6 Tips For Dealing With a Micro-Manager

Working for a micro-manager is soul destroying. You know when your manager has a toxic style of leadership because they leave you feeling low in confidence, doubtful of yourself and fearful that you have done something wrong. This is no way to manage a team as employees become resentful, lose motivation and ultimately leave the company.

This type of leader believes that nobody can do the job better than they can which is why they tell employees what to do and how to do it. It’s an approach based on insecurity and distrust which brings out the worst in people.

As a trainee solicitor, I came to know and hate this style of leadership. Every single email is checked, corrected and revised by somebody more senior than you and that doesn’t change after qualification. It gave me good drafting skills and an eye for detail but the torment of constantly being corrected was at times, extremely de-motivating.

Signs You are Being Micro-Managed

Here’s what you might experience:

Here’s what a healthy manager- employee relationship should feel like:

What Can You Do About It?

It’s normal to feel angry and resentful towards a manager who treats you in this way. This can make communication difficult, especially if you believe that confrontation will result in conflict. Here are six tips to help you through it:

  1. Understand your needs. So many are being neglected, especially your need for self-esteem. Start making yourself aware of your needs and which behaviour you see as conflicting with them to get a clearer picture of what’s wrong.
  2. Establish your aim. What do you want to gain from confronting your manager? Is it a better working relationship? More respect? Less control? Make sure you know what it is you want so that you can prepare for a conversation about it.
  3. Recognise your emotion. If your anger is likely to overwhelm you during a conversation, get some distance from your manager and identify your emotional options. Any conversation with a micro-manager should be clear and calm, even if you are expressing your feelings so take some time out to think about what you will say when you are calm and collected.
  4. Tell You Manager What You Want to Change. It’s often a good idea to start by expressing how you feel and state why that is without accusing your manager of anything. Terms like “micro-managing” can be perceived as insulting so consider what you might say instead. I’ve listed some phrases you might want to use.
  5. Involve a third party. If the conversation didn’t go well, it could help to talk to HR or to ask for a mediator to intervene. They can facilitate conversations and help you feel supported in addressing situations causing you stress.
  6.  Do you want to carry on working for them? If the conversation doesn’t go well and HR won’t help you, consider talking to a recruiter to find a new job. Sometimes, that’s the only real option, especially if your mental well-being is badly affected.

Here are some phrases that you could find useful when preparing for your conversation:

  • “I feel concerned about our working relationship and I would like to discuss this with you.”
  • “I received your comments about my work and I feel uncertain about your level of trust in me. Please could we discuss that?”
  • “I noticed that you give me detailed instructions. I feel confident in doing this task as I have done it several times and I wanted to reassure you that you do not need to spend time doing this in the future.”
  • “I feel discouraged and unmotivated when my work is returned to me with several amendments. Please could we discuss what would make you feel more trusting of my style of writing so that I can work more independently? I have some suggestions including… “
  • “I feel angry and diminished every time I receive your disapproval for deviating from your instructions. This worries me as I am losing confidence and self-esteem and I am having this conversation with you because I want to understand how we can work together to avoid this.”

The power dynamic in this type of relationship can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first job. It takes so much time and effort to re-build confidence and self-esteem and this should be your number one priority. Always remember that you were employed for the skills and talent that you bring to the business. There are always other employers out there who are looking for candidates like you. This, I’m hoping, should give you the courage to face your manager and change your current position or take steps to find another. Good luck!

Please let me know how it goes and leave a comment!


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