A Complete Guide on How To Deal With a Micromanager (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

While micromanagers often have the best of intentions, their close supervision of your work can prevent you from realising your full potential. If you find yourself in this position, you can express your concerns to your manager while still maintaining a cordial working relationship. Understanding how to cope with a micromanager can improve your job satisfaction significantly. In this article, we discuss what a micromanager is, signs to recognise a micromanager, how to deal with one and tips for working with a micromanager to help you lead a better work-life balance.

What is a micromanager?

A micromanager is an employer or supervisor who monitors your work closely and requires frequent reports on your progress. Their behaviour can become problematic when they feel the need to do most of your work or re-do projects that your team has already completed. Usually, these managers have a strong desire to see their organisation succeed. However, their vision may make them want to take greater control of their team's operations, rather than recognising more capable professionals to delegate tasks to.

It's important to keep micromanagers in check because their approach can have negative consequences on the organisation. Often, micromanagement can make people feel undervalued and demotivated. The approach hinders the development of rising talents, as these managers provide little opportunity for their co-workers to think for themselves. The inefficiency in one team could cause delays and additional costs in the whole production pipeline, reducing productivity and profitability overall.

Related: How To Be a Good Supervisor (With Steps and Tips)

Signs to recognise a micromanager

If you feel your supervisor has a habit of taking back control of your work, there are a few signs to help you indicate whether they are a micromanager. Recognising these signs are important because then you can adapt your work style to maintain your professional relationship with them. The following are some signs to suggest your leader is a micromanager:

Only trusts their own skills

Micromanagers find it difficult to trust others to deliver work on par with their standards. Often, they focus on the smaller details rather than the bigger picture. For example, they might scrutinise your work for minor mistakes or try to find an excuse to re-do it themselves. This behaviour might delay your projects or cause cost overruns frequently.

Lack of delegation

Micromanagers either rely on themselves or a set of few individuals. They find it difficult to delegate tasks as they feel they are giving up control. This behaviour often comes out of a place of fear. Micromanagers fear that their co-workers may make costly mistakes, without realising that their lack of trust in others may be the bigger issue. Because of their narrow focus, micromanagers sometimes ignore their own weaknesses, dismissing qualified individuals in their team that could reduce their workload and pressure.

Requires updates frequently

While it's great to have a powerful communication system within a team, you can recognise micromanagement when an employer's requests are unreasonable. Micromanagers desire frequent updates on your daily activities because it makes them feel more involved. However, this can be harmful when it reduces the time in your schedule to carry out your duties to a high standard. Some may even ask you for extremely detailed reports that waste valuable time.

Discourages independent thinking

Aside from frequent reports, micromanagers want to approve every decision. This can make you feel insecure about your own ability. In contrast, young professionals thrive in an environment that allows them to contribute their ideas and carry out their duties independently. Thus, micromanagers may limit innovation in a company, a consequence that could affect an organisation's relevance in the long run.

Has high employee turnover

The quickest method to detect a management problem within a team or department is to look at their employee turnover. Usually, a high employee turnover implies a lack of employee job satisfaction. Micromanagers may be the source of this problem as they prevent their co-workers from taking on new challenges or responsibilities. Their lack of appreciation for their effort can demotivate their team members, pushing top talent to look for opportunities elsewhere.

Related: How To Apologise at Work: Guided Steps and Examples

How to deal with a micromanager

When dealing with a micromanager, it's important to consider their needs and insecurities so that you can find a strategy that allows you to keep growing in your role. If you want to confront your supervisor about their micromanagement tendencies, it's best to employ a professional approach that keeps your working relationship intact. The following are a few steps on how you can deal with a micromanager:

1. Reappraise their behaviour

Whenever you have to work with a difficult personality in the workplace, the first step is to find a way to empathise with them. This is the same for a micromanager. Recognise that your supervisor is only human. Ask them open-ended questions to get a deeper understanding of their intentions. This way, you can provide them with the opportunity to collaborate with you, instead of micromanaging you.

For example, if your manager wants frequent updates on your progress, be confident as you try to reassure them about your own capability. Look beyond the person and share in their desire to build success for your organisation.

2. Set boundaries

When you notice someone displaying micromanagement tendencies, it's important to establish shared standards to show them you're working with them, rather than against them. Communication is key with a micromanager, as it allows them to trust their team. Here are a few ways to set boundaries with them:

  • Establish shared goals and expectations

  • Clarify what success means to you individually and as a team

  • Create a system to update them about your progress regularly

  • Comfort them about your ability to work independently by being transparent with them when you need additional help or resources

3. Create an illusion of control

Micromanagers need to feel that they are in control of what's happening around them. While this is not always ideal as their team member, you can get the space you need without making them feel powerless. Make them part of the change by helping them believe it's their own idea. For example, instead of just asking them questions, seek their advice on topics to make them feel involved. The language that you use plays a crucial role in enabling this change.

4. Schedule updates regularly

Take back control of your own work schedule by initiating your own progress reports and meetings with your supervisor. This way, you can create a timeline that works for your needs. Seeing you take initiative can also help your manager build trust in your knowledge and skills. You can also have an open conversation with them about your chosen reporting schedule, explaining to them that you need time to complete your work to a high standard. Aligning yourself with your supervisor's goals and compromising with them on their work style can increase your ability to collaborate together.

5. Encourage positive interactions

You can give your manager feedback as compliments and other positive reinforcements to guide their behaviour. This is a smart tactic to encourage certain behaviours and discourage others. Rather than being confrontational, positive reinforcement is more subtle, and therefore, they are more likely to engage with it. Sentences, such as "I appreciate your [action]" or "thank you for [action]" can invite them to do more of the same.

Tips for working with a micromanager

The following are a few tips for working with a micromanager to help make your job a little easier:

Have an open conversation with your supervisor

While giving some feedback to your supervisor about their behaviour may seem like a daunting task, you can time your conversation properly and select your words carefully to get the most of a meaningful conversation with them. For example, during a one-on-one meeting, mention that you would like to develop your independent work skills and ask if you could try completing your tasks under less supervision. Highlighting the benefits of this action can encourage them to try out a fresh approach. The key to this situation is to avoid being personal with your comments so that you appear more respectful.

Talk with someone from HR

If the micromanagement behaviour continues to persist, consider sharing your feeling with an HR professional. People in this profession are trained to deal with workplace conflicts, especially those that arise from a lack of productive management. They may be able to discuss the issue with your supervisor without mentioning your name.

Related: Top 10 In-Demand Human Resources Skills

Consider resigning

If you feel that your work environment is affecting your mental state, you might consider resigning from your current position. Looking for a new job can renew your interest in your work, give you access to greater learning opportunities and help you achieve a work-life balance. If you feel that your current situation is unlikely to change, it's best to find a place where you feel valued so that you can thrive.