How to Manage a Micromanager

About five years into my career, I found myself working for a micromanager. He drove me crazy. He wanted to know everything I did and when I did it.

He required me to furnish daily status reports. I had to document every call, every conversation, and every action I took on every project. It was oppressive.

I tried to be patient. But at that point in my career, I didn’t have the skills necessary to deal with his leadership style. I eventually found another job and quit. Unfortunately, I cheated myself out of an important leadership lesson.

Some micromanagers can’t be rehabilitated, of course—at least not by you. But others can if you know what to do.

Later in my career I worked for another micromanager. He wasn’t as bad as the first, but he was still overbearing. Thankfully, by this time, I had picked up a few more skills. I ended up having a very positive relationship with him. We worked together for several years.

If you find yourself working for a micromanager, here are three steps you can take to get him or her off your back. These actions won’t work in every instance, but you owe it to yourself to give them a try before moving on. (To make this less cumbersome, I will use the masculine pronoun when referring to your boss.)

  1. Tell him what you plan to do. If you tell your boss what you plan to do, then he has the opportunity for input before you have invested a lot of time and energy.

    As much as possible, keep this part of your conversation focused on results rather than activity. One way to do this is to focus your work around 90-day objectives.

    If your boss insists on knowing how you plan to tackle the job, you can also provide your basic approach or strategy. If you get a sign-off at this point, then you can proceed without constantly looking over your shoulder.

  2. Do what you said you would do. Planning is one thing. Execution is another. Bosses tend to micromanage when they lose confidence in you.

    If you want your boss out of your hair, it’s easy. Just perform. Do what you said you would do—on time and on budget.

    This is where things can get off track. If you don’t execute, trust is broken. If trust is broken, you’re going to get more supervision than you want.

    The only way to fix it is to make more “deposits” in “the execution bank.” You must make follow-through—especially when it comes to your boss—your top priority.

  3. If anything changes, be the first one to tell him. Reality is that “do-do occurs.” Things are not going to go according to plan.

    Sometimes, for reasons you can’t control, you are going to be late or miss your budget. It’s inevitable. Your only salvation is to beat a path to your boss’s office and tell him first.

    In my experience, I have never been chewed out for bringing bad news to my boss—provided he heard it from me first. That’s the key.

    Bad news does not get better with age. (If you have a tendency to avoid conflict, re-read that sentence again.) Someone has to tell the boss what happened, and it should be you.

    If your boss is any good at all, he will respect you for having the guts to come to him directly and immediately. In this sense, bad news can actually build trust rather than destroy it.

Getting your boss off your back and keeping him off usually boils down to one word: proactivity. Take the initiative. Don’t make him come to you.

Question: Have you ever worked for a micromanager? How did you handle it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://twitter.com/barbfow50 Barbara M Fowler

    I agree with you that giving up makes you lose your opportunity for important leadership growth. Sometimes they-the micromanagers-can’t be changed ,but trying changes us-and we grow from that experience. bfowler@chiefoutsiders.com

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Exactly! You nailed it.

  • http://garridon.wordpress.com/ Linda Adams

    I don’t know if I’d say micromanaging is a case if the boss losing confidence in you.  That makes it sound like you’re doing something wrong and have to fix it, and it can be the boss’ problem.  It could be a lack of general confidence on his part, fear, or even culture.  When I was in the army, I was assigned to a joint service unit.  We ended having a reorganization and worked for an Air Force light colonel who was a micromanager.  According the person I worked with who had been working with joint service for many years, micromanaging was apparently practically a requirement for officers from the Air Force!  At the very least, it sounded like a cultural thing to try to control everything around him.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Several family members of mine served in the military and told me tales of micro-management that made my head spin. In many respects, I think the military presents its own unique management challenges….

    • http://www.joshuarivers.net/ Joshua Rivers

      I think that Michael was saying that a loss of confidence leads to micromanagement (or, more of it if it is already happening), not that micromanagement is a sign of a loss of confidence. I can’t speak for him, but that is how I read and understood it.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

        Yes, that is correct.

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Very helpful content, Michael. In my experience, working for a true micro-manager  forces you to become a micro-manager to a certain extent. You’ll not only need to manage your affairs properly, but manage your subordinates too. When I have been in situations like this, the chain of command becomes very important. You need to manage what communications and problems come to your boss. You need to become a “buck stops here” type of person. If done correctly, the organization works well. If a stray e-mail or complaint finds its way past you, directly to your boss… watch out. Being diligent and following the three step list you provided is key.

    I’ve also worked for bosses that are insecure in their position. They are afraid that everyone is out to take their job. This sometimes comes off as micro-managing, but really becomes a battle of impressions. This type of boss can be very difficult to work for if you are the achieving type. The bottom line is that your boss doesn’t want you to look good. In this type of situation it’s usually best to do what is expected and no more. Take the incentive and you’ll get shot down. Unfortunately to get ahead in a situation like this requires leaving or making a lateral move to a different department.

