• Micromanagers can’t help getting involved in things that don’t need their input
  • You can’t change how they behave so work on your response instead
  • Flip the tables and create the feeling that you’re in control
“Checking in to see how you’re getting on with the project.”

(a few minutes later)

“Me again. Just had a thought about the font on the PowerPoint presentation. Please increase the font size by two points and bold the italicized words so that it stands out more.”

(another few minutes later)

“One more thing. Could you shrink the size of the images by 23%? I’d like to have more white space on the slide so that it doesn’t look so crowded.”

This pattern continues all fucking morning long.

How are you supposed to be productive when you’re doing nothing but stupid bullshit editing details that nobody will notice or care about?!

And it goes beyond that too.

It’s things like specific instructions on when you should send that group email, who should sit where in the meeting room, how long the memo should be, etc.

Sometimes, you wonder if you need permission to get to take a piss or sneeze. It’s that bad.

You, my friend, are being micromanaged by a control freak boss.

You feel undermined, demotivated and your self-esteem is crushed. You feel stuck at work. Working for a micromanager boss is no fun.

But as much as it’s zapping your confidence, this situation is rarely about you. It’s less about your performance and more about your boss’s insecurities, mindset and background.

You can’t change how they behave but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about the situation. You can eliminate a lot of the frustration and overwhelm that comes with being micromanaged. 

How To Spot A Micromanager Boss

It’s obvious as shit, right?

Well, there’s a big difference between feeling like you’re being micromanaged and actually being micromanaged. It may not feel like it but trust us, it’s true.

It all comes down to root causes and particular motivations. And if you can understand these things, it’ll make managing this situation much easier.

True micromanager bosses have a few things in common. 

1) They Need To Sign Off On Everything

With most micromanagers, there’s a bit of control anxiety behavior in the mix. It goes without saying that they never fully delegate anything.

They like to get involved in pretty much everything, all the way down to the nitty-gritty details and even things that aren’t their responsibility. It’s almost like they relish having decision-making authority on minor things.

Nothing can get signed off without their approval and they don’t care if it leads to delays or prevents you from keeping momentum.

2) They Crave Perfection

Micromanager bosses need everything to be perfect.

Every. Damn. Thing.

They can’t stand to trust anyone else because it won’t measure up to their super high standards. It’s like they think the whole company will collapse without that specific detail being done.

So, they pay enormous attention to the smallest of things while not giving more thought to the big picture, overall message or goal.

3) They Constantly Crave Authority

Micromanager bosses are constantly reminding you who’s in charge. You never make your own decisions - they’re always made for you.

Every meeting, phone call, spreadsheet, email broadcast, report, etc. is an opportunity for them to flex their status a bit.

This is why a lot of micromanagers that get promoted into executive-level positions have huge fucking egos.

4) They Nitpick Everything

They’re quick to point out your mistakes but never take responsibility for their own. Conversations are one-way.

And when you do get things right, they rarely, if ever, give you any kudos for it. You never get the recognition you fucking deserve. They usually claim it for themselves, especially when upper management is involved.

5) They’re Always Watching

Every time you turn around, they’re there. You can feel their eyes on you even when you can’t see them. It’s creepy and unnerving.

You end up having to always look over your shoulder, both metaphorically and literally. It sucks having to always be on alert, even when you’re not at your desk.

6) They Call Unnecessary Meetings

Many of these managers love pointless bullshit meetings. They’ll fill open slots in your schedule and book themselves and accept invites for additional meetings too. Even, if they’re only tagged optional.

Ironically, calling and attending so many meetings gives them less time to get on with their work. And those fears about not getting the job done are often manifested in their micromanagement style.

And, when they rope you into these meetings, it takes valuable time away from you getting shit done too.

Why Some Bosses Can’t Help But Micromanage

Knowing that your boss is a micromanager is one thing. Getting inside their head and understanding why they do it is a whole other story.

One thing is usually true though - it’s not your ability to do your job that’s causing it.

Most of the time, micromanager bosses will be driven by their mindset or issues outside their control. Yes, you read that correctly. Sometimes, they can’t stop themselves.

1) They’re Insecure And Anxious 

Anxiety is a major culprit for micromanagement and it can take a few forms.

Sometimes, your boss is scared you’ll screw up. And, if you screw it up, then they get heat for it. So, they get nervous and anxious.

They don’t want to take that risk and lose control.

You get the picture.

Regardless of what’s driving their anxiety, micromanagement feels like the answer to them because it gives them that sense of control.

