Makarios Consulting Blog

Manage the Micromanager: The Art of Managing ‘Up’

Micromanagers are the worst.

Don’t take our word for it: 60% of employees surveyed in the 2017 State of the American Workplace report said they can’t do their job because their boss is too busy doing it for them. This according to a recent Forbes article written by Navalent Managing Partner Ron Carucci on how employees can help their bosses stop micromanaging.

Time and again in our Makarios leadership workshops, we hear this question: How do I manage ‘up’? Translation: my boss is a micromanager and I need to figure out a work-around so I can do my job successfully.

Micromanagers manage to frustrate their team members to no end – even to the point of forcing competent employees to leave the company. Fortunately, there is help for the micromanaged! We have developed several effective steps to get your boss to ‘buy in’ to the idea that your success ensures their success:

  • Set boundaries. Simply put, you need to understand how your boss defines your role and whether his or her expectations differ from yours. It’s helpful to create a chart with tasks, and expected deadlines and outcomes.

Takeaway: Putting everything on the table with specific expectations eliminates confusion. If you find your boss changing the rules midstream, you can refer to the document and revise expectations as needed.

  • Invite solutions. Ask open-ended questions that solicit ‘advice’ from your boss. For example, pose questions such as “What does success on this project look like to you?” or “What authority do I have to make decisions?” or “How would you like me to provide feedback to you?”

Takeway: By putting the ball in your boss’s court, you’re showing her you respect her feedback, and also getting the answers you need.

  • Provide updates. Nothing is more effective than predictable feedback. If you and your boss agreed on a weekly or bi-weekly feedback update, make sure you stick to it – and then some.

Takeaway: Oftentimes, ‘over-reporting’ satisfies – and even serves to discourage – micromanagers.

Remember that micromanagers often have a difficult time letting go of the very tasks that helped them rise to a higher managerial level. If you understand how your boss defines success on a project (or, more generally, in your job), gain clarity on your boss’s needs for information and regular communication, and set boundaries on your authority in a collaborative discussion with your boss, you can reduce the micromanaging behavior that is frustrating you.