How to Deal with a Micromanager
Being micromanaged at work can be soul-destroying. At best, it’s annoying to have someone breathing down your neck as if you can’t be trusted to do the job you’ve been hired to do. But micromanagement can also impact your opportunity to grow and flourish professionally. Even the most well-meaning managers might not realize they are holding you back from your potential, negatively affecting your mental health and, well, getting on your dang nerves.
Micromanagement doesn’t only exist in the workplace, though: there are other instances where it can occur in life – from helicopter parents to codependent partners or meddling friends, there are some people in our lives that always seem to be trying to thrust their help upon us – whether you want them to or not. It can be incredibly frustrating, demotivating, and bash your self-confidence, not to mention flare up tempers.
So how can it be dealt with without sparking friction? How can we free ourselves from the suffocation of other people’s overbearing behavior?
Accept That It's Not About You
Firstly, take the stance that this situation is not a reflection of your skills or capabilities. It’s not about you at all. A micromanager has their own issues around trust and control, and they are likely projecting a fear of failure onto you. Once we’re able to look at their attitude objectively, rather than personally, we can take down the defenses and approach the issue with a clearer head and a secure sense of self-worth.
Next, think about what they could be afraid of. How can you reassure your micromanager that you’re on the same team, that you understand their concerns, and that you have their back? How could you pre-empt their interference in a way that brings things back onto your terms: could pinging them a quick, friendly, bullet point update on progress do that? Trying a different approach to communication that responds to your micromanager’s fears might just lead to more understanding and begin to build trust.
Create Boundaries Around Your Time
Tell your micromanager that the constant catch-ups or check-ins are affecting your ability to focus. Request a new approach, such as weekly meetings to go over everything in detail in one assigned time slot, or a quick 15-minute morning check-in at a set time each day, for example. Establishing boundaries around your time is important with overbearing parents and other micromanaging relationships in your life as well. Normalize not responding to messages or picking up the phone between certain hours of the day (or night), and create a routine around when you see those people month to month.
Upward management is a skill that will be hugely beneficial as you move up the ranks, so see this as an opportunity to hone it. You can be a leader and motivator of people from any role within an organization, and you’ll get noticed for it. Managing up is about identifying opportunities to support your boss, particularly in their weaker areas. For micromanagers that are reluctant to delegate, insist upon taking certain tasks by assuring them that their time is far too important to be dealing with such matters. Tell them you would love the opportunity to take on more responsibility, and will really appreciate their feedback once they’ve given you the chance to try. You can use similar tactics on friends and partners, too.
Keep Your Chin Up
Establishing a secure sense of self-worth is your best defense against people that behave as if they don’t believe in you. Believe in yourself and back yourself, even if it means having to “manage” other people’s insecurities to protect your own well-being. You deserve to have your time and autonomy respected, and you have the right to healthy boundaries. You also need the space to make mistakes in both your work and your personal life, because that’s how you learn and grow. If you can become a beacon of positivity, confidence, and resourcefulness, however quietly you need to, then no overbearing micromanager will ever hold you back from your work or life goals in the long run.
All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals and other resources that influenced this article: Managing Bosses and Peers; Understanding Individual Resilience in the Workplace; A Study of Upward Influence in Organizations.
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