    While working for a micro-manager can be a challenge, It’s much better than working for the insecure boss. One requires diligence and hard work, the other becomes a roadblock. For some people, doing just what is expected is OK. For many though, the roadblock leads to frustration and burnout, because no matter what you do, you can’t get ahead.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      John, I think you brought up a great point regarding the “spectrum of leadership” that we can experience. While the “micro” boss might be better than an “insecure” boss – I’d submit that both are on the lower end of the leadership scale. 

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        It was interesting that in a survey of American workers in 2012, two of the biggest complaints were being micro-managed and not being able to get ahead. Must be a widespread problem…

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Daniel Pink says in drive that the #1 benefit workers want today is autonomy. I think this is in his book Drive.

    • http://www.i2ivision.com/ Karyn

      One suggestion when working with an insecure boss (speaking from experience here…)  If you’ve got a good idea and you are sure your boss will shoot you down, come up with 2 or 3 other inferior ideas to go along with it.  Then present them all to your insecure boss, and let him choose.  He feels he’s in power then because it was HIS choice.  And if you’re worried he’ll take this “choice” to HIS boss as his own idea?  Don’t worry, sooner or later the “higher-ups” are going to figure out for themselves where the ideas are coming from.  You have to be patient!   You can even get promoted…

  • http://chrisvonada.info/ chris vonada

    Excellent! I had an experience with a micro-manager once… I did just what you said, got him to focus on results… I was his biggest “win” for the single year that he was my boss… and I still got to play golf every Friday afternoon. He appreciated that, we both learned from it… I ended up leaving shortly thereafter for self-employment, so I’m not sure how it all worked out for him, but I got the freedom that I yearned for!

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Chris, you know how to manage micromanagers. Great! I wish I had known these principles 10 years back.

  • http://www.alslead.com/ Dave Anderson

    It is easy to find all the reasons a micromanager is bad and all the ways he needs to change. What I like about this post is you give great tips on what we, the led, need to do to operate in the situation.

    The bottom line is we have to control what we can control.  We control our own actions not the micromanagers.  By the way, they are still the boss.  We may not like their style but we must respond and perform in that.  

    Being proactive and answering his needs before he asks for it is the best way to keep the micromanager at bay.  These tips work.  I’ve done them and had a great relationship with this type of boss.

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Glad to know how you deal with this issue, Dave. As you suggested, being proactive and ‘going the extra mile’ is a great way to relate well with such leaders.

  • http://www.johncmaxwellgroup.com/daveleingang/ Dave Leingang

    If you are being micromanaged, is it because the boss doesn’t trust you, or has such a low confidence in himself that he wants to keep tabs on you to make sure you’re not making looking him look bad?

    Both situations are tiresome. You can change the level of trust the boss has in you. But if the boss feels threatened by you and is micromanaging, then that may be considered bullying. Especially if they’re holding you back from being successful.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Honestly, it could be either. But I would rather control what I can control—me—and see if I can change the situation. If I can, I have learned a valuable leadership lesson and salvaged a bad situation. Thanks.

  • http://keikihendrix.com Keiki Hendrix

    Excellent advice. Those who micro manager are just looking for assurance. Perhaps giving the helps up before you begin deflects that.  

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I agree, Keiki. The key is to see what is behind the behavior, rather than just take it personal.

  • http://www.thadthoughts.com/ Thad Puckett

    Words of gold.  Too many times we want to take the easy way out.  But as you indicate, when we don’t learn leadership lessons the first time they have a strange habit of coming back around.  Managing the micromanager is often getting in front of their worry.  That can mean doing exactly what you did in the second example.

    But the deeper lesson here is that by that point in your career you had learned how to get the leadership style you needed, instead of just taking what was given.  Success in a career means learning to get what you need in terms of leadership when you need it.

    And that, in truth, can require different styles depending on your skill set.  The micromanager is the sibling of the deliberate and determined delegator.  

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Thad. You make some great points. I always (at least now) assume that I have more control than I think. It’s easy to blame, but that doesn’t get you very far!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      “Managing the micromanager is often getting in front of their worry.” Love that insight, Thad.

  • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

    Nope. Never worked for one. But I sure have been one. 

    I could be inducted into the Micromanager Hall of Fame!

    I think I would have gotten that through my head sooner if people had used your tips here Michael. 

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Matt, just curious – as a self-proclaimed micro-manager what is the primary reason behind that behavior? Is it that you don’t want to be surprised or believe it’s a bona fide method for project success? Again, I’m not judging – just curious….

      • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

        Self-proclaimed former micromanager actually :)

        Primary reason? Ooh, I’ll give you two:1. My own ego. I thought much higher of myself than I deserved. Every idea I had was right. And my way was much better than anyone else’s…so the only way to make sure it was done my way was constantly hover over everyone.

        2. Bad hiring. I wasn’t a big enough person to hire people smarter than me. Or pay them enough. So I hired $40k people for $60-80k jobs. And guess what I got? So I forced myself to have to be involved too much.

        • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

           Amazing self-awareness, Matt. I learned much just from reading your insights here. Thanks for sharing honestly!

          • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

            Thanks Michele. It took a while to learn but I’m getting there…day by day :)

            My most recent post: Suicide (Or…Why People Leave Jobs)

  • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

    Yes, I did work for a micromanager once. That was very difficult. One thing I learned from that is how not to be a micromanager! Today when I work with my staff, I often think about it.