Breathing down your neck is a way to maintain some control over how they’re feeling. They’re scared they won’t be taken seriously as a manager so they overexert their authority.

As difficult as it may be, there is some hope for you on this one. Alleviating their anxiety can help. 

2) Their Boss Is a Control Freak

You’ve heard of the term “shit rolls downhill” right?

Well, sometimes, the micromanagement comes from higher up.

It could be that your manager’s boss is controlling them and it filters down to you. They’re under pressure and the only way they can cope is to offload the bullshit down to you.

It’s not fair, we know. But, this can be the reality sometimes.

3) They Don’t Trust You

Lack of trust is a big factor with many micromanagers. They don’t trust anyone else to do the job as well as them. Sometimes, they don’t trust you to do it at all.

They may also have been burnt by previous employees and are reluctant to trust anyone else.

It’s partly a personality trait too. People who love to plan and organize can find it very difficult to give away control.

Luckily there’s a workaround with this one. Building trust and proving your worth can get them off your back and it’ll allow you to get in the zone with work.

4) It’s Their First Time In Management

We’ve all had at least one manager that was out of their depth. Sometimes, it’s hard to work out why they were promoted in the first place. When these kinds of promotions continue, we end up with executives that are fucking clueless.

It’s quite possible that your boss is clearly not ready for the big time and they know it.

It’s partly because they haven’t been given the proper training to be a good manager. Since they’re on their own with this, they can choose the wrong path.

In their previous role, they may have been micromanaged to high heaven and they’re doing the same to you. And so, they don’t know any other management method.

5) They Have Personal Issues 

Micromanagement can stem from issues outside of the office too.

A dysfunctional childhood is a common one. If a micromanager was brought up to respect authority and had to deal with critical parents, they’re more likely to replicate this style as a boss. It’s all they know and it worked on them so it’s got to work for them too.

Tips For Dealing With A Micromanager

This is not about changing how they behave. That shit is pretty much impossible.

If your boss is a control freak, you can’t expect to change them. But that doesn’t mean you have to just put up with it.

What you want to do is change how you respond to it. Taking a different approach can help you make things feel in control and less like you’re going to lose your shit.

1) Find The Trigger

There’s always a reason why a micromanager is breathing down your neck. You just need to uncover it so you can find a solution.

It may be due to inexperience, be part of their personality or linked to personal issues. Each of these triggers requires different handling so you need to get to the bottom of what’s involved and how to deal with it.

Uncomfortable as it may be, look at yourself here too.

Is their behavior actually justified because you dropped the ball and lost their trust?

Is your communication style causing friction?

If you notice they only micromanage you and not everyone, you may have to take at least a bit of responsibility for the situation. They may be keeping a close eye on you for a good reason.

Or maybe they’re just an asshole boss.

But often, a micromanager is this way with everyone and it’s nothing to do with you specifically or your performance. 

2) Build Trust

If your micromanager boss has trust issues, proving your worth is crucial. The more they can see you’re on top of your game, the more likely they are to back off and let you get shit done.

Doing your job to the best of your ability won’t stop them from micromanaging you. But if you purposely fuck things up in protest, they’ll have genuine reasons to find fault with your work.

Keep them in the loop too. Their anxiety is often triggered by fear. They’re scared you’ll screw up and it’ll reflect poorly on them.

But you can build trust through communication.

If it looks like delays might occur, let them know ahead of time. If you’re not sure of something, bring it up. It’ll ease their anxiety and show them you’re on their side.

Flattery can work great here too.

You can buy yourself space to breathe if you can persuade them that they’re better off spending their valuable time and energy on bigger strategic tasks that move the needle rather than checking in with you all the time. 

3) Talk It Out

Speak to your boss directly. It may seem hard to believe but they may have no idea how their micromanagement affects your performance.

It’s not going to be the easiest conversation so you’ll definitely want to be delicate about approaching it. Don’t go in all guns blazing and tell them how shitty they are. It may be true but it’s not going to be helpful.

If the trigger is linked to first-time management, not being able to let go or a lack of trust is actually justified and sometimes, even expected. Talking about it can help you both move forward.

But if they’re just a control freak boss, this step probably isn’t going to be enough. 

4) Document Everything

Getting proof is a must and "cover your ass” (CYA) emails are your friend here. They’ll stop you from getting burned, keep other people accountable and act as evidence.

Get the lowdown on project details, deliverables, timelines and everything else you need to know in writing before you start work.

