Steps To Handling Micromanagers

If you are a leader, one practice you should always follow is to micromanage your brand new team members like crazy during the 90-day probationary period. You need to do everything you can to set that person up for success. Not by asking, Did you do that? Did you do that? Instead, by inquiring if they have everything they need. Do they have any questions? Is there anything you can do to help them?

This allows you an opportunity to see if they are going to be fantastic at the job. If they struggle, you know you have a problem. If they excel, you have a winner and you need to give them the room to grow.

Once the three-month period is up, no one needs to be micromanaged. So why does it happen? As a team member, there are two things to understand about a micromanager. Either they don’t trust you or they are control freaks. It’s usually the latter. Either way, they aren’t “leading.” My definition of a leader is someone who spends their time making their team successful—not the other way around.

I was recently asked by a friend if I had any suggestions on how to deal with her micromanaging leader. And when my kicking-him-in-the-shin recommendation didn’t work, I figured I better come up with a better one.If you are being micromanaged, here are some steps you can take to resolve the issue:

  • Talk to me, Goose. – No matter the deal, you have to discuss what’s going on with your boss. Set a time when you can meet without distraction and explain what you are feeling. Keep in mind, it should be a discussion, not an attack, which will immediately put them on the defensive. Explain what you are feeling, and then be adult enough to hear their response. Remember, you might not like what they say. If the reason they are micromanaging is because of your lack of performance, then don’t be offended. Simply ask the steps necessary to fix the problem. Then, do everything you can to resolve it! If you do and they continue to micromanage, then you’re not the problem.
  • It’s not you, it’s me. Wait, no, it’s you. – If they truly are a control freak, then it is going to be a little harder to fix. In fact, you might not be able to. But at least you can bring the issue to their attention. So do it! You need to show how you have been consistent in completing whatever your KRA (Key Result Areas) is. If you’ve proven yourself to be successful, you now have the opportunity to ask that leader why they have felt the need to check up on you so often. (Don’t use the word micromanage. Believe me, it won’t get you points.) If they are mature enough to engage and explain, then request more authority. If the leader is a control freak, they probably aren’t mature   enough to have this conversation. Again, do it anyway, realizing it may take more than one meeting. Your job is to help them see you can be trusted.
  • Which side is your good side? – Finally, ask them to mentor you in this process. Yes, I know. If they’re a control freak, why would you ask them to guide you?  Simple enough: It will actually help them see they are being a control freak.

If you have gone over the process with them multiple times, they will eventually realize you are a success. That will help them let go…some.

Question: What situations have you experienced with a micromanaging leader?



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Meet Chris LoCurto


Chris has a heart for changing lives by helping people discover the life and business they really want.

Decades of personal and leadership development experience, as well as running multi-million dollar businesses, has made him an expert in life and business coaching. personality types, and communication styles.

Growing up in a small logging town near Lake Tahoe, California, Chris learned a strong work ethic at home from his full-time working mom. He began his leadership and training career in the corporate world, starting but at E'TRADE.

19 thoughts on “Steps To Handling Micromanagers”

  1. In the past I had a boss I admired greatly for various reasons. Others on the team admired him, too, but not as much as I did. As a result, it affected their perception of him when it came him “helping” us. For me, I saw him as a wise, experienced person from whom I could learn a great deal. His only draw back was he was a micromanager. Still though, I could tolerate it because he added so much value to my life overall. I don’t think I can say the same for my teammates. What do you make of this, Chris?

    1. Did he micromanage you as well? The tough thing about micromanaging past the 90 day probationary period is it means you’re not doing everything you can to grow your team and make them successful. Therefore, you’re not making yourself successful as well. The goal is to get every team member doing the things you used to do better than you so you can grow the business. If you can’t do that, you’re stuck.

      1. He micromanaged everyone. He’s a D-C personality. The thing is his intentions were good in that he made a concerted effort to transition his knowledge to the team. The way he went about it at times though grated on his people-oriented team. My understanding of his personality type is what got me through it I think. As you said, “I didn’t get him, but I got him.”

  2. Control freaks tend to be people who need power and control. Trying to involve them in your feelings will not work nor will going into too much detail. Instead, I would counsel that the team member negotiates milestones and measures that show how and when the KRA’s are to be achieved, commits to report in line with these and attempts to demonstrate how not having to spend unnecessary time with them will help the boss be more successful by having more time to spend elsewhere on the job.
    These are truly difficult people to deal with but demonstrating high quality results and letting the boss think that he’she was instrumental in the outcome usually stands a good chance of working.

  3. I think team members often believe they are being micromanaged because they work in an environment that has emerging information that often require unique and individual responses. Many people look for a work environment that is very black and white. If A happens, then B is the response.