    Michael, your three steps are excellent. Thanks for sharing these. By the way, I am happy to rejoin the discussion here after a short gap.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Welcome back, Joe. We missed you!

      • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

        Yes, I am back. Thanks!

  • Kthutts

    My experience has taught me that a micromanager doesn’t really want to micromanage — that is just the only way the manager knows how to behave.  This is an opportunity to stretch ourselves as well as the manager/leader by both of us learning a more effective and efficient way for the manager to keep track of things.  Michael is right — the manager who is asking for this level of reporting is just trying to stay on top of things — be proactive and hone in on the details he is really looking for to help him stay in the know.  Great post, Michael!

  • http://dalemelchin.wordpress.com/ Dale Melchin

    I was the micromanager when I had my painting business.  Fortunately, I had a decent operations manager that I could trust implicitly were their any problems.  I also tended to be a “dirt general” meaning that I would often times work along side my crew as well.  But when I was doing the marketing, I could trust him implicitly.

    I have also been micromanaged as well.  I hate it! 

    As always Mike, great article!

  • http://dalemelchin.wordpress.com/ Dale Melchin

    Oh and as a follow up…. good choice for picking this clip.  Officespace is a great movie over all!

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Agreed…actor Gary Micheal Cole was cast PERFECTLY as the condescending boss….

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      It’s one of my favorite movies. (I only wish the language was not so offensive.)

      • http://dalemelchin.wordpress.com/ Dale Melchin

        Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah…. Mike, I’m gonna need to to come in on…. Saturdaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay…. ok….. greaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat. * walks away* :-D

  • http://twitter.com/CoTria Garrett Miller

    Great post Michael – wish I had these tips earlier in my career. My first boss was the best boss I ever had. He trusted me, believed in my abilities and created a wonderful team atmosphere, that was all I knew. Then came boss never #2, a micro manager, I didn’t know what hit me.
    The only thing I’d like to add is a BIG what not to do. I unfortunately, in my pride, decided I’d push back. I’m sure you can guess the results. A tighter noose and aches in my stomach for years. I needed to learn that humility is a powerful tool.
    As others pointed out. I began taking notes, no not to ‘create a file against my boss’ but I created a file on how to be the best boss, by noting her strengths and weaknesses. As soon as my attitude changed I began to glean about what not to do. Those lessons still serve me.

  • http://twitter.com/CoTria Garrett Miller

    Great post Michael – wish I had these tips earlier in my career. My first boss was the best boss I ever had. He trusted me, believed in my abilities and created a wonderful team atmosphere, that was all I knew. Then came boss never #2, a micro manager, I didn’t know what hit me.
    The only thing I’d like to add is a BIG what not to do. I unfortunately, in my pride, decided I’d push back. I’m sure you can guess the results. A tighter noose and aches in my stomach for years. I needed to learn that humility is a powerful tool.
    As others pointed out. I began taking notes, no not to ‘create a file against my boss’ but I created a file on how to be the best boss, by noting her strengths and weaknesses. As soon as my attitude changed I began to glean about what not to do. Those lessons still serve me.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      “Humility is a powerful tool” – Great point, Garrett!  It’s the one difference that John Maxwell and Jim Collins say defines a top-level leader over all others!

  • Suzanne Wesley

    It’s been my experience that when I had a micro-managing manager, they were being micro-managed by the VP or whoever was next highest on the corporate ladder. They were indeed insecure about their own position, and anything you could do to make them look better was going to ease the strain in your working relationship. Keeping them in the loop was essential.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       Empathy for their difficult position is a great way to keep perspective.

  • http://twitter.com/KrisHopes Kris Wood

    Righttt.  I’m gonna get right on that.  HAHAHHA Fun post… and good reminders in dealing with micromgrs. 

  • http://www.whosthefarris.com/ Dawn Farris

    So true. When I find myself micromanaging it is generally because of the reasons you listed above. Findng out that things haven’t been done when it’s too late to remedy causes you to make your lists and check them twice and thrice and  . . . . This also is great insight as to why a boss may beginh micromanaging when in the past it wasn’t their style.

  • Ian

    Thank you Michael for your post and also to those who have commented.  I see so much of my current situation here.  I’m working with my second successive micro manger and it is very trying.  

    The situation is exacerbated when the manager is stressed by demands (also by health) and “perceived” demands and more so due to her OCD tendencies.  In addition to the difficulty of working with this type of management I find I have to be the “peace keeper” and “diffuser” of miscommunication with other members of the team and clients. 

    Thank you for a useful article.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Congrats for approaching the situation proactively, instead of running from it!

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    Bad news does not get better with age, but at some point down the road, some good news may have materialized that will neutralize the bad news. If bad news is reallyall I have, I may well hold it back until such time as I’m in a position to deliver it along with some positive information to temper its impact. 

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Good advice!  

  • http://missionallendale.wordpress.com/ Joey Espinosa

    Yes, I spent all of 2011 working for a micromanager. At first, I thought it was quirky (like when I asked to buy trashbags because a lot of clean up was needed for a new building that we would use; she said she’d have to check the budget). But then I realized that she needed to control every last detail (including a memo & policy stating that all male employees had to wear a belt — which I was already doing). Mind you, this was an organization of about 6 employees.

