To deal with a micromanager

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To deal with a micromanager

Sunday, 30 August 2020 | Manbir Kaur

To deal with a micromanager

A tough manager may not necessarily be a micromanager. A manager who pushes you to do more may also not be one. A workaholic manager may not be the micromanager you suspect him/her to be, writes Manbir Kaur, as she hands out tips on how

Pandemic has resulted into challenges for all. The pressure to perform has increased amidst all the changing business requirements. Many organisations are restructuring, and a few people are losing their jobs. Airbnb recently had to let go 25% of their staff. Sometimes a whole unit is shutdown but many times it is downsizing by a percentage. People judged to be lower in performance are being let go.

But who judges your performance? The buck usually stops with your manager. In the post-pandemic world when you are working remotely this is even more so. Now, there is a limited opportunity to showcase your work beyond your manager and chances are that he/she has more influence on your career.

What if you are working for a micromanager? It was tough to please the manager even when you were in office. Now the manager may feel even more insecure when you are not in front of his/her eyes and suspects or even blames you of shirking work and taking things lightly. Manager is under pressure to perform and may believe that you are one who is letting him/her down. In the post pandemic world, as the manager may be the only tether with which you are connected to the organisation, you do not want to be in this situation. So how do you handle a micromanager and come out as a winner not just a survivor?

How do you know you are working for a Micromanager?

A tough manager may not necessarily be a micromanager. A manager who pushes you to do more may also not be a micromanager. A workaholic manager may not be the micromanager you suspect him/her to be. Consider the following to determine if you are working for a micromanager.

Decision making: A micromanager likes to keep all the decision making to himself/herself. The manager wants you to come up with options for him/her to make the choice. Each option needs to be developed to a certain level for their consideration, multiplying your work. The manager will remind you about the last decisions he/she took and the impact it made and make you feel incompetent to make decisions of your own.

Find faults: When the manager reviews your work, he/she will find faults first. A micromanager will not take the time to acknowledge the improvements from last time, he/she will highlight the problems and start working on it themselves. He/she do not trust you to do a good job. Instead of helping you become better by providing feedback, he/she will send you the final copy, asking you to learn from your “mistakes”. The manager believes he/she is better than any of the team members.

Frequent Updates: The manager seeks frequent updates / reports on progress. He/she expects you to slack off, expects problems in your work, give you less time than required for the job because he/she believes that he/she will have to work on it anyways. If you spend more than 10% of your time making reports for your manager, it may mean that you are working for a micromanager.

Create Dependence: The manager keeps critical connections/knowledge/ information to themselves and create a dependence on himself/herself. The manager believes that you cannot be trusted with more or that you may not be able to handle it. The manager will make you feel that you still have a long way to go and without his/her help, you may not be able to take a step.

Create Undue Pressure: Since the manager is the critical piece in any work, he/she may be overwhelmed. He/she will come to review your task only close to the deadline and then find faults in it requiring you to work outside of office hours to make the changes. And still have the audacity to tell you that, ‘You should know better’ and that he/she has to work hard just because he/she has to deal with your incompetence. The micromanager keeps on the edge.

Managing the Micromanager

The main thing is to take charge of the situation. Instead of being the victim of circumstances, become the master of your own destiny. Not every pointer will work for your situation as each situation is unique. So, take your pick from the following suggestions.

Look Inside!

Do begin with an introspection and self-awareness. Does the manager behave the same with all? Or does he/she reserve a special treatment for you alone. There are chances that you are the reason for all the micromanaging that you are getting.

Observe: Find out what treatment your colleagues are getting. It was easier when you were in office, but you should get some opportunities to observe the behaviour of your manager towards other colleagues during staff calls. You can also schedule one on one discussions with some colleagues to discuss experiences and compare notes. If others are facing similar challenges, then it points to the fact that you may not be the culprit here.

Seek Feedback: You can also seek feedback from friendly colleagues. Keep an open mind. Feedback can be ugly, and it may be difficult to accept it. Seek feedback from at least a couple of people, do not depend on one person’s views. When seeking feedback make sure that you seek specific instances and relevant details to gain insights from them. If you receive non-specific feedback that tells you that things are generally good that may not mean much. People may be shying away from telling you about your shortcomings. This may mean that you must work on your team relationships.

