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5 Ways to Survive a Micromanaging Boss

It can be exasperating to work for a micromanager. You know that manager—the one who expects you to perform your job “her way,” or who leaves zero room for creativity? What typically happens with this kind of boss is that employees stop taking the initiative because they are afraid of making a mistake.

Is your manager sabotaging your career?

What about you? Are you trying to move your career or business forward or are you hanging back and trying to avoid mistakes? E. Tory Higgins, a professor of psychology at Columbia University, and his colleagues have been studying the difference in life approaches: considering either the promotion focus (moving forward, growth) or the prevention focus (caution, security).
Having a micromanaging boss can drive employees to be risk-averse, slower to respond and unlikely to visit the land of creativity, hope and opportunity. More than 30 years of research shows a strong correlation between how much control an employee feels at work and that employee’s degree of performance, effort, motivation and satisfaction. Researchers have also found that a greater sense of control serves as a buffer against other situations that stress people out at work.

What can you do about it?

If your micromanaging supervisor is interfering with your career goals and job satisfaction and you believe he or she is unlikely to change, you may want to consider changing departments at your company or looking for more rewarding work elsewhere. However, if you love most aspects of your job and want to try to make it work, try these five options, below, before you get so frustrated that you quit or say something you regret.

1. Be your own control freak

Focus on what’s within your sphere of control. Look hard. It’s there. It may be in how you organize your day or in how you answer the phone.

2. Focus on outcome

When taking on new assignments, ask, “What will success look like?” If you are clear on the outcome, then how you accomplish it can be up to you.

3. Be proactive

Micromanagers don’t like surprises. Check in periodically to share progress and provide drafts.

4. Goals and roles

Have a conversation with your manager as part of a regular one-on-one meeting. What are the goals of a particular project and what role would the manager most like you to take on?

5. Get specific

Micromanagers rarely recognize that they are micromanaging. Bring up one specific concern and one specific action you’re requesting. Try: “On this new project, I’ll be able to do my best work if we agree on the parameters, and then I work to meet them. I’d like to give this my best shot, and I will ask for help if I need it.”

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Margaret H. Greenberg and Senia Maymin are organizational consultants, executive coaches and authors of Profit from the Positive: Proven Leadership Strategies to Boost Productivity and Transform Your Business. For more information about Senia and Margaret, go to ProfitFromThePositive.com or find them on Facebook


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