    Long story short, I wound up leaving that job. It was a tough decision, because I loved the work I was able to do (working with at-risk kids). But it was wearing me out having to deal with the micromanagement.

    But God opened up a lot of other opportunities that I never would have had had I not had that job.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      “…all male employees had to wear a belt…” huh? I’ve found that majoring in minors is a telltale sign of a micro-manager. Sounds like it was an exhausting experience…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Julie-Swihart/100003908965783 Julie Swihart

    Thanks for addressing this issue. I worked for a micromanager as a part-time receptionist, and was given more freedom with time (no computer for almost a year), but my ongoing frustration was that the processes for how to complete my work were still spelled out  in fine detail. I had twenty pages of notes on how to do basic tasks because the formula was so precise and I wanted to do a good job. Embracing technology would’ve simplified things, but it’s hard for people to do when they’ve always done things a certain way for thirty years.

    In my experience, communication and follow-through were helpful in gaining trust early on, but I still felt micromanaged because there were so many specific processes I had to follow. They liked me because I was so detail-oreinted, but I didn’t like the added stress. I wished instead they would:

    1. Tell me the outcome they wanted.
    2. Give me the tools/resources to get there.
    3. Let me figure it out.
    4. Be available for questions.

     Later a new manager was brought in who helped the company catch up with technology and gave me more freedom, which I really liked. But early on, what could I have done?

  • http://ayearinthespirituallife.blogspot.com/ Dayna Renee Hackett Bickham

    I have lived under a micromanager and even a person with a great amount of self-confidence begins to feel like every little thing could be “that thing” that gets them fired. I could not answer an email without worrying how it could come back and bite me. I too quit. There are times when I wish that had not been the case. I wish I had these tips then! Next time! 

    One thing I would add (that I have learned since experiencing this myself) – No matter how oppressed you may feel from 9 to 5, that boss is not your source! God is! Do not look at your boss, but past your boss to the One who placed you in the position you are in. God has you, and He is able.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Great insight Dayna about God being our source – thanks for the reminder!

  • Tarah

    I completely agree that the trust issue is directly related to your follow-through.  I worked for a micromanager and really had no issues.  Do what you say you are going to do!  Think of solutions before bringing up problems.  You’ll build his confidence in you and he will focus his “micromanaging needs” on others.  ;)

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       Ha! Sounds like a good plan, Tarah. :)

  • http://www.geemco.de/ Goetz Mueller

    Another helpful approach I used is to asked what his/her preferred style (media, frequency, level of detail etc.) is of getting informed is. This provides clarity on one’s own end avoiding surprises (at least some) as well as on the other end. It may even cause some sort of reflection re. what he/she is asking for.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Great point!  This is also an excellent question for peers, clients, and prospective clients!

  • http://salesheartbeat.com/ Alan

    I’ve learned that most micromanagers are insecure people.  He wants to make sure he can tell his superiors that he has his finger on the pulse of everything his people are doing. When used, the tips you suggested will help your boss feel better about himself.  He made a “good decision” when he hired you; he has information to share with his superiors so they will “know” his is “managing” his department well.  Most micromanagers are great examples of “The Peter Principle” in that they have been promoted to their level of incompetence.  

  • learninGrace

    Let’s be fair…these managers need therapy and lots of prayer! In my experience, the micromanager is extremely insecure, broken, believes in perfection, feels a need to control every aspect of his/her realm and is paranoid (trusts no one). At some point these managers wear out their team and you may actually have to move on.

    I’ve been working with one who is actually not qualified to be in his job and more concerned about managing perceptions about himself than taking care of his team so he’s viewed as shallow, self serving, and an idiot. Sadly, he’s also not a great communicator and so it makes it very difficult to effectively do what you suggest. If you spend all your time managing up, who serves the clients? Unfortunately we’re going to lose some very talented people and customers in the very near future. The good news is I’m leaning more on God for patience and the power to gracefully endure this torment. Not sure about my team mates though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amy.fiedler Amy Fiedler

    This reminds me of projects in grad school and during my internship.  Preceptors got mad at me for not reporting my progress to them, but they didn’t communicate their expectations until near the due date or at my evaluation.  If they didn’t trust me enough to complete a project without reporting back every step of the way, they should have told me they wanted reports.  I would have complied, happily even.

  • Brandilmichel

    Thank you for this post. I ‘be been reporting to the same micromanager for many years and this really helped to confirm what help my action plan needs to be. The work that I’m doing is just too important for me to quit, though it’s been a temptation many times. Thanks so much!

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      You have a great perspective!  Doing important work is a great motivation to take the harder option of making changes where you are vs. quitting.  Good luck!

  • http://mauricefoverholt.wordpress.com/ Maurice F. Overholt

    Michael, thanks for this.  I worked for a pastor/boss a number of years back who had never been a senior pastor, and I was a very do-what-you’re-told Director of Worship then.  I learned a very important lesson about sticking up for myself.

    One day I walked into the office and he and his assistant informed me that they had picked out some music for an upcoming service and had already asked a musician if she was available to sing it.I was livid.  They had done my work and circumvented the careful process I had in place to deal with sensitive musicians.