If you receive specific feedback about certain elements, then that will become the starting point. In the next sections you will see many pointers to help you deal with specific issues as you work to makeover your image.

Do express

Your manager may not even know about what you are feeling unless you take the opportunity to talk about it. It is important to express your concern in the right way.

Not a complaint: Do share your feelings. The feedback in not about a person but a situation. It should be how you felt and how it impacts you. Also feel free to share what would make you feel better.

Be specific: What was said, when it was said and what you felt, why you felt that way should definitely be included.

It is about both: When you share, make sure that it should not come as you are talking only about his/her behaviour. Be open to listen. Seek feedback too.

Be Dependable

Deliver on time, every time: Even if the manager is not satisfied with the quality of work you deliver, make sure that you are dependable when it comes to timely submission of work. 

Make agreements early in the cycle: Whenever you get a new task, make sure to get an agreement on the structure/agenda. Seek time to discuss the plans with your manager and get his/her inputs. This will show him/her that you take your work seriously and that you are sincerely trying your best. Also, this will help set a boundary on deliveries and check-ins.

Regular and consistent reporting: The micromanager wants to feel in control and wants to be sure that things are progressing. He/she will appreciate the fact that the progress is being shared with him/her regularly. Instead of sending out a dedicated email on the topic, use the new tools such as Microsoft teams, SharePoint, OneDrive, Google Docs or Google drive to create a shared document or space where the updated status is available on a regular agreed frequency. This may take pressure off and you will start building some confidence.

Support in management reporting: The manager sends out reports to the leadership team on the progress of various projects. He/she may be using a specific format for your projects and may be doing some extra work to convert your inputs into a report more consumable by the leadership. If you can provide your inputs in such a way that the manager does not have to rework, that will show the manager that you are willing to go the extra mile.

Build bonds & strengthen the relationship

Human beings want to reciprocate. If you do good to someone, they feel obligated to return the favour. You can read more about it in The 100/0 Principle: The Secret of Great Relationships by Al Ritter.

Seek mentorship and career guidance: Regularly connect with the manager for discussing career development. Seek his/her guidance. Connecting monthly is a good practice. Make sure you share your personal and professional aspirations with the manager and seek help to make advancements. The manager may initially give you a lot of feedback. Some of that will help you understand his/her perception of your abilities. Seek guidance and make efforts to improve. Be consistent and share these efforts during your regular reviews.

Work closely with colleagues: Help your colleagues when they need you. Support them as they present their projects. Seek their help when you need it. The better you are connected to the team the better it is.

Seek to understand the Big Picture

Know the why: Your ability to relate to organisational and departmental goals will help you refine your work. Make sure that you incorporate the improvements in the projects/works based on your understanding of ‘why’. When you bring these perspectives in your communication and work, your manager will be more confident of your abilities.

Align with the how: Each organisation has their own values. Make sure that the work you do aligns with those values. For example, if one of the values is “Customer First” and you are working on a cost reduction initiative, make sure that you do not compromise on this value. You may have to work harder to find a way to reduce the cost while delivering better experience to customers but in the long run your efforts will pay. Again, make sure that you highlight what you are doing and explain the why.

Make your manager successful

Understand any concerns: The manager may be insecure about something — the overall success of the project or his/her own reputation or his/her own career progress. If you proactively understand concerns, it will help you understand how you can be in alignment with the manager’s goals. The more you align to the goals the better your relationship with the manager. You can seek some inputs in your one-on-one with the manager to understand the top priorities. In current environment, do prefer to have these calls as video calls where possible.

Work with stakeholders: Every project that has linkages with other departments can only be successful with the support from other stakeholders. It will be great if you can be proactive and seek inputs from other stakeholders as you work. If you keep them informed and engaged the projects will have greater acceptability. The manager will be more confident on your work.

Get credit to your manager too: Make sure that you highlight the contributions of the manager in the success of the project. You must never seek to get all the credit yourself. If your manager gets his/her due, he/she will feel more aligned and secure with you.

These steps will help you navigate the situation and develop more alignment with your manager, try them out!

The writer is an author. She has just published Get Your Next Promotion with SAGE Publications India

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