Two people in lab coats and goggles working on a project.

Dealing with a Micromanager

I could tell that things were not going well when I saw Justin walk into our local Panera’s. “Hey buddy, let me buy you a coffee and you can tell me all about it.†We hardly sat down when he started to pound on his boss. “My new boss, he’s such an idiot! Totally incompetent!â€

“Ok Justin, how about if you give me your boss’s name and let’s talk about this.†I said. “His name is Mike and he has been making my life miserable these past two months. I really feel like throwing in the towel.†Justin replied. I asked: “So what is this guy doing that so upsets you?†Justin snapped back: “He’s a total micromanager. He must ask me 6 times a day, what I’m working on. I can’t breath anymore.†“A micromanager?†I replied. “I’ve had a couple of those over the years. I feel your pain.â€

“So let me ask you this, Justin: Have you taken the initiative to talk to Mike about the situation? Does he even know that you are unhappy with the way he is managing you?†Justin came back: “No, because I’ve been doing my best to try to avoid him.†“It doesn’t sound like there is a whole bunch of trust built up between the two of you, is there?†I asked. “You can say that again.†Justin answered.

“Justin, you do realize that Mike won’t be your boss for ever, don’t you? Either you will be moved or he will get a different job.†“And, you’d like to stay with this company, right?†Justin replied: “Sure, I believe I have a great career ahead of me at Venture and if it weren’t for Mike, the thought of leaving wouldn’t have even crossed my mind.â€

“I’m happy to give you my 2 cents worth if you want it. I am a bit older, you know, and I’ve had a few micromanagers that I had to deal with. What do you think?†I stated. “Bill, that’s totally cool. I wouldn’t have puked my guts out to you if I didn’t want some wise counsel.†Justin affirmed.

“Fine, then here are a few things you might want to think about and maybe even act upon. “ I said. “To start with, I’d try to cut Mike some slack. You don’t know the guy, his history or if he’s dealing with his own issues, right? Justin agreed. “Micromanagers are usually under some kind of pressure and right now you don’t know where that pressure is coming from. Maybe Mike’s boss is a real jerk or Mike is totally insecure in his new role.†“Ok, I get that,†Justin said, “but that’s not my problem.†“Oh yes it is, my friend, because your on the receiving end of Mike’s pressure.†I countered.

“Justin, let me ask you this: do you see any patterns around Mike’s micromanagement behavior? Is he this way earlier in the morning, when he comes from a meeting with his boss or a client?†  Justin thought a bit about this and then said: “Usually it’s more toward the end of the day. He wants to know what work or projects have been completed and what’s still pending.†I replied: “So would it be possible to give him a quick e-mail, say at 5 pm, and give him this information? I’m not talking about a 3 page report but rather 3-5 bullets.†“Sure, that wouldn’t be hard to do.†Justin agreed.

“I really think Mike just wants to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks.†I said. “Let’s see how he responds to these daily updates. Odds are, he’ll gain confidence in you and realize that you’ve got all bases covered.â€

“And here’s my last piece of advice for today: You’ve got to seek the conversation with Mike. Don’t avoid him. If he is doing something that is really getting under your skin, then you’ve got to man up and let him know about it. But do it in a nurturing way. Don’t be a jerk about it. You never know, he might even thank you for the feedback.â€

“Hey, Justin, I’ve got to run. I hope that was helpful. Next time you’re buying the coffee!â€