Managed to Death – How to Deal with Micromanagement

You hate when it happens. There it is again. Your boss pings you. He or she calls you into their office again. Every day, multiple times a day. Why can’t he just let you do your job?

Micromanaging is a strategy employed by bosses who do not trust their employees to do the job they were hired to do. It doesn’t matter what background, history, or credentials the employee has. This isn’t about the employee or their ability to do good work; it is about the boss needing to control the environment.

What is behind micromanaging?

There are several reasons why a boss may take on the behavior of a micromanager. It may be associated with pressure from above; expectations from the C-Suite that are difficult to implement. It may be related to the boss’ insecurities, a fear that the employee’s work will outshine the boss. Or this behavior may be related to the individual’s need to be in control of some aspect of their life, and tag—you’re it.

Micromanaging behavior appears as the boss dictates what work you should do and how you should do it. You are not allowed independent thought. The boss may seem to hover over you, wanting frequent updates, and may even redo your work.

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”— Steve Jobs

Most people are unaware of their micromanagement. Some may be aware, but can be so caught up in the energy of control they do not see it as a problem. There are side effects from being micromanaged, none of them good. They may include: decreased motivation, increased self-doubt for the person being micromanaged, and lower productivity on the part of employees. This toxic management style breeds employee dissatisfaction and rebellion and may result in employee resignation.

Since you know you can’t be trusted, it is not unusual for productivity to suffer, which often causes the boss to micromanage even more. This is a horrendous and destructive downward spiral.

So, what can an employee do to shift these circumstances?

Understand outside forces may be behind your boss’ behavior. Knowing it not about you may offer you peace of mind . . . own it is not about you. Knowing your boss’ behavior most likely has nothing to do with your proficiency on the job can help you to feel a bit better about yourself, too.
Request time to have a conversation with your boss. Tell your boss how his behavior makes you feel and let him know you don’t feel free to do your job, to be creative, and to function at your best. This is not about blaming him, this is expressing your feelings without resorting to calling him a micromanager, or any other name! This is not about making him wrong. That’s never a good idea. When you speak about your feelings, you are not accusing your boss of anything; you are describing how you feel. You may just be able to have an honest conversation. This may allow your boss to speak about the situation without being triggered by an accusation. Approach your boss with respect and tell him that while you appreciate his guidance, you can perform your job better when you feel empowered, as distinct from disempowered.

Indulge in some introspection time

And, for you—look at why you are triggered. What specifically set you off? Be aware of and pay attention to your feelings when you are triggered.  Notice where you feel the feelings in your body; how intense are they?  This is being mindful of your feelings. When you pay attention to your feelings, they flow, as distinct from being “bottled up” and creating more havoc in your life. It is important for you to focus on the feeling, not on the story of what happened. Permit yourself to feel what you feel. This will allow you to dissipate the feelings, or emotions, without becoming reactive.

The next step is to deactivate your emotional triggers. You paid attention to your feelings; now you can ask yourself, “When was another time I felt this way?” Think back to try to find the first time you were triggered this way. In your mind, picture the situation where someone said or did something that upset you. Now imagine your best friend or trusted advisor shows up and whispers in your ear the truth about the situation. It is best for us to explain this:  You were a little child, and some adult was yelling at you. This is the adult expressing their frustration at the situation, and often has nothing to do with you.

A responsible adult would have had a conversation, not yelled. In your imagination, your trusted friend tells you the adult was projecting their frustration on you; you were an innocent victim. You now have a different perspective as to what triggers you! To anchor this shift in perception, say aloud, to yourself, the truth as your trusted friend told you of what happened. By rewriting your past, you can deactivate old emotional triggers.

What else can you do?

An article on advises you to be proactive and establish expectations with your boss so there is clarity around roles, responsibilities, and expectations for communication, with specific time frames, methods, and channels.

There is another process that may help you with what you are experiencing when micromanaged. Developed by Dr. Donald Epstein, this is to be aware of the energy you are experiencing, acknowledge the energy, and accept it (A. A. A.). This does not suggest you are to accept micromanagement (or any other experience in your life), just be aware of it and accept the energy of it. This will dissipate the energy and diffuse any angst you may be experiencing. Aware, acknowledge, accept.

You can never fix another person; your boss is the only person who can change his behavior. Your job is to do your own inner work to deactivate your emotional triggers, so you are less reactive to his, or anyone’s behavior.

Not being reactive will improve the quality of your life, as well as those around you.

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