In many organizations or project teams, it’s common for people to complain about being micromanaged. In other words, they resent the level of supervision given by their manager.
Micromanaging can express itself in different ways. The manager might double-check the team member’s work or ask for constant status updates and do so more often as important deadlines get closer. They might even prescribe how you should act / behave in various situations.
I first experienced this more than 25 years ago at my first summer job during university. I was working in the Accounts Payable department of the Husky Upgrader in my hometown of Lloydminster, Saskatchewan.
The company would receive lengthy, detailed invoices from vendors, and my job was to go around and confirm what had been delivered. The number of scissor lifts or welders or tool lockers on the invoice had to match what we had been billed.
Being 17 years of age, my attention to detail wasn’t always what my manager would have liked. This led her to feel the need to stay on top of my work, which I didn’t appreciate.
The good news is, it’s an issue that can be readily addressed. My belief is that micromanaging is really about TRUST, specifically, a lack of trust. Once trust is established, the manager will feel less need to get involved and everyone will be happier.
If you are tired of being micromanaged? Here are five ideas you can try.
1. Keep your word.
What’s the first thing you can do to earn trust? Do what you say you’re going to do, consistently. Delivering as promised nine times out of 10 isn’t going to cut it. People will remember the one time you didn’t as much as the nine times when you did.
2. Ensure you’re meeting their expectations.
Often, the cause of micromanaging isn’t that the work itself was badly done. It’s that your supervisor had an expectation for the outcome that you didn’t know about. Find out what their expectations are. In the early days (or now), you can do this by saying, this is how I’m planning to handle this task. Does that work for you? That will clear up a lot of potential misunderstanding.
3. Enlist the help of your manager.
Now that you understand your manager’s expectations, you know what to do. Even so, you might encounter obstacles along the way that you’re not sure how to deal with. By communicating with your manager, you can receive guidance on how to overcome these obstacles, and get the results in line with their expectations.
4. Do it their way, at least initially.
Your manager has expectations for your work, but you naturally have your own ideas. I suggest you stick closely to how they believe things should be done. Once you’ve built some trust and understand the why behind their requests, you can work with your manager to begin putting your own stamp on the work.
5. Invite your manager to be your mentor.
You can always learn something from anyone, especially your manager. We call it honoring the room. Make it clear that you see value in their professional expertise and their role as a keeper of corporate culture and want to learn from their experience. Most people, when sincerely asked for help, are happy to give it. This gesture alone can build a lot of trust.
Back in Lloydminster that summer, I was fortunate to have an experienced and fearless professional as my manager. It took a frank discussion with her to reset my thinking. For her to let me work more independently, she needed to trust me. In order for her to trust me, quite simply, I needed to do my job better.
I might not have liked the message, but I got the message. My work improved, and my manager’s scrutiny eased off, to the point that I was invited back the following summer. To this day, I’m grateful for what she taught me.
It can be frustrating to feel you’re being micromanaged. I have done it and I have received it. As a leader and a manager, believe me when I say your manager does not want to stand over top of you dictating your every move. Quite the opposite.
Earn their trust and rewrite your story. You got this!
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