    We found that with one of the people who works with us. She in the interview process made it a point to stress her flexibility. Her references confirmed that. Yet as the relationship grew and more varied projects came our way, she became more of A event, B response person.

    Now granted, the gentleman who I report to is something of a volatile micro manager. And this team member has had her hair blow dried by this gentleman on many occasions. But it’s .been more about when to be flexible and when to hold a line. .

    1. Flexibility is a must. But I believe you have to train a person mostly stand on their own. If you can’t do that, you either aren’t leading well, or that person needs to be put in an A event B response roll. Make sense?

      1. Absolutely. I’m working on making that transition to stand on her own.

        I think she and her former leaders interpreted our interest in working unsupervised and the flexibility needing not to be micromanaged may have been a miscommunication between parties.

        Also, I think this may have been the first time she’s been challenged on her decision making processes and discerning where she has freedom and where she doesn’t.

        And the leadership style of my manager has caused her to seek safety in a more black and white world rather than face his volatility.

        1. That raises another question, was she given responsibility without the authority to act? If so, that gives the person all the blame without the option to fix anything. If so, that would also make sense why she’s acting that way.

          1. In some areas, yes. But she took action in areas that she knew were areas that were sensitive on when and how that action can or could be taken. That’s where it’s not always black and white. And the red light/green light doesn’t reside with me but with my manager.

      2. I had an employee who was very much like this – she wanted to know EXACTLY what to say in EVERY circumstance. Very difficult when dealing with realtors and in the mortgage banking environment. I not only was not micromanaging – I did not WANT to micromanage this particular office. But because of her insecurities (I believe from a former boss who would berate or belittle her) , she needed “safety” net- that if she said something that ended up being “wrong” – she could say “But you said to say…..” My main challenge for this particular employee was to give her the security with me to know that if she did in fact give a less than perfect answer- it was ok – it was NOT the end of the world – and it did not make her a bad employee or bad person.

  4. Chris, great thoughts. I can’t help but wondering…do you think talking to your boss could potentially make things worse? I would think that the last thing a micro-manager would want to hear would to be called out on it, no matter how nicely its put. Maybe a large part of it would depend on your boss’s personality. What do you think?

    1. It always has the potential. The way I look at it is you can stay in the situation you’re in, which sucks, or you can possibly offend them with the chance of fixing things. 🙂

  5. I think everyone has worked for a control freak at least once in their life. It certainly is frustrating to work for someone like this but I have found that I can learn from someone like this. I have noticed that if you establish trust and a good track record with managers like this that over time they will cut you some slack. Once you build the relationship with them you can learn why they act this way and then speak to them in a professional manner about it.

  6. A micromanager can ruin an excellent work environment. When i consider stressfull times of my career, being under one of this managers has to right up there.
    It’s probably irrational, but when i last worked for somebody like this, i found myself starting to doubt my capability and having my self confidence getting shook up quite a bit. It got to the point where it would take me twice as long as before to complete tasks and assigments, since i had to double check everything. Then i never had the courage or didn’t know how to confront the individual (Today i would bring the issue to their attention), especially when my excellent reviews started sliding. My whole team was in the same predicament, and we took it upon ourselves to talk to HR (Probably not the best move), since a few months later the position was “eliminated”

  7. It has been many years since I worked for a “micro-manager” and it was pretty tough when I first went to work for a very successful attorney. But over time (I worked there 18 years as a paralegal), he did grow to both a) “trust” and b) release some of his “control”. We developed a system where he gave me a list each day of what he wanted accomplished on each the files by the end of the day- and then I would give him a report on each file – by the end of the day.

    When he asked in the MIDDLE of the day (which he did in the beginning) “is this or that done….” – I would respond “…it’s on the list and I’m working on the list…” or “…yes, I did do that, but we also needed this in additionan to that ….” – and he grew to trust not only that I would complete the “task” – but I would push to accomplish the overall goal. He eventually trusted me enough to not only delegate “tasks” but to delegate “responsibility”.

    I thought Simon Sinek’s inspiration for today was appropriate – “When you delegate tasks you get things done. But when you delegate responsibility, others get done much more than you ever could.”

    I try to remember this now that I am an owner and leader in the mortgage banking business and have 16 employeees. I must trust, release, and delegate responsibility.

  8. I worked for a micro-manager…
    When typing envelopes on the typewriter, I was expected to tab three times, backspace three spaces, and tab once more before typing each line. A couple times I tried to do it different…and was caught. I was made to throw away the envelope I was working on and start over the ‘correct’ way on a new envelope.
    Working in an environment like that for an extended period of time can be toxic. It crushed my confidence in my own capabilities and I was close to no longer being able to work independently.
    Fortunately, my current boss understands that is in my past and has helped me to blossom as a confident, independent employee! 🙂
    Thank God for employers who invest in their people!

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