Becoming More Independent
Imagine that you work in a classic autocratic organization, and your boss follows every little rule. She oversees each detail of every project and task – and she seems to believe that you and the rest of the team are incapable of performing without her help at every step.
This, in turn, has created an oppressive and discouraging work environment. Productivity and morale are low, and many people have left to go to organizations that are less controlling and more empowering.
You like the work that you do, and you want to stay with the company. So how can you improve your situation? How can you get your boss – and perhaps your organization – to trust you more?
Working in a micromanaged environment isn't easy. In this article, we'll highlight the disadvantages of micromanagement, and we'll explore what you can do if your boss micromanages you.
Remember, some organizations require a micromanagement style – particularly if mistakes can cost a lot of money, or can threaten someone's life. If you believe this is true for your company, you can still use some of the strategies in this article, but be aware that your boss or organization may be unwilling to let go of control.
Disadvantages of Micromanagement
There are several disadvantages to a micromanagement style of leadership:
- It can hurt creativity – When your boss constantly checks up on you and tells you what to do, you have no power to think for yourself. This limits the solutions that you might find on your own.
- It can cause you stress – Often, micromanagers make you feel as if nothing you do is good enough. This type of working relationship could make even small tasks seem overwhelming.
- It can waste time – When your boss constantly holds meetings and gives instructions, she limits the time you could be working on productive tasks.
- It can hold you back professionally – Because you're "dependent" on your manager for every task, you don't take responsibility for yourself and for your work. This limits your growth and development, which may impact your career.
So, what can you do about it?
First, it's important to find out why your boss is micromanaging you. If he behaves this way only with you, then perhaps you're the cause.
Look honestly at your own work and habits. Have you ever given your boss a reason to micromanage you? Does disorganization or poor time management cause you to miss important deadlines? Do you find it hard to concentrate, or do you communicate poorly? Or do you fail to follow up on important leads or emails that your boss sends you?
These are tough questions. It's hard to look at yourself and your work objectively. Ask your colleagues for help. They may give you a clearer picture of your work habits than you'll see on your own.
If your work quality is lacking, or if you have challenges with your communication skills, then your boss may believe that the only way to keep you motivated and focused is to manage every project that he gives you closely.
If this is the case, meet with him so that both of you can assess your performance honestly. Ask him for specific problem areas, and work on improving those issues first. After all, the faster you improve, the sooner your boss will start trusting you.
If your boss micromanages everyone on your team, then this is simply her style of leadership.
The good news is that she may not realize that she's causing a negative impact on the team. If you think this is true, and if you think your boss is open to honest feedback, then consider asking to meet with her one-on-one. Explain to her, honestly and diplomatically, how her management style impacts your work. Give specific examples in which her micromanagement negatively affected you or the team, or how it caused delays.
Remember, be assertive but kind. If your boss truly doesn't know that she's micromanaging, she might be shocked to find out how she's impacting the team. Our article Role Playing can help you prepare for difficult conversations like these.
Strategies for Overcoming Micromanagement
If your boss knows that he's micromanaging, and this is his natural leadership style, then things could get a bit more complicated. Try these tips:
- Try to discover what's motivating your boss – After all, there's probably a good reason why he's trying to manage you in such a detailed way. Find out what's truly important to him. The more you know about his motivation, the better you can structure your tasks and communications to help.
- Learn how to "manage upwards" – Our Bite-Sized Training session on Managing Upwards teaches you how to analyze your boss's style so that you can adjust your own work habits and create a better working relationship. Our article Managing Your Boss may also help.
- Create your own system – Micromanagers love to assign lots of tasks, which can make prioritizing a challenge. Develop your own system, such as color-coded files or an easily transferable numerical system, which allows you to meet your boss's changing priorities.
- Communicate in advance – Micromanagers can rely on constant communication to feel comfortable. So, communicate ahead of time with your boss, instead of waiting to be asked.
- Take small steps away from micromanagement – As a first step, ask your boss to delegate one small task or project to you completely. Communicate your progress as you work on the task, and make sure you complete it on time. When your boss begins to realize that you can work effectively on your own, he might be able to delegate more tasks on a regular basis.
Micromanagement can cause all sorts of problems. If your organization or boss micromanages, this may hurt your creativity, your morale, and your productivity.
To overcome these negative effects, determine if the way you work is the reason your boss doesn't trust you to be independent. And if micromanagement is simply your boss's leadership style with everyone, then consider explaining to her, kindly and diplomatically, how her micromanagement impacts your work. Also, try to structure your work around her driving motivators, and gradually ask for more independence by being delegated small tasks, and proving that you can complete these successfully.