Help, I Work for a Micromanager! And I Bet You Do, Too…

Something’s been bothering me for a while… My boss is a control freak. She manages every single detail. What, am I five years old? She points out my shortcomings. She wants to know what I’m doing. All. The. Time. I CC on every email, but that’s not enough. She’s not a manager. She’s a micromanager. It’s driving me insane…

I can’t be the only one. Perhaps you have a micromanager. Maybe you’re the micromanager. (The first step is admitting you have a problem!). Sure, micromanagement isn’t the biggest of deals, but it can take its toll on an entire life science organization, so there must be something we can all do about it.

What is a Micromanager, Exactly?

There’s no textbook definition of a micromanager. It means different things to different people, depending on their tolerance level. (I’m normally a very patient person!) Before we go any further, let’s clarify what a micromanager isn’t

A micromanager isn’t a bully or a tyrant or a tormentor. If your boss is any of those things, this isn’t the article for you. However, if your boss is never truly satisfied with what you do (and, really annoyingly, takes pride in making corrections), he or she sounds like a micromanager.

A micromanager can have lots of redeemable qualities but they just seem to love telling you what to do. Or pointing out that mistake you made a little while back. (Come on, it was three weeks ago!) It’s like a micromanager gets off on power. On authority. On leadership.

Here’s the thing, though. I think micromanagement is a sign of weak leadership, not strong leadership. A micromanager might, deep down, be insecure. A micromanager might try and overcompensate for feelings of self-doubt.

“Don’t be surprised if your domineering manager is relatively new to the ranks of management,” says employee engagement platform Honestly. “When supervisors are unsure of themselves and their team, they inevitably try to maintain as much control over the work output as they can. They believe that they need to know every detail in order to perfect their end product.”

It Turns Out, There are Lots of Micromanagers Out There

If you have a micromanager, it’s important to realize one thing:You’re not alone. Almost everyone you will talk to will have a story about a domineering boss — someone who loves to relinquish control or point out your mistakes or just generally drive you nuts. Research shows that 70 percent of people who are micromanaged have considered quitting their jobs. (However, only 30 percent of them actually do.)

Still not sure if you’re being micromanaged? Here are some of the most common signs:

  • You’re told to do the same task over and over and over again. Yes, you heard the first time. But the micromanager will tell you to do something again and again like you’re a baby.
  • You need to provide your boss with constant updates. The micromanager needs constant reassurance that everything is going to be fine, so you have to give constant updates, even if nothing happened in the five minutes since you last checked.
  • Easy tasks suddenly become more complicated.So you’ve done the same thing for years, but now your boss is over-complicating everything with more instructions.
How to Deal With a Micromanager

Of course, it’s important not to sidestep the HR and training policies and procedures in your organization, but there are a few things you can do to manage a micromanager…

  • Look at your own performance. Be objective. Are you being micromanaged because you’ve become complacent at work? Perhaps, lazy? Or are you genuinely being called out for pretty much nothing? Review your own performance before moving onto the next step…
  • Write it down. Note the problems you are having at work, schedule a meeting with your manager, and address your issues. This is the first step in solving this problem.
  • Come to an agreement. During your meeting, clarify your job role and clarify your area of autonomy. Negotiate when you should be reporting to your manager.

If things don’t change, talk to HR!