Last week we talked about the problems of being a micromanager and how to break the micromanagement habit. But what if you work for a micromanager? Reporting to a micromanager can be hazardous to your career as well as endlessly frustrating.
Some experts believe that most micromanagers never change. However, I have seen it happen. It can be difficult to change this behavior but it can be done.
The way to get a micromanager to change his/her behavior is to have a face-to-face conversation. I learned this while still in graduate school from a more senior graduate student who was a mentor to me. I observed that his professor micromanaged all his graduate students except Bill. I asked why and Bill explained that he had had a discussion with the professor about his behavior.
What I found very interesting was that this professor modified his behavior with only this one graduate student and not the other members of his research group. It taught me that micromanaging may be an expression of a basic problem, usually an inability to trust others, and that micromanaging can be a difficult behavior to eradicate completely.
You need to plan your conversation ahead of time and have a clear set of points you want to make during the discussion. Be polite but direct in expressing your thoughts. For example, you might ask your manager, "Why do you feel you need to look over my shoulder?" Be prepared to cite some examples since your manager may deny that he/she does so. On the other hand, the manager may cite situations where you did not perform well when he/she did not closely supervise you. If this is indeed the case, agree upon a training program to prevent these situations from recurring in the future. Then your manager will be more comfortable in delegating authority and responsibility to you.
Ask your manager for a chance to complete a task on your own without his involvement. Then if you do not do well, ask him to explain what you did wrong so the situation does not recur.
Get help from your human resources department
Should your assertive communication with your manager not change his/her behavior and the micromanagement behavior continue, discuss the situation with someone in your firm's human resources department, ideally a corporate career advisor. However, before you do so document your manager's micromanagement behavior wit examples by keeping a journal. You need to document his/her pattern of behavior before going to a third party.
Chances are your manager is also micromanaging others. You may wish to ask them to also document the manager's micromanagement behavior. However, be very careful in approaching only individuals you can trust. You do not want what you are doing to become known prematurely.
Document your own behavior as well. This can be done in e-mails that serve to follow-up to conversations in which you summarize your understanding of a new assignment and what your responsibilities and deadlines are.
Going to human resources may be a high risk tactic. Your manager may be able to convince the human resources person that he/she is not a micromanager and you may face the possibility of retaliation.
Job transfer or job change
If your efforts to resolve the situation do not succeed or appear too high risk, your best solution may be a transfer so you are working for a new manager either in your own organization or another one.