If your micromanager boss also happens to be a bitchy boss, covering yourself like this is mandatory and crucial to your survival in the office.

On a side note, you need to know what the biggest priority is at any given time. Everything can’t be number one, after all.

5) Anticipate What They Need 

Beat them to the punch by over-communicating. You know they’re going to be asking for updates so get there first. Anticipate their requests and give them progress updates before they ask for them.

You can even send them an email detailing the progress you made the day before and what you’ll be working on today. They’ll know you’re on top of your workload and you can manage your responsibilities without constant supervision.

You can even pre-empt their requests by doing key tasks ahead of time.

If you know they’ll be reminding you on a specific day, have it ready for them. There’s nothing like being able to say, “It’s already on your desk for review” to feel like you’re in control.

Not only is it great for pre-empting their concerns, but it also helps you feel more in control.

And who knows, they might even stop checking in as much once their anxiety starts to ease. 

6) Set Boundaries 

Boundaries are your friend when you’re dealing with a micromanager. In fact, it’s a good idea to set boundaries at work to maintain your sanity.

Be upfront with them and tell them when a project doesn’t need their constant input. They’ll still jump in but this time, they don’t have your permission.

Eventually, you can start to train a micromanager to respect boundaries, especially if you’re also building trust and proving your worth.

A more subtle approach is to delay your response to check-ins unless it’s genuinely urgent. It’s a non-confrontational way to set some boundaries around what you’ll respond to and when. 

7) Adjust Your Mindset & Perspective 

Your mindset is your secret weapon.

Read that sentence again.

As much as you want to resort to a full-blown toddler tantrum when the BS emails keep piling in, it won’t do you any favors. You need to be an adult at work. It’s tough but you need to stay calm and keep your emotions in check.

What we’re doing here is changing how the situation affects you. Instead of feeling like shit, you can rise above their behavior.

When you stop to think about how much internal crap is going on in their head, maybe you’ll even pity them. All is clearly not well in their world.

The important thing is not to let a micromanager boss dictate your self-worth. Their behavior is usually a reflection of themselves, not you.

Keep impressing and adulting. You never know who could open a door for you so you can move on. But if a potential ally only sees a whiny kid who needs to grow up, they’re not going to help you. You’ve missed your opportunity to get the hell out of there. 

8) Create An Illusion Of Control

A micromanager will never give you autonomy if it’s your idea. But it’s a whole other story if they think it was their idea.

You’re not taking away control, which would be a dangerous game to play. Instead, you’re letting them give you more freedom but without imposing it on them.

What if you can make them believe it’s in their interests to let you manage your time with no distractions or develop critical thinking skills and that it was their triumph?

Do it this way and you’re a lot more likely to get the freedom you need.

Try this:

“I work better when I have plenty of space to think and try out ways of working. Can you help make this happen?”

It puts the focus on working styles rather than their behavior or personality differences. Plus, they’ll feel like they’re doing you a favor by accommodating your request. They get the impression they’re in control, even though it’s not actually true. 

9) Don’t Fight Back 

It’s always tempting to try to get back at your control freak boss. Don’t do it.

Fighting back is futile.

You won’t change anything and you can make the situation a whole lot worse. The only thing worse than a micromanager boss is an angry micromanager boss. Trust us, you don’t want to go there.

It’ll bring even more bullshit and you’ll get a reputation as a trouble maker, which means even more shit to deal with.

Use your new mindset to rise above it and gain the upper hand psychologically. You’re the better person here. Don’t drop down to their level.

But if nothing else helps, it’s time to turn the tables on your micromanaging boss and use it against them.

If they want to micromanage, give them plenty to manage. Keep them busy with support requests, proofreading, and edits.

Even the biggest micromanager is likely to get pissed off with this tactic. They aren’t the one in control and that hurts. 

Don’t Let A Micromanager Crush Your Spirit

Working for a micromanager can be soul-destroying.

It’s like they have no trust in you at all. Truth is, the problem rarely lies with you. Most micromanagers have a ton of issues they need to work on. That’s why it’s pointless to try to change their behavior.

Work on how you respond to the bullshit and switch up your mindset instead.

The problem is almost always theirs, not yours. Work hard to show what you’re capable of, do your best work, and build trust in your capabilities.

Just don’t fight back. It won’t make things better.

You can push back a little bit by creating a false sense of control, over-communicating and turning the tables. And just maybe, you won’t be receiving so many emails before lunch.

You got this.

Feel Better,

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