    I very directly told him that he had overstepped and explained why I did what I did in the way that I did it.  To his credit he never did that again, and by the time I left that position he and I were very good at working together.

    Ever since I have coached leaders to be direct when their bosses go around them or micromanage; it’s the only way to effect change and gain respect.

    • Jim Martin

      Maurice, in situations such as the one you describe, I think it is very important that a person speak up like you did.  Far too many people do not have these conversations and live for years with resentment.

  • http://pennyslayne.com/ Penny Lane

    Unfortunately, I handled my micromanager by quitting. I honestly did try to work with this person, but it was hard, mainly because I had been doing my job for several years before they got a new manager. It was hard to adjust from doing my thing and being trusted to get it done (I always did), to having someone constantly looking over my shoulder and listening in to my phone calls. The other people in our department had just moved in to it, so they had an easier time adjusting. Hopefully if I am ever in that situation again I will adjust better.

  • http://www.matthewreedcoaching.com/ Matthew Reed

    These are great action steps for even a non-micro manager. My most ‘micro’ manager needed more frequent updates, daily sometimes. My most macro manager benefitted from these updates at our regularly scheduled ‘one-on-one’ meetings.  
    It’s also a great way to document all you’ve accomplished during a review cycle.

    btw, @mhyatt:disqus  GREAT use of video!

  • chasflemming

    I haven’t worked directly for a genuine micromanager, but I’ve worked in several companies where either the systems or the culture–or both–were built on micromanaging. It was joyless, stressful, and well-nigh impossible to cope with from my low position on the food chain.

    What I tried to do was act proactively (much like you describe) with my immediate supervisor so he always knew what I was doing and why and hopefully not get blindsided too much.

    One particular organization–a very large retailer I worked for–was especially oppressive. The Big Boss was not only a micromanager, even beyond the culture of this company, but would berate managers in front of their subordinates. One time she started to berate me over the walkie and in front of her entire management team. I forcefully confronted her over the walkie and then in front of her team. Then I let MY boss know I would be taking action against her (the Big Boss) with HER supervisors.

    Not exactly the approach you recommend here. But it worked. The Big Boss came to see me and apologized. I told her I would never make her look bad in front of her team again IF she stopped bullying me publicly. Then I told her how she could both improve performance and lift morale: If she would learn to teach more and berate less. She agreed and actually started teaching.

    I left for a better opportunity shortly after, so I don’t know whether she reverted.

    • Jim Martin

      Great to hear how you were proactive in this situation.  I would love to know how the story continued with the The Big Boss, after you left the company.  Interesting! 

  • http://thejmolina.com/ J.Molina

    I learned the very definition of micro-management after working with a micro-manager for several years. It’s even worst when that boss is a long time friend and assist the same church you do. How did I make it? I don’t know. I just bit my tongue, took in the good and cast out the bad. You’re right, if you execute and perform above your own (and your boss)expectations… things should pan out good for you. Oh, but this was a special case. 

  • http://www.justcris.com/ Cris Ferreira

    Michael, I’ve worked with a micromanager before, and while everyone complained, I didn’t have much trouble with him at all. I didn’t realize it back then, but I did everything as you said. I didn’t do it intentionally, that was just my way of working.
    It is good to know the explanation why, so I can be more intentional about it if needed. Thanks, Michael.

  • Michelle Panzlaff

    Yeah I used to have a few micromanagers over me from time to time. Generally not to
    much a problem as I am great with tracking what I do and the details of my
    projects. (Covering my ass was at times part of my job when stakes were high
    and I had other less than reliable individuals and organizations I had to work
    with to get my job done.)

    One of
    the many things I learned at some jobs was to time myself and track my day and my communications.
    This gave me great ammunition when it came time to negotiate my workload at
    times where I was expected to perform too many duties also.

    Great
    article, thank you. I remember how frustrating is was to have a manager
    breathing down my neck, especially when I know I was doing great work and it
    wasn’t called for.

  • http://twitter.com/anilforbiz Anil Saxena

    Michael – Excellent blog.  The best strategy that I used when being micromanaged was the “don’t tell me its raining, tell me how to build the ark” theory.  Essentially, I would never come to my boss with a problem.  Micromanagers tend to want to solve and be involved in implementing the solution (or at least get updates).  I would bring an issue and three options for solving/addressing the issue.  It would be up to her to pick based on the pros/cons of each.  Then I would implement the solution and report back.  It allowed her to give her opinion and “add value”. I was able to be creative and solve problems without her always trying to see what was going on because she knew.  The best thing it did was create trust between us. She knew I was interested in solving problems and actively sought out her input.  I knew that she valued my input and trusted my judgement.  

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree with this strategy. It’s worked for me too.

    • Jim Martin

      Anil, I really appreciate your comment.  You were in a difficult situation and through some creativity, you found a way to deal with this person.  It sounds as if you had enough space to be creative in problem solving and to gain some satisfaction from that.  Thanks.

  • http://JaredLatigo.com/ Jared Latigo

    Great post! I have to say that’s one of the funniest movies ever!!…wish the language was not so offensive though :(

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yea, I totally agree. I was just glad this clip didn’t have any in it.

