Having a micromanager is one of the most challenging experiences an executive can have in any organisation. Not only do they wish to have a hand in all your daily responsibilities, but they also wish to have complete control over you as a person. Very few executives have any autonomy to explore and creatively frame strategies on their own. A recent study revealed that almost 32% of employees leave companies owing to how dominating their manager is despite a culture of accountability. It is often compared to a dictatorship where the employees are told how and when to do their job constantly causing disruptions.
While some managers simply have micromanaging tendencies in their nature, others exercise this behavior owing to insecurity and a lack of trust.
If you are confident that your manager trusts you and your overall performance is good, how do you proceed? How can you effectively handle such managers and build a healthy culture of growth in the business to survive?
A remote experience
Priya, a 22-year-old accountant found it very hard to cope with her boss during the start of the pandemic. This was a time when remote working was the norm and she felt more productive while working at her pace from home. Her style of collaboration and overall teamwork effectiveness was not welcomed by her manager.
Her manager (or should we say micromanager) had other ideas. He believed that if his employees were out of sight, then they weren’t working hard enough. He expected frequent work updates and even created a WhatsApp group for employees to clock in and out daily.
“He would ask us to give a list of tasks to be completed at the start of the day. At the end of the day, we had to provide a work report with all these tasks done. He would question us repeatedly if we didn’t complete even a single task out of that list. I believe he would dedicate almost two hours every evening to check and cross-check our work updates,” a very frustrated Priya said.
The manager exerted his business acumen skills by tracking people’s work progress once every five minutes. Everyone had to install Hubstaff, a productivity app that would record clock-in and clock-out timings. It would take screenshots of people’s computer screens every five minutes to show employers what they were working on. It would stop tracking time if the mouse remained inactive for over two minutes.
This ended up making work even more unproductive as people worked better at their own pace. Some liked to listen to music on YouTube while working but this was put to an end as screenshots were taken and analyzed. During weekly meetings, the manager had a habit of pinpointing these employees and mocking their taste in music before the whole team.
This ultimately created a culture of insecurity and a fear of embarrassment in front of the team. It made people lose the motivation to work owing to their reduced productivity. This is the perfect example of how a micromanager can ruin the dynamics of his or her team.
How did Priya respond to this?
The first step Priya took was to communicate. She fixed a meeting with her manager and had a direct discussion with him about her work ethic. A lack of updates did not mean that no work was done as things took time. He simply had to learn to trust the process and await daily updates at a fixed time, not randomly.
“I had a direct meeting with my manager and told him I preferred to work flexibly at whatever time I chose. During this time, I didn’t want to entertain interruptions such as calls, emails, sudden texts, and meetings just to report my work progress. I was okay with daily updates, but only after I had completed some tangible work. It discouraged me as I had no updates when my manager randomly called to ask me what I had done,” she recollected strongly.
She improved her performance
Priya was an exceptional worker but to handle her manager’s style of executive leadership, she had to anticipate his requirements and get the work done ahead of time. She began to improvise and improve her performance in subtle ways. Since her manager expected daily work updates at the start and end of the day, she began to work on improving these reports.
She would consciously present a few tasks at the start of the day. She knew that she could complete much more than those tasks. When she produced work reports at the end of the day with far more tasks done, her manager felt more confident to let her work by herself. She projected herself as a reliable employee he could trust as she was both proactive and productive.
She accepted his feedback constructively
Priya realized that the more she ignored her boss’s criticism, the more feedback he felt duty-bound to give as per his business acumen skills. She decided to welcome his feedback with a smile and act on it the very same day. If he asked her to do something she was already doing, she repeated the same task in front of him
She learned what qualities he liked and began to register them in front of everyone. “I realized that getting the work done was not the most important thing to survive. It was showing how much I had gotten done. It was more important to show that I was doing something, especially something my boss had told me to do. After a week of following this, his micromanaging tendencies began to subside,” she stated.
She began to communicate priorities
Priya’s manager failed to handle low-priority projects effectively. He would hand over basic tasks to her and favored her seniors with more important tasks. This was not because Priya didn’t complete the tasks well.
It was purely because her seniors had already done these tasks before and the manager wished to assert control by following a system. It was a tried and tested method which had worked countless times before. Her manager didn’t wish to break out of the system and experiment with new employees.
Priya began to communicate her priorities to her manager directly. She noted her recent growth and positive changes frequently. Her manager would only note and call her out on her shortcomings so this was her way of making him notice the good points as well. Not only did Priya speak to her manager, but she also appealed to her seniors.
She demonstrated good performance and recollected successful projects she had been a part of to them. Once they were in her favor, she was able to leverage their support and recommendations for her teamwork effectiveness. Since her manager trusted these people, he trusted their judgment to let her experiment too.
At the end of the day, Priya’s wild card was to ensure that her boss could find no fault with her work. Once she nailed the basic tasks, she could focus on adding new ones and elevating the standard of her work.
Her strategy was to keep her boss in the loop while working on her terms and at her own pace. She predicted how her boss would respond and what quality of work he expected and lived up to it. If she knew her boss would ask her for a work update at noon, she made sure to mail her update to him an hour earlier. This ensured that her manager never needed to contact her at odd hours.
The key to handling your micromanager and building a healthy culture is to gain their trust. Then enhance this trust by completing your work ahead of time. This will ensure that you are the last person held responsible when a board meeting is called for. Another solution is to arrange agreements upfront and keep your manager in the loop.
You can share your plan of action and follow whatever was discussed. This will give you creative freedom and autonomy while also giving your manager a sense of control over what’s happening.
Click here to speak to an expert and learn more about how to create a healthy working style despite having a micromanaging leader. If all else fails, it might be time to move on and opt for more accommodating managers.