In my office, I sit right across from GovLoop president and founder Steve Ressler. I, the lowly summer fellow, have to work a mere two feet away from the man who hired me. All Steve has to do to get an update on my latest project is stand up and peer over the wall of our adjoining cubicles. If there ever was a sitting arrangement to encourage constant supervision, this is it.
Fortunately, though I’m literally within a lanky arm’s reach from my boss, I’ve avoided the micromanagement nightmare many government employees face. Micromanagers inhibit employee growth by watching their every move and making employees feel like they can’t own their own projects.
Whether your boss is a micromanager-in-the-making or a full-blown tyrant, these strategies can help you manage your micromanager.
Before we discuss how to nurture a healthier dynamic between you and your supervisor, you have to critique your own performance as an employee. Is there a reason your boss feels the need to look over your shoulder? If you’re prone to turn in projects late or incomplete, maybe your boss isn’t the problem. In that case, evaluating and adjusting your work habits is the first step to diffusing micromanagement. Removing any cause for your boss to watch your every move can nip your micromanagement problem right in the bud.
2) Build Trust and Set Terms.
Building trust and setting project terms is key to discouraging an overbearing boss. Volunteer for projects you know you can excel in and help your boss delegate who should perform each task. Before starting a project, discuss with your boss their expected level of involvement and when you should check in. Establishing rules of engagement upfront and setting up review points along the way also removes the imperative for constant updates or advice.
3) Employ Proactive Communication.
Micromanagement problems can often stem from a lack of communication. You may be doing your job well and completing projects in a timely manner — but your boss doesn’t necessarily know that. If I don’t keep Steve in the loop, he’s more likely to check on me. If I send a quick email updating him on my progress, Steve focuses his energies elsewhere. Likewise, proactive communication will prevent your boss from flooding your inbox or pestering you at your desk. Provide project updates without prompting and ask for your boss input when you want feedback. Your boss will feel involved and confident in your progress without stepping over the line.
4) The Question of Confrontation.
Not all helicopter bosses are out to get you. Sometimes micromanagers are more worried about their own job performance than yours, or they’ve been recently promoted and don’t know how to properly supervise employees yet. If you wish to confront your overbearing boss, keep it respectful. Ask if they are happy with your work and if they see any areas that need improvement. If your boss is fine with your job performance, let them know their supervision style suggests otherwise. If you suspect your boss really is out to get you, get HR involved. This isn’t a battle you should fight alone, and confronting your boss through professional channels will be better both of you in the long run.
Of course, not every micromanager is the same. What are your strategies for dealing with overbearing bosses?