  • http://www.robertjacobs.org/ Robert Jacobs

    I use to be a micromanager. It caused unnecessary stress on myself as well for those who reported to me. I have learned over the years to have more TRUST in my employees, they appreciate it as well.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Great point, Robert!  

      My past micromanaging came out of my own insecurities.  It was a huge step in my own leadership when I learned to set the expectation for results and TRUST folks to do their job!

  • Sue G.

    I worked for a micromanager a few years ago and it was one of the most stressful situations I had ever been in. I was over 20 years in my professional career. The woman I worked for had gone from being a secretary to an executive director. She didn’t have a college degree, and although she was very competent at what she did, I always sensed that the lack of a degree must have made her feel inferior to others of her caliber and therefore when she hired me, she found me to be a threat. She was a classic bully boss as well. It was sad, because it was the only way she knew how to manage. Her talent as a director of a foundation was diminished by her insecurity and effort spent on trying to get her way and keep everyone down by making threats. I did my best to work under the radar and do things her way, but it was difficult because she didn’t think the way I did, or process information the way I did. Eventually she let me go, which was a blessing to me. In the end, I looked her straight in the eye and told her honestly that micro-managing is never a good thing, is never healthy, and seldom is ever has a positive outcome. I also told her that she had it in her power to have made things work. I have learned a lot about leadership over the past several years, and I often think of her and pity anyone who is still working with her!

    • Jim Martin

      Sue, your note is a reminder of how important it is for one to deal with his/her own issues (like the insecurity you describe) instead of attempting to compensate by behavior that makes life difficult for others.  Thanks for this reminder.

  • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

    This is great advice – especially point #3. Not only does telling your boss first help you “shape the blast” it also affords you the opportunity to tell the boss how you intend to fix it.

  • Ben

    Guilty as charged michael. I suddenly saw how I have morphed into a open loop type leader, unwilling to take feedback for as it comes but finding myself asking for it in the fear of it going wrong in the mean time!
    I am going to let go … And let God!

  • http://Thefieldgeneral.com/ Chris Coussens

    I love this blog! Always makes me think about issues I deal with daily.
    Two thoughts:
    One, people might see me as a micromanager as I want to be able see everything that is happening… i.e. give me visibility. Honestly I don’t care how you do the work it as long as you get it done with quality and I can know it’s happening. I don’t even need to know it immediately, but there needs to be somewhere I can go find out about it when I get a call from my boss, rather than hunting you up. This is about planning (are we busy, are we not, is the work distributed evenly across my subs) and covering your back when you are out of position. (Also, I conciously struggle with trying to maintain sufficient visabiliy while providing sufficient freedom).

    Two, discuss your concern and set expectations. Perhaps you work for an ogre who says it’s my way or the highway, but even ogre’s can be tamed with the right words. Let’s TRY this; I know you are busy, so how about this to save you time; If it makes sense I will consult you for expense over $x, anything below that I will make the call so we can be efficient. Maybe I’ve just been lucky but I’ve managed to find a working middle ground with every boss I’ve ever had by gently challenging the boundaries.

  • Tracy Hoots Hoexter

    This happens in the world of volunteer work too! I volunteer my time and 20 years of experience at my son’s school. Mostly people are appreciative and let you “do what you know how to do”. However, just today I met with a new PTA President who dictated to me every detail and refused to listen to my input… all the while she was telling me how she was glad to have my experience on board! She may not have this volunteer much longer if the above tips don’t work on her!

    Thanks for the great post!

    • Jim Martin

      Thanks Tracy for your example.  It is helpful to hear you describe how it feels to deal with this person.  I want to remember this.

  • http://www.joshuarivers.net/ Joshua Rivers

    Telling your boss what went wrong, especially if it was your fault or you could have prevented it, can be difficult. But it is always the best and right thing to do. The same principle applies to every relationship we have.

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  • http://twitter.com/HomemakersDaily HomemakersDaily

    Great advice!  Wish I’d had this information a few years ago when I was working for a micromanager.  He drove me INSANE! 

  • Ernie_wenk

    Well done post Michael, appreciate your openness. As a manager over thirty years, I’ve done all I could possible to not be a micro-manager, and believe this is one of several management goals I’ve achieved. Also, I have always respected those who reported to me when they came to me first with bad news. I never chastised them for that, in fact encouraged it, and that made our relationship even stronger. It also allowed for open dialogue how to prevent the same kind of problem to occur again.

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    I have worked for one and to be honest I used to be one :(

    I would go nuts with things weren’t done the way I wanted them, I had to learn to back off and trust my team.

  • Kay

    I had such a manager once, and it was a struggle to please her, indeed. But I found that a great opportunity to practice my skills of reading people. I became a student of my manager, making it my goal to learn how she ticked. Once I figured out some of the things she consistently looked for or tried to micromanage, I was able to stay a step ahead of her. I tried to answer those particular questions before she even had the need or opportunity to ask them. That made me “on the ball” in her eyes. So not only did she stop micromanaging me to such a degree, but she also began giving me the more demanding and important projects. I earned her trust.

