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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

November 4, 2015

My new boss is a terrible micromanager and he is driving me nuts. How do I deal with this situation? (Part 1)

Julie Q. Brush

Being micromanaged…day in and day out…can be frustrating, infuriating and ultimately demoralizing. If too much time passes without a strategy to succeed in such a dynamic, your attitude/behavior will deteriorate – and compromise your professional reputation as well as your future career success. And tenure with your current employer will be short-lived. So what can you do to deal with this situation?

Creating an effective strategy to manage your situation requires a two-step process: (1) Understanding what drives a micromanager to manage/behave in such a way; and (2) Managing your own behavior to address these drivers and create a happier working relationship with your boss.

The first step (The Why) is covered below. The second step (The How) will be published in the next article. Let’s gain some understanding of the Micromanager:

What’s Driving Your Boss To Micromanage?

There are a few primary drivers that are potentially at the root of your boss’s management style. So understanding what they might be will be a key to your ability to successfully manage your situation:

First, every professional must realize that new employees require some level of “micromanagement” at the beginning of their employment. Why? In order to get started on the right foot, a new employee needs guidance and someone to facilitate their acclimation by helping them: learn they lay of the land, understand how things are done, what works…what doesn’t, internal and external expectations, how things work politically…and so on. In addition, work product and process are often assessed in the beginning of a new job to make sure the new employee is on the right track. Once confidence is gained, an employee becomes more empowered – and the way s/he is managed contains less “micro” in it. Depending on how long you’ve been in your role, this driver could be at play – and it will be a matter of time before things get better.

Second, a common emotion that drives micromanagers is…Fear. Fear of what? Fear – you won’t produce quality work. Fear – you will say or do the wrong thing and compromise something. Fear – you will develop bad habits. Fear – they will feel disconnected. Fear – they will be undermined. Fear – that if they don’t follow you closely, they will lose control. And if they lose control, you could fail. And if you fail, those “failures” will reflect negatively on them.

Third, some competent, successful people are very particular about their standards for high quality and what it takes to achieve it. And part of their m.o. involves focused training so that their people learn “the right way” of doing things. Their tolerance is low for anything less so they stay involved to ensure things are being done correctly. These professionals won’t take their foot off the micromanagement gas pedal until they are certain you are ready to fly on your own. And that takes time. What drives these micromanagers is a value system of excellence, control to ensure their people adopt and practice it and to a certain level, fear – that if things aren’t done correctly, it will reflect poorly on them and compromise their own careers.

Fourth, some managers who are new to managing encounter challenges transitioning from individual contributor (where s/he has taken on a great deal of blocking and tackling work in his/her prior role) a management position. They find it difficult leaving that mode of doing everything themselves. So letting go proves more difficult than expected and a micromanagement style sets in. These managers are often driven by habit and a lack of experience relying on others to “own” other projects and responsibilities. Fear is also plays a part. So if your new boss is fairly new to managing, there’s a good chance this driver is applicable.

Now that you have a better understanding behind the possible “Why” of your boss’s behavior, you can identify and implement the solutions to make your situation more enjoyable. Part 2 of this question will explore the “how”. Stay tuned…

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