Career Advice

6 Ways to Manage a Micromanager

Countless companies have them: super controlling bosses who spend their time micromanaging.  It’s demoralizing, to say the least, if you are unfortunate enough to work for one. However, there’s hope. There are easy ways to manage your micromanager short of quitting.

“Fundamentally, people who are micromanaging want to achieve results or a quality outcome,” says Jason Hanold, chief executive and managing partner of Hanold Associates.  “Those who are micromanagers want to be involved, show competence (how smart they are), and protect their own jobs/prove their value.”

1. Get ahead of your boss

According to career experts, one of the best ways to handle a micromanager is to be two steps ahead of him or her at all times. Not only do you want to beat deadlines, but you also want to be proactive in keeping your micromanager abreast of your progress. It requires more work, but it should also reduce some of the pestering you are getting from your overbearing boss. “Over time, this type of regular, proactive communication will build trust with the micromanager, who will slowly start to lessen his/her grip on your work,” says Courtney Newman , vice president of Learning & Development at public relations firm Allison + Partners.

2. Sweetness will get you everywhere

Killing them with kindness can also pay you dividends when dealing with a micromanaging boss. Micromanagers think they can do every task better than anyone else so Jeffrey Agranoff, principal at accounting firm Friedman LLP says to turn it around and make it all about the manager. For instance, if your manager is reluctant to let you do a task he or she taught you, praise their training skills to give them a confidence boost. “Listen to them, show appreciation to them and tell them what a great job they did,” says Agranoff. If that doesn’t work, he says be upfront but continue to let the praise befall on the micromanager.  “When you kill them with kindness a lot of times it deters a little bit of the initial behavior,” he says.

3. Understand where it’s coming from

Sometimes a lack of communications or clear directive is the reason the manager starts micromanaging. To avoid that from happening or bringing the behavior to a fevered pitch, Tina Fox, metro market manager for staffing at Robert Half Internationalsays to try an understand where  it’s coming from to begin with. “Maybe it’s coming from another place like a senior manager or a company initiative,” says Fox. “Communications first and foremost is what you do to strengthen the relationship.”

4. Prove yourself all the time

Since giving up control is a big issue with micromanagers, you are going to have to prove yourself often. One way to do that, says Newman, is to be willing to take on small, low-stakes projects to demonstrate your ability to go above and beyond. “For example, if you’d like to be put in charge of running a client event, highlight your event-management acumen by hosting a great event for your internal team, such as a summer outing or team-building exercise,” she says.

5. Don’t take it personally

You also don’t want to take your micromanaging manger’s behavior personally. Having a boss that is constantly looking over your shoulder and giving never ending, unsolicited feedback can be demoralizing and make you feel as if your boss doesn’t trust you. However, sometimes it has nothing to do with your job performance and all to do with their shortcomings. Not only do micromanagers want to control everything in an effort to look good but they may have a hard time communicating what they want effectively and that leads to the micromanaging. “Good communicators don’t need to micromanage,” says Agranoff.

6. Keep the criticism to yourself

The worst thing you can do to alienate a micromanaging boss is to confront or show a lack of support for his or her leadership style, says Hanold. After all micromanagers are often insecure and won’t appreciate your lack of support.  At the end of the day if you’ve tried everything and your boss won’t change, it may be time to look elsewhere. The odds of you moving up in your company under a micromanager are slim, and short of him or her leaving, you’ll likely get stuck in a dead end job.  “If your career is stifled due to a poorly behaving leader, life is too short, find a way to work for a better leader or a more autonomous environment,” says Hanold.   “We all manage our own careers, and this is the most frequent reason people voluntarily leave their roles.  Most people join a company, and leave a bad boss.”