  • http://intentionaltoday.com/ Ngina Otiende

     Totally love this statement  “Bad news does not get better with age”. (copied and tweeted with attribution :)

    I think I have micromanaged at some point – though not to crazy extremes :).

    I agree with you – when someone performs, the boss doesn’t need to be involved on a micro-level.

    Awesome post, as always

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    I’d fine some ultra menial task and have another micro-manager lord it (for a couple of days) over the micr-manager that I was trying to break.

    And then ask him/her how they liked it.

  • Anonymous

    This is a great discussion. I’ve worked for a micro-manager for 6 years. The first 3 years I spent too much time taking it personally and trying to figure out what was wrong with me and trying to be perfect for someone who is impossible to please. During the 4th year I started keeping notes and records of situations and talking to my husband about it for a different perspective. This helped me to see that although I wasn’t “perfect” as much as I tried, there were times when it really wasn’t my fault and that I hadn’t done anything wrong. I wasn’t a “bad” employee. This was my transition year. Once I finally realized that I wasn’t the problem and I couldn’t fix the problem my boss had, I began to see how her relationship was affecting everyone else in the office. It wasn’t just me. I wasn’t the only victim. The last 2 years I have prayed long and hard for God to remove me or open doors elsewhere. I’ve updated my resume several times and applied to many places. God had a different plan. He brought in a new employee who “saw” what was happening and approached me about sliding under her supervision. She wanted to know how I felt about it before she approached my boss. To some people this may have looked like a step down, but I didn’t lose any salary nor did my job change–only the person I report to. I jumped at it. My boss called me in and asked me how I felt about it and I told her I thought it would be a good thing to try. My boss wasn’t willing to do it if I didn’t agree, but I had to be careful and not appear too over-eager about it. I didn’t want to offend my boss, since she was over everyone, including my new supervisor. Since this change, I have been so much happier. My new supervisor has stood up for me several times. As a result, I’ve been working on my attitude about my reaction to things since I still have to work closely with and for my old boss. My new supervisor is guiding me and training me to be better at work relationships and how to “manage” my old boss. As Michael said, I couldn’t change my old boss, but I could change me, and other co-workers have made comments about how much more positive I’ve been. I think this was God’s answer to my prayer. He didn’t answer it in how I was praying He would, but He did answer. He knows best. He knew that I really like my job and what I do and the benefits I have. God had more skills He wanted me to develop. Now I have no doubt that when my training is up under my new supervisor, God will open doors in His timing.

  • Jess Fernandez

    I don’t want to believe that I’m a micromanager but most situations in our office “compel” me to be one.  My staff depend on the instructions (things to do list) I give them monthly or else they don’t achieve something “significant”. I have been trying to  build their confidence by helping  them recognize their potentials but still they have not fully developed the initiative to go beyond their daily work routine. I would appreciate any tips to address this concern.  Thanks.

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  • http://dustinstout.com Dustin W. Stout

    I have worked for a micromanager– it didn’t last long. As a creative person, in a role that demands high levels of creativity, I was being micromanaged into being less creative than my supervisor. 

    How do you handle being micromanaged by someone who thinks they have your skill set, when they couldn’t be further from it?

  • http://www.michaelgholmes.com/ Mike Holmes

    I am about to send this to 3 friends being micromanaged and one friend who is a micromanager lol!

  • http://somewiseguy.com/ ThatGuyKC

    I’ve worked for micromanagers before and usually I just suffered through it until the next job came around. However, your advice is dead on. Communicating a plan, performing against it and keep him/her updated w/ any changes makes a huge difference.

    Being proactive and learning to anticipate what they want/need is big benefit.

  • http://twitter.com/Zac_Freeman Zac Freeman

    Proactivity and effective communication. The micromanager thinks that he or she is capable at doing the task, so the employee of that micromanager needs to constantly empathize with the micromanager in order to effectively communicate with them. 

    Talking with results in mind is key, because that is often what drives the micromanaging behavior. Proactive communication makes for reduced stress in the mind of the micromanager.

    We made a video caricature of a micromanaging boss in our “Leaderskilz” series on how NOT to lead.  Great example… .

  • http://twitter.com/Zac_Freeman Zac Freeman

    Proactivity and effective communication. The micromanager thinks that he or she is capable of the work they should be delegating, so the employee of that micromanager needs to constantly empathize with the micromanager in order to effectively communicate with them. 
    Talking with results in mind is key, because lack of confidence is often what drives the micromanaging behavior. Proactive communication will make for reduced stress in the mind of the micromanager.
    We made a video caricature of a micromanaging boss in our “Leaderskilz” series on how NOT to lead. Leaderskilz – Micromanager  .

  • http://www.livebeyondawesome.com/ Jen McDonough

    Michael, spot on! I learned this the hard way, but appreciated the experience as I became a more awesome communicator. It helped to realize that I was a high I and my CEO was a high C on the DISC profile. He found my abrupt way of nipping problems in the bud as offensive and I found his need to know EVERY detail as a sign of mistrust and frankly a waste of time. Over time, I learned that he wasn’t trying to drive me nuts, he was just wired this way . He too learned not to hold things in and stew about something as I wasn’t going to remember small details that had no difference on the end result.

