When you start a new job, it's normal to have your boss check up on you and double-check your work to make sure that you are doing things correctly. At the very least, she will touch base with you verbally or via email to ensure that everything is going smoothly.
But what if your boss is always double-checking your work, even when it's not appropriate because you are a high-level employee? Or if she is doing it after you have been at your job long enough -- and proven yourself enough -- to earn her trust and some loosening up on the reins?
If your boss is a micromanager, here are three things you can reasonably do without jeopardizing your job or seeming like you're undermining her authority.
1. Identify why it's happening. Does your boss micromanage everyone or just you? This is an important question because it will help you decide on your game plan. If your boss is only micromanaging you, then you may have to improve your work habits. If your boss tends to micromanage everyone, then it is just his personality. This step can help you to learn how to anticipate his needs and head off the nitpicking at the pass.
Try following these action tips. First, for one week, observe your boss with your co-workers. Does he tend to double-check their work, not like their ideas or redo their projects as well? Does he only focus on you? Second, that same week, log the input you receive from your boss, including the projects or tasks he tends to nitpick about and the frequency, time of day and day of the week. See what patterns you notice. Is it after a certain meeting that stresses him out that you typically hear from him? Does he focus on a certain task you perform that you tend bungle? Analyze what's happening, including whom he targets, how often and when and what tasks he focuses on.
If you notice that it happens at a certain time of day, provide your boss with an update an hour in advance of that time. When it occurs before or after a specific meeting, help prepare your manager in advance of that meeting for whatever he needs to report on. If you have an open enough relationship with your boss, ask what bothers him about that project.
2. Understand when it's only you. Think about why your boss focuses in on you. Pay closer attention to your work habits. Do you tend to turn in projects late or make mistakes you consider small that are important to your boss? Do you tell your boss that you will do things, but don't provide a deadline, which results in your boss breathing down your neck instead of waiting until you can reasonably complete them? Are you going through a tough time in your personal life -- perhaps something that would distract you from your job? This self-examination will help you to see if you can improve in your work. This will also help you to feel less frustrated with your boss. In some cases, he may be a micromanager. In other cases, he is only trying to make sure that everything under his supervision is completed correctly. Before you throw in the towel and decide to walk out the door, take a moment to evaluate whether there are improvements you can make. Examine whether there are patterns you can identify and better manage.
Try following these actions tips. First, for two full days, take a few minutes after each task or project to check your work as if you were your own supervisor. Are there areas where you can improve, be more efficient or communicate more effectively with your boss about your progress and timeline? Consider approaching your boss as well. Let him know that you are implementing a plan for being more effective at work, share the details of your plan and ask if that will help him. This will also help you do things the way your boss prefers, which will make him feel more comfortable.
3. Take action when it's everyone. You may complete the first part of the action step above and find that you are doing everything in your job correctly. And you may have discovered that your boss micromanages everyone. Now what can you do?
First, do what's important to your boss. You may be wondering what things are important to your boss, whether it's a recurring project you work on or a one-time task. If you're unsure, ask her. Set up a time to talk with your boss about what tasks you currently have that are a priority in her eyes and what kinds of projects are priorities, so you have a sense of what you need to accomplish first on a regular basis. You can ask her to let you know when a project needs to take priority over another when she assigns them to you. Don't just assume you know. Many times this can help alleviate the tension you feel when your boss is constantly asking you if you have completed the task she assigned you 20 minutes ago. If you know it is a priority, you can complete the task first and avoid all the questioning.
Give your boss updates. Bosses who micromanage love updates, so give them whenever possible and within reason. For example, if you have been given a project this morning, send a quick email saying, "I have started on the project we discussed this morning. I anticipate having it done by 4:30 p.m." Or, like with the tip above, provide or ask for the deadline in advance. Keep in mind that if you give your micromanaging boss a deadline, you must be able to deliver. Let them know that you want to build your level of trust with them and ask at what points during a given project they would like updates. Also keep in mind that we teach people how to treat us. If you provide your boss with more frequent updates, do it in a way and at a frequency that enables you to still do your work without interruption but that doesn't encourage them to micromanage you even more. Having a proactive conversation about the issue will help you know how to strike this balance.
Ask for some space in a respectful and productive way. If you feel comfortable with this step, try telling your boss that when it comes to certain projects, you can complete them better without a watchful eye. Talk about what your boss needs from you to feel more comfortable with your work, your deadlines and try to uncover the root of her micromanaging ways. Come up with a way you can work together more effectively without driving each other crazy, using proactive updates, deadlines and regular meetings where you can discuss priorities and the status of projects all at once. Go into the meeting with a plan and suggestions for improvement. Suggest trying out the new system for a month to see how it works and meet to assess the situation and adjust it after that time frame.
Ideally, putting these tips into practice will help you to be more effective at your job and have a better working relationship with your boss. However, if after you try all of these tips for a reasonable amount of time, and your boss continues to suffocate you, it may be time to look for a new job. If that is the case, at least you learned some new skills and tools to manage your work and supervisor more effectively.
Hallie Crawford is a certified career coach, speaker and author from Atlanta whose coaching company, HallieCrawford.com, helps people identify their ideal career path, navigate their career transition and nurture their careers. Her team of coaches works with people of all ages, has clients worldwide and has helped thousands of people achieve their career goals. She is also regularly featured as a career expert in the media, including CNN, Fox Business News, The Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger and Forbes.com.
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