Whether you work in a large business, small church, or medium sized nonprofit, no one is safe from working for or alongside of a micro manager.
To make sure we are all on the same page, let me define “micro manager” for our discussion.
“A micro manager is a boss or manager who gives excessive supervision to employees. A micro manager, rather than telling an employee what task needs to be accomplished and by when, will watch the employee’s actions closely and provide rapid criticism if the manager thinks it’s necessary.” (link)
Pause for a moment, because I am not saying that all bosses are micro managers or that all micro managers are evil and out to crush our very souls. Everyone one with deal with at heart is a human, fallible, fearful, and forgetful. Because we all struggle with insecurity, these struggles translate into certain parts of our personality we hate or have to see in others. So let us give the others we work alongside of or with the benefit of the doubt from the start.
With that out of the way, let’s focus on dealing with someone who is a micro manager.
First, reflect on whether you are being too sensitive, before you cast the micro manager label on another.
We are often too quick to throw around the almost over used idea of being micromanaged. Your supervisor could come to you once a month to check on progress of projects and you could head right over to the water cooler and be like, “Man, what a jerk. He never trusts me!”
We all can be highly sensitive at times, especially when we know we are behind or close to failure, so we move that frustration and label others. I am not saying that to shame you or others, I say it because we are all victim to this and we have all done it before.
Therefore, take a breath and reflect for a moment and blame yourself if needed. If you come to find that you are doing well then perhaps you are dealing with a micro manager.
Second, take some time to figure out why your supervisor is micro managing you.
This does not mean go around talking about him or her in the office. Yet, it is healthy to listen to what others are saying. Look behind the words you are hearing from others, from your supervisor, from emails, and texts. Often what is not said is more vital than what is spoken.
You may be surprised what you can discern when you truly listen. For example, you may learn that your supervisor is being micromanaged, thus they have been trained and are regularly micromanaged and so do likewise to you. Another example may come from the knowledge that your supervisor (like you) is dealing with fear and insecurity and this fear translates into your bane.
The simple knowledge of knowing your supervisor isn’t Superman can go along way into having more compassion.
On another note, your boss may be cruel and take out their cruelty on the employees they manage. Although, I do not think this is as common as some suggest, I do believe it happens.
So now what?
Third, ask for a meeting with your supervisor where you can provide some two-way feedback.
Way too often, meetings are a one way street. The supervisor dictates and the employee takes notes and does as directed. Nothing inherently wrong with that unless it is done with little to no tact from the supervisor. Once orders and directives have been sent to the employee, the manager checks up multiple times in a day (say once an hour) on the progress you are making. This is a bit extreme. Add to this, that with the update checks, the manager is also changing directions or adding to what you are doing each hour, thus stymieing your progress and momentum.
This is when you should ask for a meeting with your supervisor to share concerns and to have a two-way dialog. If you are fearful of what a supervisor may say or do when trying to set this meeting, many larger companies have HR departments that can help with this process. If you are in a smaller organization or in a church setting, just be careful not to do this in the wrong manner and offend your boss. Nevertheless, this may happen, and at this point you know for sure you need to move on to other vocational opportunities.
Now, maybe your supervisor accepts the meeting, and the meeting goes well. Know this, one meeting with not fix everything. Make sure to schedule a few other two-way meetings over the next few months to allow your supervisor to discuss progress from their view and then allow you to express progress from your vantage point.
Fourth, once things are moving in a healthy direction, stay positive and proactive.
It may feel good to know things are moving in a healthy direction (and truly it is), but it can also lead to further frustration. Every coin has two sides. When things seem to be going so well, and you have a minor set back in the process, you can feel more hurt because you have been so transparent and open. This can cause you to retreat and keep your feedback to yourself. The same goes for your supervisor.
Both of you must agree to be vigilant. Keep the good two-way communication going. Eventually, it could mean leaving the organization to go to another, but you are now at the point to have a healthy, productive exit. This makes you and your supervisor look like good examples in the eyes of the other employees and the company.
People are entering and exiting employment all of the time, but we tend to only have healthy entry points, not exit points. When a company can boast about their excellence whether you are coming or going as a healthy experience is absolutely unique in our business culture today. This is also highly attractive to millennial workers who tend to change jobs frequently, but have horrible experiences exiting companies.
So focus as much on being authentic in staying or leaving and work through them both with excellence, authenticity, and candor.
There are my four thoughts on dealing with a micro manager. Obviously there are many more, so what would you add from your experience or from what you have read over the years?