“I Rarely Have the Chance to Do My Job” ?  I was intrigued when I first heard this from a client. “Why not?”, I thought, and then I heard the answer: “My boss does my job, her job and several other people’s. She cannot help herself. She has to control to ensure perfection!”   Ah-ha. Got it.

So many people fall on one side or the other of micromanaging; dreaded by many and relished by many. It starts as a kid. There are rewards both positive and negative that build micromanagement into a strong muscle that dominates situations. What a challenge for my client and his boss! So, what can he do about this?

We talked about several ideas

(1) Ask his boss if he is falling short

Here is why: As hard as it may seem when you already feel frustrated, there might be an issue for you to recognize in your performance. It can be difficult to communicate with someone who is oblivious about his or her faults, which describes most micromanagers’ challenge. But it can help to ask her to lay out what tasks she wants you to perform or what the results look like.  Test for awareness by clarifying expectations. And conversely, to test for expectations is to clarify awareness. How do you know that your boss is even aware how involved they are in your job? Start by getting aligned on expectations. Ask your boss to share what contribution they expect from you and what they envision the scope of your role. If their answer aligns with your views, you know they are unaware of their over-involvement. However, if their answer suggests a much narrower scope for your role than you understand, justifying their level of involvement, then the conversation you need to begin is about mismatched expectations of your job – and to understand a corrective approach.

With the best of intentions, leaders often play beneath their level, overly involving themselves in the work of those they lead. Don’t assume your boss is aware of they’re doing it, or why. Do yourself, and your boss, the favor of helping him or her get back into their own swim lane and allowing you to thrive within yours with the results you both expect.

(2) Ask his boss to give him a sense of the big picture

Supervisors are often working under pressures that we can’t anticipate. Attempt to know the gravity of his or her responsibility help to cope. Ask your boss to share as much as they will about their workload. What can you do to produce the best results for him or her?  Then tie yourself back into the conversation. Let them know how the degree of their involvement makes you feel. If you both agree on the scope of your role, discuss specific examples where the boss has been overly involved, and how you felt that work was yours to do. If you’re not aligned on the scope of your role, then share why you feel their more narrowed definition doesn’t allow you to grow and contribute to your full potential and satisfaction. And how does the mutually understood scope of your role fit into the “big picture”? Clarity might lead to agreement.

 (3) Be proactive

Once you’ve been micromanaged, a little or a lot, you can anticipate what your boss will do. I learned long ago to give my boss progress reports before he asked for them. It was easier to compose and send frequent email updates on my own timetable than to field interruptions. Regular and recurring (read: predictable) updates have a way of inoculating against unpredictable micromanagement. This can be a very positive approach to managing expectations.

(4) Don’t wait

 Letting resentments accumulate is toxic. The longer you wait, the more you are likely to start ascribing motives to your boss and concocting reasons to explain his or her behavior with observable evidence. In the case of my client, he had reached such a boiling point when he came to me, he was literally headed into the boss’s office to rage, “Why the hell do you have me here? If you want to be the damned [job he had], just take the job! But stop humiliating me with your passive-aggressive ‘suggestions’ everyone knows are really corrections.” Clearly, that would have been not helpful.

(5) When all else fails

Look for another job. There is never a guarantee your boss’ work style will improve but thoughtful preparation for future interviews can help you identify management styles before they become assets or liabilities. Further, do not take a job where your boss has not yet been hired; that generally is a hazardous situation. Move on to find the right fit.

In my client’s case, his boss confessed to being so overwhelmed she was trying to do it all and especially jobs she had done well, his.  They started to work with a coach together from their HR department and things really improved. So, this was a good ending but now you know how to prepare for your own situation.

One Comment

  • Jeffe

    Thank you. I was not sure why I felt so mad every night leaving my job. You nailed it. I am going to put some of these ideas to work right away.

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