Kill ‘Em With Kindness: How To Work With A Micromanager
10:45 am, March 27th | by Laura Donovan
As much as I hate to admit it, I’m a classic case of Youngest Sibling Syndrome. I march to my own drum, am emotionally driven, and worry my older brothers with my impulsive nature. Because I am the runt of the pack, I’d probably deny all of the above if confronted about my irreverent streak. With this in mind, you can imagine I wouldn’t do well under a micromanager, but the reality is that I’m bound to encounter one during my career. I’ve been pretty lucky thus far, but I’m only 23. As my brother Kevin would warn, “just you wait.”
It’s quite possible to survive with an overbearing supervisor, even if you’re free-spirited like me. Once you understand your boss’s thought process and expectations, you’ll know how to keep him/her satisfied — and out of your hair. Don’t think for a second that micromanaging is acceptable, though, as micromanagers have the ability to hurt more than just your feelings. Research shows they can also stunt your productivity and lower office morale. Everyone suffers at the hands of a conniving control freak, but you can’t just quit every time you’re faced with a difficult person. Because my own experience in the matter was brief (but substantial), I’ve consulted some experts on dealing with micromanagers, so follow my tips below before you lose your temper, mind, or will to work thanks to your boss.
Problem: Your micromanager berates you for submitting incomplete or average work.
What You Want To Do: Explain you were given poor directions, argue that you actually did an amazing job on the assignment, or run to the restroom in tears.
What You Shouldn’t Do: Apologize. It’s not the end of the world, and you don’t want to display weakness. He/she will only feed off it and may try to manipulate you in the future.
What You Should Do: Document his/her instructions before you get to work. Lindsay Cross, a writer for women’s business site The Grindstone, says this is the way to go. “Take plenty of notes when they’re giving directions. For a micromanager, all the details matter. You want to get the project as close to their vision as possible on the first attempt. And your boss will appreciate that you’re paying attention to what they want.” If your boss gives you Hell when you’re finished with the project, forward him/her the instructions you’ve written down as proof that you’re not crazy.
Problem: You micromanager is verbally and/or psychologically abusive.
What You Want To Do: Give it right back to him/her.
What You Shouldn’t Do: Flip the bird, cuss this person out, and resign with pride and the knowledge that you sure showed him/her.
What You Should Do: Kill ‘em with kindness. If someone is out to make you quit or just plain miserable, go out of your way to be friendly and courteous no matter what. A person who seeks to break your spirits will be confused and maybe even give up when he/she sees you’re unaffected by their words. It could also infuriate him/her, and if you’re in need of a good laugh, well, grab a bag of popcorn because the comedy has only begun. While you’d probably enjoy giving this individual a piece of your mind, you don’t want to reveal that he/she has hit a nerve or erode your professionalism simply because this person is a terrible one at that. If the torment becomes unbearable, however, you should write down everything that has happened to you and present it to higher-ups. Include the dates and get a witness if possible.
Problem: Your manager demands to know what you’re doing every second of the day.
What You Want To Do: Ask this person to stop behaving like a helicopter parent.
What You Shouldn’t Do: Allow this to put you in a sour mood, mentally check out.
What You Should Do: Overcommunicate. Micromanagers want to know what you’re working on at all times because they’re insecure (at least if you produce quality work while they’re exhibiting this kind of distrust), so keep him/her posted on your to-do list at the beginning of each hour. Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s connection director and the author of Girl On Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success, told The Jane Dough that you should be as transparent as possible:
“While you might be tempted to shut down out of sheer frustration, the key here is to communicate more than you think you need to until you earn her trust. For some reason, much like a wild animal, she’s feeling skittish. So for the time being, don’t make any surprise moves and tell her exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Share updates. Give progress reports. And make her feel like a trusted adviser by asking for her input and advice. Then eventually, you can say: ‘I hope I’ve proven to you that I’m capable of handling this. I’d love to take on more responsibility. Is there anything else you need to see from me for that to happen?’”
Problem: Your perfectionist manager thinks you lack the skills to meet his/her expectations.
What You Want To Do: Say you’re an outstanding worker and that he/she is the psycho here.
What You Shouldn’t Do: Take the defeatist approach and turn in poor work because your spirits have been destroyed.
What You Should Do: Go the extra mile. Career counselor and coach Lynn Berger says you should go above and beyond to prove to your supervisor that you’re more competent than he/she may think. Finishing tasks early can also be the key:
“The goal is to instill your boss’s confidence in your work. For example, you might want to say I will get the work to you by noon and complete it at 11:00 so he does not need to worry that it will not be done in and have to micro manage so much in the future.”
If this is going on, you must establish trust, says Cross. It doesn’t happen overnight, and your micromanager may take a while to warm up to you, but this will definitely happen when you demonstrate that you’re more capable than he/she gives you credit for:
“Over time, my boss and I built a really solid relationship. She trusted me to know what she needed and she trusted my judgment when it came to my projects. But that relationship took years. I think we expect our bosses to trust us a little too quickly sometimes. You might just need to keep working diligently and let your boss see what your talents are. Over time, trust with allow them to loosen their grip a little.”
Thank you, Amy Tennery, for being the exact opposite of everything above [Ed. note: Awww, shucks]. May all managers be as stable and sane as you are!