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Manage Your Micromanager

Manage Your Micromanager

No matter how organized, proactive, conscientious or effective you are as a worker, there's a chance you'll run into a supervisor who hovers like a bird of prey, waiting for you to fail before swooping in to wipe out what's left of your self-esteem.

Keeping a micromanager at bay is seldom easy. And while it's tough to get a boss to change her behavior or convert to a more inspired management style, you can employ some strategies that may help you and your micromanager get back on the path to a productive and cooperative professional relationship -- or at the very least help you fend her off until you can find a new job.

Critique Yourself

According to Jennifer Star, copresident of The Jennifer Group, a New York City-based recruitment firm specializing in placing administrative personnel, the first step in dealing with a micromanager is to ask yourself some tough questions to assess whether the problem stems from your behavior.

Star suggests the following:

  • Have you been late to work often?
  • Have you been distracted at work lately?
  • Is something else going on in your life that has been distracting you from work?

If you answer yes to most or all of these questions, you should reconsider your work demeanor in order to restore your boss's confidence in you. You should realistically assess your answers to these questions before addressing the problem with your boss.

Understand Your Boss

When coping with micromanagers, it's helpful to understand where they're coming from. Job insecurity, pressures brought on by superiors or even a controlling personality style may lead a boss to micromanage her staff.

Moreover, some managers have difficulty thinking of their staff as fellow team members in pursuit of a common goal. Susan O'Brien, president of Career Management Systems, says that micromanagement may be a reflection of the micromanager's personal insecurity.

Confront Your Boss

If, after assessing your boss's work behavior and your own, you conclude that the problem lies with your boss, you should consider confronting her about it. Mark Kimbell, president of Kimbell Associates, a firm specializing in personal career coaching, management training and organizational development, says that proactive communication is the best way to deal with a micromanager. Kimbell argues that micromanagers may not recognize their own behavior, and once it is pointed out to them, may be open to working with you to create a better situation for you both.

Kimbell recommends asking your micromanager why she feels you must be supervised so closely. He also suggests you ask your micromanager for a chance to complete a task on your own and then discuss what went right and what went wrong in the hopes of coming up with a more efficient system.

Document Your Work

A good way of proving yourself as an effective independent worker is keeping track of your work. O'Brien recommends accurately documenting your daily performance, so that in case of a dispute, you can point to your records. Conversely, you should also keep a record of your boss's requests so that if your boss says one thing and does another, you can point that out, too.

When All Else Fails

A micromanager may become a serious problem that will require you to consult your company's HR department or an outside source, like an employee assistance program or career counselor, to help resolve.

After trying these strategies, if you're still experiencing the same issues with your boss, start looking for a job elsewhere. "To stay in an untenable situation with a micromanager for too long can have a negative long-term effect on your self-esteem," Star says. "No matter how much you value your job, life is too short for that."

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