Dealing With a Micromanager

A woman working at a laptop looks out a window

Micromanagers exist in every workplace.

Whether you work in corporate or a creative field, at a traditional 9-5 or a freelance gig, chances are you’ll work with a micromanager at some point in your career. 

A good manager gives you room to grow. They know how to delegate, give guidance when needed, and trust you to do a good job. Good managers care about your career development and want you to feel supported in your professional journey. And because of this firm belief and support, you’re willing to go the extra mile for them. 

Ironically, the micromanager also wants you to do a good job. But they go about it in a way that makes the employee anxious and unmotivated to work. 

Here’s why it’s so hard to work with a micromanager:

  • Micromanagers make you feel like you can’t do your job properly
  • Micromanagers overly scrutinize the details instead of focusing on the big picture
  • Micromanagers act like they’re trying to do your job instead of managing
  • Micromanagers can lower morale

All of these behaviors can lead to a toxic work environment. 

Unfortunately, you may not always have positive experiences with bosses and coworkers. But knowing how to deal with difficult people is a necessary skill to have in the workplace. There are going to be times when you have to speak up for yourself and set boundaries. It may not be easy at first, but if you take small, but impactful steps, you’ll be well-prepared to deal with a micromanager. 

Below are some solutions and practical tips to help you deal with a micromanager and feel supported again at work. 

How to see things from the micromanager’s perspective

First, it might help to see things from the micromanager’s perspective. Why do micromanagers micromanage? Is it you? Is it them? It might be a little bit of both.

Not all managers intuitively know how to lead and inspire a team. There’s a strong chance that inside that micromanager is someone who is nervous, intimidated, and fearful of losing control and credibility. It may not seem like it when they’re breathing down your neck, but there’s probably a good manager hiding inside of them.

Let’s try to look at things from the micromanger’s perspective and see where they may be coming from. In doing this exercise, you might even find a solution, or understand them a little better.

Ask yourself:

Is the micromanager new to their role? Maybe they’re feeling the pressure to perform well and they’re taking it on you and the team. And if this is their first managerial role, they’re probably going through some growing pains. If it seems like they’re trying to do your job, it’s probably because they are! Not all managers feel comfortable right out of the gate, and they might be clinging to their old, familiar roles

Is the micromanager going through some stuff? Maybe there’s something going on in their personal or professional life that you don't know about. Micromanaging can stem from the desire for control. There’s a possibility that the micronmanger is using the workplace as a way to feel anchored. 

Are you giving them a reason to micromanage you? We know this is not a fun question to answer, but it’s always worthwhile to reflect on your performance. Have things fallen through the cracks? Are you showing up late to the office? Are you having trouble meeting deadlines? Self-reflection can provide insight into your work habits and show you where you need to improve. 

Things you can do to deal with a micromanager

As the saying goes, you can’t change people, but you can change the way you react. Here are some things you can do to help you cope when working with a micromanager.

Send a weekly status report

Micromanagers love to be kept in the loop. But their constant need for updates can derail your productivity. Manage the communication flow by sending weekly status reports. This allows you to communicate information and build trust in a way that’s much more productive. 

And the best part? Your manager will see just how much you’re actually doing. It’s possible that your boss has no idea how much work you do everyday. A weekly status report lets them know how much you’re contributing to the team. 

Here’s how to send one:

Propose a weekly report. The next time your manager asks for the status on a project, offer to send them a short report at the end of the week with all the salient details that they need.

Make it short and sweet. Use bullet points to make it skimmable. And highlight or bold important points. 

Mention your wins. Maybe you finished a report and it was well-received by colleagues. Or maybe you got a nice email from a client. This is a subtle, but effective way to toot your own horn. 

Set up one-on-one meetings

Another option is to set up weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one meetings with your micromanager. If the micromanager mostly connects with you online, they might forget that there’s an actual person behind the message. Face-to-face meetings in person or over Zoom can help personalize your interactions.

Here are some tips to maximize these meetings:

  • Clarify expectations. What does your manager want? What kind of results are they seeking?
  • Define goals. Ask them to identify their goals for the week or for a certain project. This will help you get on the same page.
  • Take notes. Jot down key takeaways from the meeting. What does your boss appreciate? What ticks them off? Understanding your boss and their needs will go a long way toward building trust and improving your dynamic. 

Ask if you can take on a project as an experiment

When it comes to dealing with a micromanager, it’s best to ask for things in a way that is easy to digest. If a micromanager fears losing control, then asking to take the lead on a project is probably not the way to go and might cause them to tighten the reins even more. 

Instead, try asking them if you can take on a project or task on a trial basis. The very nature of a trial run is that it’s temporary, and this short time frame will be much easier for a micromanager to handle. 

What are your strategies for dealing with difficult coworkers in the workplace?

Written by JiJi Lee.

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