How to handle a boss who micromanages | Women's Agenda

How to handle a boss who micromanages

I loved the article on perfectionism last week. But what do you do when your boss is the perfectionist? Since I decided that done was better than perfect, I run into more conflict with my boss, who would rather have me stressed to the max, working down to the wire, making constant tiny revisions, to deliver the ‘best’ product (except I’ve learned I don’t really deliver my best product when I’m stressed). 

How do I manage a micromanaging boss?

Sarah, Marketing Manager


Being a perfectionist is one thing. Managing a perfectionist boss, who likes to micromanage you to within an inch of your life, is another thing altogether.

The first thing that comes to mind, is what change has there been in your work since you decided that done was better than perfect? Has the quality of your work declined? Has your output lessened? Are you missing deadlines or starting to deliver inferior work?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then your manager may have legitimate reason for concern. If this is the case, you need to take another look at what you are committing to and how you are delivering it.

If the quality of your work has not changed, yet the intensity from your boss has gone up a few notches, then something else is going on.

While there are lots of different reasons why a person micromanages, the key driver is often fear. Fear that they won’t get the job done, fear that there will be mistakes, fear they will miss deadlines, or just fear that they simply won’t be good enough. This fear becomes the driving force that influences all of their decisions, behaviours, and of course, how you get treated while you are getting the job done.

You mentioned in your email that you like your boss and that you have a good relationship (when she is not driving you mad). I would try and have a meeting with her to review you work, and try and get an understanding from her about the standard she expects, and the timelines for your current projects.

You might also take one or two examples of recent work where she has badly micromanaged you and where tensions have been high, and discuss where her expectations had not been met. If they actually had been met, yet there was stress in the process, I would ask her what you could do to assure her along the way that the deliverables would be met to her standard. You are trying to get at what is driving her reaction to you, where it did not exist before.

Part of managing a boss like this is setting boundaries with her, and earning trust. It is also about allaying her fear that things will be missed. Make sure you are on the same page, with the same level of expectation, and let her know that you are just as committed as she is to the outcome she is trying to drive. Hopefully then she will give you the space you need to get the job done, and thrive while doing it.

If this isn’t the case and you have done all you can to work within her requirements and she still is not satisfied, then you need to think about whether this is an environment in which you can succeed and thrive. If it’s not, then it may be time to think about your options.

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