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Coaches Corner: Managing Your Micromanager

Even with everything that’s going on, micromanagers will still, well, micromanage. We asked seasoned leadership coaches about how to manage your micromanager if you have one.

Photo by Marisa Melito of Talentedly Leadership Coach Julia Turner
Photo by Marisa Melito of Talentedly Leadership Coach Julia Turner

Understanding someone else’s perspective helps us to identify where our expectations might not be aligned – and where we might find common ground. Assume best intentions.”

– Julia Matakis, Talentedly Leadership Coach
Q

How can I let my boss know that I don’t need to be micromanaged? I’ve tried curbing it by sending email updates and just trying to share information, but I feel like everything I do is up for debate!

A

Julia Matakis: Micromanaging isn’t just annoying – it undermines confidence and leaves us believing we aren’t trustworthy. Often, what we perceive as micromanaging is really a relationship issue. Get some perspective. Look for reasonable or alternative explanations for the behavior. How does it make sense in this specific circumstance? What might their goals or aims be? How does micromanaging achieve them? Understanding someone else’s perspective helps us to identify where our expectations might not be aligned – and where we might find common ground. Assume best intentions. Micromanaging can be the result of pressure coming from higher up, the demands of a client or a high-stakes project – or it might be an old habit they picked up somewhere along the way. Understanding the situation from multiple perspectives and assuming best intentions makes it possible to find a win-win solution. Finally, schedule a 1:1 to talk about expectations and designing a relationship that works.

Claudia Boers: Is there a possibility for you to have what’s known as a courageous conversation with your boss? This involves having a difficult conversation to address how you feel about a situation or relationship and to constructively attend to it. Given that a conversation is as much about what you say as it is about the mood you bring to the conversation, what mood will best serve you? Moods of acceptance or curiosity, for example, are more likely to bring about expansive conversations that deepen relationships, whereas moods of resentment or anxiety are less constructive. What mood will help you deepen your understanding of what’s going on for your boss and enable you to speak up and express your assessments and emotions about something important to you? Lastly, how can you create this mood for yourself before you meet with your boss?

Lorie Alveshere Sommer: Direct is best. Nobody likes to be micromanaged. It’s possible your manager doesn’t realize they are. Or they may, from their perspective, have a reason for managing you this way. But if it’s not bringing out the best in you, you need to speak up. Schedule some time with your boss to talk about how things are going. Open by sharing how much you want to be successful and deliver good work. Likely your boss wants that too. Share how you’re feeling and how it’s affecting your work. Ask them how you can get a longer leash and operate with more autonomy. Connect what you want to your boss’s and team’s goals. Listen openly to what your boss has to say. Be open to learning something that hasn’t occurred to you. Demonstrating self-awareness and initiating a conversation to improve your performance are strong leadership skills. Practice often.

Eva Samaranch: Micromanagement is about control. I believe that investment in trust is the more effective way to work with a manager who has a need for control. That goes both ways: Timely feedback on behavior from you to your manager: “When you do this, it makes me feel like this”. For example, “When you check my calendar and the meetings I have scheduled, it makes me feel that you don’t trust the way I organize my workload.” It is critical that this flow of feedback happens immediately after the behavior. Don’t save it all for the one-on-one. Ask your manager how they would like to be kept up to date. More information is not always the answer. “I have noticed that you like frequent updates. Could you please let me know how I can effectively do that?” Keep trying with both conversations, it’s an investment, not a fix.

Julia Turner: Tell them. You may be saying to yourself: I am telling them every time I share information and send my spectacular email updates. Besides, they should just know that I don’t need them hovering over my shoulder. Clarity is the name of the game here. Because assuming someone understands us without it is where things go awry. It may be new territory and even feel a bit scary to be so direct about what you need and how you feel, but asserting yourself clearly will improve communication and make you feel more confident and empowered. Before you have this conversation, do a little preparation. Ask yourself: Are there roadblocks to telling my boss what I need? Do I have any fears about speaking up for myself? What are my needs specifically? How will greater autonomy allow me to achieve even better results? Use this to help you craft your pitch.

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