At some point in your career you may come across that manager — the one who’s constantly looking over your shoulder, double checking and triple checking your work.
While getting feedback is great, supervisors who micromanage can be overbearing and disrespectful, making you feel as though they do not trust your abilities. Alan Chapman, who runs businessballs.com, says this behaviour is due to a lack of trust that is born of insecurity on the part of the supervisor.
“It’s about the micromanager, not you, so think about how you can meet their need for security and assurance — provide details of plans, timescales, measures, and agreed checkpoints,” he says. “It’s a matter of managing the delegation method in reverse.”
Sound complicated? Basically managing is their weak spot, an insecurity and therefore trying to anticipate their requests is your best bet. I had a manager who thought everything she wanted was urgent. She would come by and expect me to drop everything else I was doing, which confused my organization for that day.
“Younger people are less likely to be trusted by an insecure boss, but again it’s not the main issue,” says Chapman. “A young person can upwardly manage just as easily as an older person can. It’s all about dealing with people and meeting their emotional needs.”
Why are micromanagers the way they are? Chapman says there are a number of possibilities, such as: The manager does not have enough to do; the work genuinely carries a high degree of risk that the manager dare not expose to failure; the subordinate could have made mistakes in the past causing the manager to overreact.
But if you are currently working with a micromanager, what can you do to change the situation?
“The onus is on the subordinate to understand what is causing it and then meet those needs accordingly,” says Chapman. It’s about understanding the needs of the micromanager and then finding ways to meet them.
“Basically if your boss cannot delegate properly then you have to help them do it. In a way you become a virtual boss of your boss — you help them to manage you better. That’s what management is about — helping people to do their jobs better.”