    I have to admit, I did get a chuckle out of this as it was not only a great blog post, but brought some funny stories to mind as I thought back on it.
    Live Beyond Awesome
    Jen
    Twitter: @TheJenMcDonough:disqus 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Jen. DiSC is a great tool for teams as they seek to understand one another. Thanks for your comment.

  • Editor MBA

    Michael,

    I had a micromanaging boss a number of years ago. I used these techniques and turned an adversarial relationship into a friendly one; he still got on my nerves, but I didn’t let it get to me. I anticipated what he would ask (and ask, and ask), and often beat him to the punch. We worked well together as a result. We remain friends to this day despite the fact I was laid off from that job.

    I currently have a boss who is much more involved in micromanaging, and these techniques have not worked so far. I still believe your tips are right-on, however, and would recommend them to anyone dealing with a micromanaging boss.

  • TheMicroManager

    What happens when you are a micro manager due to the team dynamics. Believe me, I don’t wake up every morning thinking “How am I going to micro manage our team today?” If anything it gives me more work because not only I have to keep my own “TODO” list but also those that work under/with me. Specially those that do not care much about deadlines but we (team leads) are still responsible to meet those target dates. 

    In the scene on the video, if the employee had put the cover that was requested this scene would have never happen, instead of laughing about how bad the micro manager is, looking at the scene from the other angle I would say that weather the manager wanted or not now he had to go and remind the employee about his reports. Yeah, they are not due until the next day but I doubt he had put the cover if he had not micro managed. 

    I don’t think they are micro managers, i think they are bad workers that need to be reminded constantly of what they have to do and are those who didn’t learn since they were kids that they need to do things right away when they are told to do something rather than the parent having to tell them over and over and over. So, how do they justify this behavior? They complain about the mangers and call them “Micro-managers”

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      If you have these kind of people in your organization, what does it say about your leadership? Forgive me if this sounds harsh. A certain amount of monitoring and follow-up is appropriate. But if you have to micro-manage people to this level, then either your skills in hiring or training need to be improved.
      I would use this as an opportunity to grow your own leadership. Being a micro-manager is stressful for you and miserable for your people. I have never seen a micro-manager succeed over the long haul. It just doesn’t scale. Thanks.

      • TheMicroManager

        Great Point Michael, I agree with you that everything starts from the top down and I don’t mind you being harsh at all. I believe that if we want to learn, move forward, and grow we need to be able to take praise as well as criticism and I welcome it.

        Saying that, you are correct. I (and as others) have long noticed that some people are being hired or promoted to fill out the empty spots rather than fulfill a position which in the end hurts part of the company. I say part of the company because as you know once something has been promised to a client it has to be fulfilled even if some people have to carry the extra weight needed to fulfill such requirement and this is where team leads become micro managers. 

        Are you doing a follow up post to help us micromanagers grow on leadership? I for once wanted to grow on that aspect but as you pointed out it becomes stressful and you get tired of it. Like I said earlier, I do not wake up every morning thinking of who I have to remind about their “TPS Reports” that day and at the same time I can’t let our company and department fail for a few employees that are not willing to step up to the plate and grow.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Thanks for you teachability. With regard to following up with additional posts … pretty much my entire blog is about leadership. There are some posts in the archive about hiring. That’s where I would start. Just search for them in the search box. Thanks.

  • Sandyl

    Yes, I have worked for micromanagers and an observation that I have made` is that many times they seem to be motivated by fear.  How we perform affects their bottom line.  Thank you for this insightful post, I was instinctively doing part of it, but you’ve challenged me to work on some areas!  Thanks!

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  • Jenniffer

    Hello am Jeniffer  from UK i wanna thank Dr Paloma for what he has done for me at first i taught he was scam but until i just decided to follow my mind.i told him that my ex lover which i loved with all my heart left me for another all Dr Paloma did was to laugh and said he will be back to me in 3days time i taught he was lying on the 3rd day my ex called me and said he wanna see me,i was shocked then he came over to my place and started begging that he was bewitched,immediately i forgives him and now we are back and he his really madly in love with me.All thanks to Dr Paloma he indeed wonderful incise you wanna contact him here his is private mail palomaspelltemple@yahoo.com   

  • Loknar27

    If you are managing a professional, salaried employee communicate your expectations and provide the deadline. After you have accomplished that it is more productive to simply get out of the way. Micromanagement rarely ends well for either party.

  • Mc Lain3y

    Working for a micro manager drives me absolutely insane. I can’t figure out how people get to these positions if they don’t know how to manage people. Having said that, I tried to push back and got fired. With my previous boss, I was a superstar and that is a reflection of her ability to manage people.

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  • Alejandro Jose David

    I really like the last part of this article. I work as an assistant manager of a fast food chain and my store manager is exactly like that. I’m still fairly new having only three months into my job and my manager thinks I was hiding the fact that one day I was late in turning on the fryers. Granted only one customer couldn’t get fries, but I promptly took care of the situation and just continued my day, not letting it hold me back and never repeated the mistake. However, in his eyes, he thinks because I never told him that it happened that I was intentionally trying to keep it from him. I personally just felt that it didn’t make enough impact to even bother bringing up. Micromanagers definitely have some serious trust issues and this fact is becoming more and more apparent.