Dealing with a Micromanager Boss

Even though micromanagers are probably the most often complained about type of bosses, it is often hard to define exactly why they are so annoying. This is because each act of a micromanager, by itself, may not be so bad. When the whole package is put together, though, these people become difficult to deal with.

What is a micromanager and how do you know if you are working for one? Here are a few behaviors often displayed by Micromanagers:

• Will not allow any decisions to be made without their approval.

• Requests your attendance at unnecessary meetings that waste your time. Alternatively, some micromanager bosses will insist on being present at all of your meetings so they can inject their thoughts into the discussion.

• Forwards overwhelming numbers of “FYI” e-mails, which have no relation to any of your assignments. Then puts you on the spot during meetings by requesting updates relating to the subject matter of these e-mails.

• Insists on updates regarding your work so frequently that you are unable to do any work.

Here are some suggestions about the best way to deal with a micromanager in these specific situations.

Because a micromanager will not allow any decisions to be made without their approval, you need to be proactive and solicit their input without having to be asked for it. If they ask you to do a report and the report is due in one week, finish it early ask them to look it over and make comments two days before it’s due. If they ask you to buy some new item for the office, do not purchase it until you have asked their opinion. They may act like they want you to do a task on your own, but they want to be involved in the decision making process.

If your boss sets up numerous meetings, which do nothing but waste your time, unfortunately there is not a whole lot you can do. You may be forced to sit through these unnecessary meetings. But block off time in your calendar for any assignments you’re working on. This way when your boss tries to send you a meeting request, you will already show up as having something scheduled. Your boss may come and ask you to rearrange your schedule, or they may not. Your best defense against a micromanager is a good offense.

Create a separate e-mail folder just for messages from your boss to help manage online communications more effectively. Each time you receive a “FYI” e-mail, read through it to determine why they are sending it to you. Then write your boss back immediately and clarify what they expect you to do with it. For example, “Would you like me to follow-up on this? Please let me know how I can be of assistance?”

By acknowledging your receipt of the e-mail right away, you are being proactive and showing initiative. You are saying, “I have received the e-mail, what do you want me to do with it, and I’ll keep you posted on the progress.” If they don’t really know what they want you to do with the e-mail, but want to throw it on someone else’s plate to avoid their own manager accusing them of dropping the ball, you are saying, “Let me know when you decide what should be done with this.”

You also have documentation, should it ever come to that, that you were on top of the situation. This way, you can keep track of exactly what they are asking you to do, and you are less likely to be caught off guard later. Review all e-mails at the end of each week, to keep them fresh in your mind. One young professional used to keep a folder titled “LTBMITB” which stands for e-mails that are “Likely-To-Bite-Me-In-The-Butt” down the road. That way she could refer to them easily.

The best way to deal with constant requests for updates about your work is to Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! Having someone over your shoulder all the time can be less than motivating, but since you cannot change your boss’s behavior, you’ll need to focus on your own reactions. Try to make it a game and see how many times you can give your boss the information before they ask you for it.

Get more tips for dealing with bad bosses.