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Bosses Behaving Badly
Denise Dudley, Ph.D., SkillPath Co-founder

February 1, 2012

Many managers don’t even realize they’re doing it. And those who do probably won’t admit to it. I’m talking about the stifling and extremely inefficient management style known as micromanaging.

Micromanagers just can’t let go of the details and, as a result, drive their employees and peers batty with their nit-picking, overzealous personalities.

If you work for or with a my-way-or-the-highway manager, you have a very real problem on your hands. A micromanager can chip away at your self-confidence, deplete your motivation and sabotage your success. It’s like living in a prison—with no way out.  

Micromanagers over-control for different reasons—and usually none have a thing to do with you. It’s all about them. Their insecurity, fear of failure or need to assert their power and authority. Whatever the reason, micromanagers are rampant in the workplace: A recent workplace survey suggested four out of five professionals have experienced micromanaging first-hand. A good example: The late Steve Jobs. But what worked for the Apple visionary may not be working in the world you live in.   

You can be pretty sure you have a micromanager on your hands if he or she:

  • Obsesses over every detail—like the margins of your memos
  • Tells you precisely how to do everything
  • Requires an elaborate number of approvals
  • Can’t—or won’t—delegate
  • Discourages you from making your own decisions

What to do? You’re not going to change the stripes on a zebra

However, you can minimize at least some of the control freak’s suffocating behavior using these tactics:

  • Speak up—carefully and professionally. Some micromanagers are oblivious to what they’re doing and need to be told.
  • Follow up any assignment with an e-mail that clarifies the instructions, expectations and timeline your boss just gave you
  • Gain your manager’s confidence by taking on projects you know you will succeed at
  • Give your boss regular progress updates—so he or she doesn’t have to continually ask—and meddle
  • Figure out your manager’s agenda and then—together—work toward it