Teri Haynes: Leading the micromanager


Micromanagement is defined as controlling every part, however small, of an activity or enterprise.  Micromanagers feel a need to control information, approve every activity, be copied on all e-mails, and interject themselves in employees’ tasks to be sure the work is done exactly their way.

A micromanager is one of the worst and most destructive leaders.  This leadership style robs employees of the opportunity to learn and grow, to advance within the company, to problem solve, and to use creativity for improvement.  It demoralizes the team and makes the job boring.  It causes unhealthy stress on the employees.  This leadership style slows down productivity and communication and increases turnover, all of which waste money and time for the organization.

Like all of us, no leader is perfect.  If your boss is a micromanager, you may be actively seeking employment elsewhere.  However, if you enjoy your co-workers and like the company you work for, there is a better solution.

The answer is to lead up.  Leading up is learning what your boss’s weaknesses is that interferes with you being your best.  Once you identity the weakness, determine how you can supply what your boss needs to minimize the weakness thereby improving your job.

For a micromanager, the need to know everything indicates a lack of trust in the staff.  Knowing everything enables the micromanager to feel sure the work is done correctly.  Lack of trust is the underlying weakness.  The task then is to supply trust.  Remember, trust is earned, not given.

Earning trust from a control freak means you must over-communicate.  Describe what you will be working on, the people you will collaborate with, the steps to take that day, and how much time you plan to spend on your projects.  Get this information to your boss before she/he has the chance to badger you.  Be sure to submit the information with a humble introduction such as “I know it is important to provide you with status updates of the projects you have assigned to me.  With your permission, I will e-mail you each morning and afternoon to keep you informed.”

Lead your boss with the most powerful tool you have – influence.  If you try to lead a boss using authority or manipulation or try to put the “bad boss” in his/her place, you could lose your job.  Leading up requires tact, patience, respect, and a lot of humility.

Although it takes time, it works because you provide exactly what the micromanager needs.  The bonus is you feel better because you have taken initiative.  Consistency is key.  After a while, the micromanager will trust that you will communicate the details and ultimately, the micromanagement behaviors will improve.  Teach your co-workers this solution and you will have become a leader.

Teri Haynes | Business Interactions, LLC | Improving human interactions in business

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