Micromanagement. It’s amazing how this word can instill anxiety and frustration among employees. The excessive involvement and constant scrutiny can feel stifling, hindering productivity and damaging morale.

Although managers may use this approach to maintain control, the long-term effects can be detrimental to both individuals and the organization.

I’ve been micromanaged several times in my career, but one particular overly involved and insecure boss stands out.

She was hired to oversee the operations and administrative functions of the organization at which I worked. Within a week of her arrival, she did everything no good manager would do to alienate herself from her team. She excessively exerted her “power” – insisting on in-person “check-in meetings” where she grilled us on details and then went behind our backs to do some of our projects that we told her about. She insinuated herself into our every day work, demanding updates and giving her input on the most mundane tasks. She painstakingly took copious notes during meetings and then sent the meeting notes as a “recap” but really it was her desire to control everything. I felt that I had stepped back 15 years into my career and knew I needed to leave. I lasted working with her for less than a month. Others followed. Management was oblivious to her ways (or chose to ignore it) because she had been such a public new hire in a role that had failed several times – they couldn’t see the problem was them and her.

The Downsides of Micromanagement

  • Stifles Creativity: When a boss constantly oversees work, it leaves little room for creative problem-solving or independent decision-making. This stifles innovation and can hinder a company’s progress.
  • Erodes Trust: Micromanagement sends a clear message – “I don’t trust you to do your job.” This erodes the trust between employees and management, which is vital to a productive and positive work environment.
  • Decreases Productivity: Continuous scrutiny and redirection can slow down workflow and disrupt concentration, leading to lower productivity.
  • Damages Morale: Over time, micromanagement can lead to dissatisfaction, high stress and low morale, which in turn increases employee turnover rates.

If you find yourself working under a micromanager, it’s crucial to take steps to protect your professional growth and mental health. Here’s how:

Strategies for Dealing with a Micromanaging Boss

  • Communicate Openly: One way to curb micromanagement is by understanding your boss’s concerns and addressing them proactively. Regular updates about your work progress might help alleviate their need to control every detail.
  • Show Your Competency: Demonstrate your ability to handle tasks effectively and efficiently. As you gain their trust, they may begin to back off and give you more autonomy.
  • Set Boundaries: Politely but firmly communicate your need for autonomy. If there are specific tasks where you believe you could use less oversight, discuss this with your boss.
  • Seek Feedback: Regularly asking for feedback can show your boss that you’re committed to doing good work and improving. This might help them feel more comfortable with less oversight.
  • Consider Escalating the Issue: If none of the above strategies work, it may be necessary to discuss the issue with HR or a higher-level manager. It’s important to approach this step professionally, providing specific examples of the micromanagement.

It’s important to remember that micromanaging behavior stems from their insecurity and desire to control things – it’s not about you, although it’s hard not to take it personally – especially if you were doing great at the organization before they arrived or were put in a managerial position. Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to navigate working for a micromanager is to leave the organization.

Remember, no one thrives under constant scrutiny. It’s crucial for your wellbeing and professional growth to assert your boundaries and needs, and establish a healthy dynamic with your boss. The benefits of less micromanagement are a win-win, leading to a more positive work environment and better results for the company.