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Out Manage Your Micro-Managing Boss

Written by Rebecca Okamoto on April 26, 2015

The dreaded micro-manager.

We all come across a few in our career.

Some are humorous and misguided, busily taking meticulous notes, documenting every word. They hope documentation gives them leverage, or cover from blame.

Others are control freaks. They inspect every detail, unable to delegate, trying to control every decision, even if it causes delays or rework. Unfortunately, a few take it too far, using their power to bully people and hold them under their thumb.

The micro-manager's focus can be summarized in 3 words:

Inspect, control and limit.

If you're working for a micro-manager, you're probably feeling disengaged, and resentful.

And trapped.

Don't let your career be hijacked by one person.

You don't have to let your focus narrow to one vector - your boss.

Instead, turn micro-management into opportunities to build your communication, management and leadership skills, while strengthening your network.

I've had lots of experience dodging micro-managing thumbs. While it wasn't always fun, I used it to accelerate my skills and career success.

Here are 5 techniques to out manage the micro-manager

1. Results - The License for Freedom

Have great results. If great results are a license for freedom, show your boss your license.

  • Advertise your accomplishments. Just because your boss has a narrow focus doesn't mean yours should be too. In fact, your span needs to be wider and broader. Share your results with mentors, sponsors and others. Start a quarterly update to share results outside of your immediate manager.

  • Be honest about your skills and results. If your results aren't top notch, expect to be inspected. Get calibrated on your results and check in until your results meet expectations.

  • Get ahead of the game - offer a compromise. Offer options like sending a detailed letter every week or every 2 weeks. Invite your boss into a monthly results review and then negotiate when to start moving it to a quarterly review or letter.

2. Set Boundaries

Sit down with your boss and talk through boundaries. Micro-management is about a lack of trust and control. Use boundaries to create pockets of decision making authority for yourself and organization..

  • Ask when they want to be involved. Ask what they consider to be your results vs. theirs and point out where your results overlap. Make them manage their commitment.

  • Tell your boss how you like to be managed. Share with your boss how you like to learn and in what environment you thrive.

  • Ask them to take a risk on certain decisions. Discuss the pro's and con's of loosening up controls.

  • Is this just a phase for your boss (or you)? Is your boss newly promoted or newly transferred? Are you newly promoted or transferred? Is your business in a crisis? Clarify the situation - this may only be a temporary phase.

  • Wait it out. Sometimes your boss’ great ideas will fade under their own weight, especially if they're cumbersome.

3. Redirect Their Focus

Give your boss something to focus on. When they over index in one area, they will have to lighten up in others.

  • Leverage their strength - if your boss is really good at one skill - such as analysis - focus on this.

  • Ask them to get involved in an area of YOUR choice. Pick a result area where you really need help. OR in area where they are weak or insecure.

  • Identify YOUR opportunity area and ask for more space to grow and make mistakes.

  • Ask them to own part of you career that forces them up and out. For example, ask for help in developing your network, or getting exposure. Hold them to their commitment.

4. Manage Up and Around

Minimize the impact of your boss. Instead of obsessing about your boss, work around them. When someone is overly focused down, be better at networking up and around.

  • Increase your networking.

  • Make yourself indispensable to someone outside of your boss' control. Go to another leader and volunteer to help them, or lead a project.

  • Create pull for yourself based on your results. Volunteer to become a trainer or a "Center of Excellence" for others to benchmark against.

5. Focus on YOU

Shift your focus. Focus on YOU and your success.

Remember: every minute you're focused on being micro-managed is a minute you're not focused on networking, getting great results and building skills.

Your career is more than your relationship with your boss.

You can out manage your micro-managing boss.

When your manager goes micro on your results, go macro on your career, and no thumb will be able to hold you down.

Looking for more ways to tap your unrealized potential? Take a look at these posts on Evoke.

Career Traps Career Myth BUSTED: Your Results AREN'T Speaking for You

“Does 4 Things We Think Make Us Look Smart, but Don’t

Get Noticed The Unfair Career Advantage You need to Exploit NOW

Check out the The Career Toolbox page for more practical tips and tools.

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Looking for more ways to advance your career? I'm a career and communications coach, and I'm on a mission to unlock the potential of people and ideas. Contact me at reo@evoke.pro to get more information.

Ask about my workshop, "How to say who you are and what you do in 20 words or less."

Photo/Troop Inspection (Explored) by Pascal, on Flickr

Troop Inspection (Explored)

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