and show that you're a reliable employee capable of fulfilling tasks. I realize you may feel like you are accommodating their deficiency. However, always ask yourself, "Do I want to win the battle or the war?"

4. Get Clear On Their Expectations

One of the best things you can ask your manager is this: "How can I align my priorities with yours?" This question lets your boss think critically about where they need your help now. It is a way of catering to their sense of urgency. Similarly, you'll want to understand their hopes and fears and how you can help support them in those areas. Who are they reporting to? How can you help them look good in front of their boss? What are they hoping to achieve?

5. Establish Clear Communication Expectations

Remember: part of the underlying causes behind micromanagement is a need for control. Keeping them in the know is one way to directly play into your boss's desire for control while still getting them off your back. CC them on important emails you know they will want to monitor. Send an end-of-day or end-of-week update via email with a catalog of all your progress and a list of outstanding items you're waiting on. Taking the initiative in this way isn't annoying; it's convenient! Make their life easier by being proactive about communication. And, of course, you don't have to develop these protocols in isolation. Talk about how you want to talk. Discuss what communication best practices will work best for you. Keep them in the know regularly, and they won't feel the need to peer over your shoulder constantly.

Application Activities

  1. Get into a habit of serving your boss. This practice is critical if they are a micromanager! It is hard to despise people you serve regularly. You could do something as simple as dropping off a bottle of water from the company fridge on your way back to your desk or ask them if there's anything you can help them with before you leave. If they take you up on your offer, you may spend a little extra time at the office, but you will develop a better relationship. As discussed in the podcast, you should get to know your leader and what makes them tick. The more you spend time with them, the more you will learn about them. Remember, it's not about who is right; it's about what is right. If you want to be a servant leader to your team, you should also be a servant leader to your boss.

  2. Establishing a clear method of communication will not only help you work with micromanagers, but it will also help you protect yourself against becoming a micromanager. Take note of some of the suggestions in this episode: sending a weekly update, establishing timelines and meetings, and cc-ing your boss on essential emails. Consider what you will do and present this plan to your boss. Clear communication will help your boss be at ease and know when they will receive an update. However, if you set an expectation, you must hold your boss accountable if they break that expectation. Give them grace, but reiterate the plan and get feedback on what would help them feel more connected to the project.


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