Do you work for a micro-manager? Do you have to quit?

Becky Roehrs

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Where do micro-managers come from? And how do I know if someone is a micro-manager?

I’ve been one myself.

Even though I didn't have an official managerial role, I was asked to “manage” another employee at one of my first jobs.

  • I knew I was a Type AAA personality and wasn’t prepared to manage others.
  • It did not go well. I left the company within a year.

Unfortunately, that is not unusual.

  • Employees are often promoted to managerial roles because they are excellent technicians.
  • And like me, many new managers aren’t given any training

This sets up a nasty situation.

New managers can start with a lack of confidence. If they were good at their technical jobs, they could expect their subordinates to have the same skills.

  • When subordinates do not do things the same way as the manager, these managers can become hyper-vigilant.
  • Research has found that if you have a high-stress job and not much control over your job, it can have long-ranging effects. You can die earlier.

What can you do when you love your job, but your manager checks on everything you do, say, and email?

What Can You Do To Survive?

These seven techniques worked for me and worked for other employees and organizations as well:

  1. Find out what your boss expects.
  • Get it in writing if you can.
  • Confirm with your manager (by email) that you understand what your manager expects.

2. If your supervisor wants to check your work, let them. Don’t fight them.

  • It’s hard to do, but it will stress both of you out if you fight them. And they have the right to look at your work.
  • But make sure your work is correct and performed on time. And if you get stuck, they’ll love it if you ask them for help!

3. If your supervisor wants to do your job, let them.

  • After a while, your boss will be forced to do their job.
  • Or you can take long lunches and breaks until they are fired.

4. Communicate!

  • Keep your manager regularly informed.
  • Otherwise, they will stress out and grill you.

5. They need to feel that they are in control!

  • If you’re having problems with a project, tell your manager immediately.
  • It’s difficult for a micro-manager to trust others.
  • If you delay, it will feel like a betrayal to them.
  • And it will take a long time to rebuild the trust.

6. Once you know what upsets your boss:

  • Try to anticipate what they need.
  • And do it before they have to ask you.

7. If all else fails, document your interactions with your manager.

  • If you chat with them and it doesn’t work out, you may need to find a new job.
  • Have a calm meeting with your manager. Tell them how you feel and what you need.
  • If it doesn’t work out, you can try talking with Human Resources or upper management, but it may not help. Unfortunately, both usually back up other managers, not rank-and-file employees.

I’ve been assigned to a micromanager several times.

At one North Carolina firm, I was already managing other employees and was good at it.

  • My new manager wanted me to track what I did every day, in 15-minute intervals, and send these reports daily to her.
  • I figured I spend more time logging my activities than doing my job.

I wasn’t that happy with my job, and I was already overworked.

  • This pushed me over the edge.
  • I updated my resume and started looking for a new job.

Of course, my new manager and I didn’t get along.

Before quitting, I talked to my manager’s manager, who had made the reassignment. I had a good relationship with her, so I thought it was worth a try.

  • She agreed that my new manager was not very good at her job.
  • But she told me I should train my manager!
  • I threatened to quit. I meant it. These people were crazy.

I was assigned to a new manager.

FYI: My former manager was pressured to retire. Then the manager above her was forced to leave the firm.

Sometimes, people do get what they deserve.

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I write about local events, politics, education, relationships, online dating, and humor. Sarcastic and silly. Loves coffee and canoeing. I've been a computer programmer, outdoor guide, and taught programming at Fortune 500s and community colleges. Now, I help folks teach online.

Cary, NC
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