Your most important relationship at work is the one you have with your boss, and it is this relationship that can make or break your job satisfaction, particularly in organisations with a set hierarchy in which the supervisor bears responsibility for the work of others. While the quality of your work certainly matters, it’s the actions supervisors take, and how they behave, that sets the tone for the relationship.
That said, how you show up for work and interact with (or react to) your boss affects your work experience too. Building a professional skill set that includes agility in working with a variety of leadership styles will set you on a path for career success — and flexibility and adaptability are especially important when your boss is a micromanager. It takes far more skill and professionalism than simply working for a boss who affords you autonomy, creativity, and support.
Micromanagers are everywhere. If you haven’t already, you will likely work for one at some point in your career. Identifying strategies and techniques to work more effectively with them will serve you well.
Accept that micromanagement is a style and not a personal flaw
The way in which a manager leads their team is referred to as style, and depending on the book or article, you may find as many as 15 documented leadership styles. One is always described as directive and autocratic. These managers leave little room for the employee to make their own decisions, monitor work at close range and require detailed progress reports, and embrace a belief that the manager has all the answers. This is micromanagement. Right or wrong, it’s a legit leadership style, and many leaders are promoted through using it, which validates the style and makes it one that is still perpetually used. Is it the best one for getting results and fostering workplace wellbeing? Not at all. But it is also not inherently wrong to employ.
This style is a culmination of experience, values, knowledge, skills, and the environment (including the stress levels) in which you work. So when your boss sends weekly email reminders before a deadline or interjects in email strings asking about trivial details, they are flexing their style. It is not a personality flaw, nor are they necessarily a bad manager or a bad person.
Recognising that your boss is doing the best they can with the experience, values, skills, and knowledge they have while in that environment, can keep your annoyance and frustration at bay. Step back and say to yourself “This is their style, they’re not a bad person.” Accepting this can help you keep a clear head and be effective and productive in your day.
Ask your boss what works for them — and what doesn’t
Understanding your manager’s style is one of the best ways to adjust to it. At the same time, plenty of bosses are terrible at setting expectations and communicating their preferences so if you work for someone who seems to have these tendencies, have a conversation about it. This will inform you of how to work with them effectively. Here are some questions to consider:
- When is your boss at their best, mornings, afternoons, or evenings?
- What stresses, annoys, motivates, and inspires them?
- What pressure are they under? What impact does their boss or the leaders above them have?
- How do they like to receive information? Bullets points or paragraphs?
- Are they process focused and like to know all the steps taken or are they results focused and prefer to not know details?
If it’s awkward to set up a meeting to discuss these questions, consult with your peers. Others on the team may know the answers already. Or, work in the questions in when the opportunity arises — if the boss is talking about the pressures they are under and what it’s like to work with the leaders above them, you can ask how to best meet their expectations without sounding intrusive.
Correct your behaviour if you encourage micromanagement
Most of the time, micromanagement is not about you and whether your boss trusts you. It is about what your boss needs to feel successful. They may believe that if they know all the details, they’ll be a better manager. It’s misguided but, again, it’s usually not about trust. Additionally, if they have led this way their entire career, been promoted, and have found success, their style won’t change. When your annoyance goes up, remind yourself “This isn’t about me. This is about what they feel they need to feel successful.”
But what if it is about you? Has your boss assigned you work, and you have delivered it late or not at all? Are you slow to respond to their emails? Does your boss ask you to do something one way and you do it another? Do you resist keeping your boss informed? Do you gossip or talk bad about your boss to others? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be encouraging micromanagement and it, indeed, might be about trust. Correct this.
Many people find that when they start to adapt to a micromanager’s expectations and preferences, the leash starts to loosen. The micromanager backs off a bit. These are the cases when it is about trust so that means, building it back is your next step.
Working for micromanagers is quite common. It usually results in a poor job experience but there are ways you can soften it and make it more palatable. This skill set will serve you well and it is for situations where there are aspects of your work that you like and don’t want to leave. But if these tips are unsustainable and working with your micromanager compromises your wellbeing, then it may be time to go out and find another boss to work for.
The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans
Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.