5 Tips to Improve Your Relationship With Your Micromanaging Boss

These Tips Will Help You Make This Most Important Relationship Successful

Micromanaging boss looking through her magnifying glass at stressed-out employee

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Ideally, your boss would give you general guidance when you needed it, answer questions when you have them, and give you a nice year-end bonus. But unfortunately, that's not how many managers operate. Sometimes you can end up with a micromanaging boss who is constantly looking over your shoulder, driving you nuts.

Most micromanaging bosses aren't bad people, just misguided managers. You can use these five tips to improve your relationship with your boss.

Evaluate If the Constant Corrections Are Necessary

While being constantly corrected and painstakingly instructed can seem ridiculous, sometimes you need it. Does your boss constantly ask you what you're doing because you're frequently surfing your social media accounts? Does she ask you to explain your plans for the day, because you have a tendency to chat with your coworkers more than you should?

The honest truth is some employees need to be tightly managed because they don't stay on task, don't do quality work, and don't perform up to the level their paychecks would suggest. If your boss is constantly on your case, evaluate our own work habits and see if you need to make some corrections. If you're missing deadlines or forgetting to respond to emails, your boss is justifiably micromanaging you.

Figure out What Is Most Important to Your Boss

Often, a micromanager focuses on things that you don't think are important—and, in reality, may not be important. A boss might criticize the width of the lines on your spreadsheet, or want you to put your office supplies in a certain order on your desk.

These things are utterly unimportant to you, but they are extremely important to your boss. You can fight these things and remain miserable, or you can say, “You know what? It doesn't matter how this table is formatted, so I'll just do it the way the boss wants.”

It may be ugly, but in things that don't really matter, you defer to the boss. Some bosses have weird quirks, and the sooner you can figure them out, the easier your life will be. You may be loathed to do this—after all, it takes away from your individuality, but the reality is you were hired to do a job, not to be yourself.

Now, for super important things, pushing back makes sense, but for the little things, just give in.

Don't Just Ask 'What' but 'How'

Micromanagers often care about how things get done, not just that they do get done. Save yourself a boatload of pain by asking “how” at the beginning of the project. It may be extremely clear to you that the proper steps are A, B, C, and D, but if you ask your micromanager, she might reply, “A, C, D, B.”

Now, of course, you should push back (gently) if that's ridiculous, but if it's just different than what you would normally do, go ahead and do it her way. After you've proven your success, you can try one of the steps above to ask if you can manage how on your own. Ask for a bit more freedom.

Sometimes micromanagers supervise work closely because they are absolutely convinced that if they stop directing everything you do, you'll stop working. They often prove this because employees become so disheartened while working for them, that they do just give up and sit there when no one is giving step by step instructions.

Managers Can Often Be Convinced If You Can Demonstrate Competence, so Ask

Start with approaching your boss with this example of competence:

Jane, I really appreciate the mentoring you've given me since I started, but I think I'm ready for a bit more responsibility. Instead of meeting with you every day to discuss my project, can we have a weekly meeting? If I run into problems, I'll come to you straight away, but I think I'm ready to fly on my own.

Notice that you're not just saying, “Get off my back, you crazy control freak!” You're thanking your boss for mentoring you, which makes your boss think it's her good management skills that have brought you to this point. Yes, this is sucking up. Yes, it works.

If your boss agrees, you need to work harder than you've ever worked before in your life. Don't mess up; you only get one chance. Pay special attention to the annoying little quirks that your boss thinks are important.

Be Honest

Sometimes your micromanaging boss is unaware that she's being too overbearing. This is especially the case with new managers who aren't comfortable in a management role. The one thing a new manager knows she's supposed to do is to tell employees what to do and then follow up with them. Such a boss may be inadvertently micromanaging you. So speak up! Following are examples of communicating with your boss:

Jane, I'm a pretty independent worker. For instance, I did [successful project A] and [successful project B] largely on my own. It's one of the main reasons I was promoted to this role.
I'm starting to feel a bit smothered when I have to copy you on all of my emails and provide you with frequent updates. I work a lot better when I have a bit of freedom.

Your boss may tell you thanks for letting them know. Don't ever frame your desire for less supervision as you're bad, but rather as a unique need that you have. Bosses are often interested in doing what will bring about the best results and this area is no exception.

Overall, don't just give up when you meet a micromanager. Try a few of these tips, work hard, and see if you can't resolve the problem on your own.