When I began my job seven months ago, I thought I just needed to earn my new manager’s trust. I even welcomed how she regularly checked in with other employees and myself.
But her constant “where are you at?” emails on each significant project has gotten old and interrupts my ability to concentrate and get work done. She sends me at least one email every hour. A few months ago, I decided to just let them stack up. Then the s—- hit the fan, because three of her emails had asked for project status reports. When I didn’t answer them, she freaked.
Other than that, she always tells me I’m doing a good job, but I’d get a lot more done if she’d stop asking me for updates. I love my work and I’ve worked for micro-managers before, but she’s the worst. How do I get her to back off?
You can reform a micro-manager.
Start by understanding what makes them micro-manage. Next, make sure you’re not the problem. After that, communicate, commit, and overfeed until you’ve built trust and gained autonomy.
Understanding the micro-manager
Many micro-managers don’t realize they micro-manage, nor do they understand what their problematic management style costs themselves, their employees, or their companies. For some, it’s part of their personality, management style, or need for control. Others have supervised employees who failed them by pretending everything had been handled when it hadn’t. Some have worked so long in jobs where they’ve had to manage small details or have overseen employees whose work didn’t meet standards that they’ve formed bad habits.
Make sure you’re not the cause
Before you manage your micro-manager, make sure you’re not the problem. Have you missed deadlines? Turned in sloppy work? Promised what you haven’t delivered?
If you’re the problem, let your boss know you plan to change, and do.
Let your manager know you’ve noticed her level of involvement and appreciate how much she cares. Let her know you want to both meet her expectations and increase your productivity. Ask if you can handle certain projects on your own. Let her know you’ll commit to checking in with her to give her updates and to ensure your work aligns with her expectations.
Avoid the word micro-manage; the label can create friction and serves no purpose.
Let her know you’re committed to creating ideal outcomes in your work and to success for both of you. Ask her if there’s anything you need to improve on to reassure her you take your work seriously and can deliver work to her standards.
If you manage this conversation well, she’ll loosen her tight grip.
Next, manage your micro-manager by proving to her she can back off, yet remain informed. Send confirming emails outlining your understanding of the deliverables she expects, and the action steps you intend. Commit to keeping your boss informed at her preferred level, so she stays in the loop without having to check in. Work within the parameters she sets. Show her you can be trusted to keep her updated and to deliver. Build her confidence in you.
Initially, you need to overfeed her with constant updates, reports, and check-ins. Your goal—give your manager the information she wants and then some. Send her your work log. Email her answers before she asks questions.
If this process sounds exhausting, it is, but reforming a micro-manager happens in stages. Once you’re earned her trust, you can reduce the amount and frequency of your upward communication and she’ll release her tight grip. You’ll have earned her trust and gained your autonomy.
(c) 2023 Lynne Curry
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