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Work Under a Micromanager? 10 Survival Tips

written by: Ursula Dwyer•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 5/21/2011

Do you work under a micromanager? Someone who watches your every move at work and who won't let you do anything unsupervised. If so, you need to read these 10 survival tips on how to deal with them. It's time to break free.

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    What Is Micromanagement And Why Do You Need To Know About It?

    micromanager Before deciding how to manage a micromanager, you need to understand what micromanagement is, and why your manager might be displaying these tendencies. It may not be for the reasons you think.

    Micromanagement is the practice of managing the minute details of every task assigned. It's the ultimate watching over your shoulder management technique, and it can be very distracting, plus it can seriously undermine your confidence. However, managers operate at the micro level for different reasons, some of which will have nothing to do with you, so it's worth gaining an insight as why this might be happening.

    Some micromanagers behave this way because it is part of their personality, they need to have control over everything they do, and everything that is done in their name. Others manage in this way due to fear. They fear that if they don't keep things under tight control something terrible will happen. Some will act this way on purpose, in order to either take the credit or place the blame, depending on whether you did exactly what they asked you to. There are also those who feel they need to manage staff this closely because they have been let down in the past.

    However, whatever the reason behind their management style, what you want to know is how to deal with them. To help you with that here are 10 survvial tips for working with a micromanager.

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    Tip 1 - Get Clarification on Every Task

    Micromanagers are interested in tiny details, and will pick up on the smallest thing they consider not to be right. Make sure you get all the clarification you can before you start a task, and this will reduce the chance of perceived mistakes occurring.

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    Tip 2 – Copy Your Manager in on all Correspondence

    This is also known as ‘covering your back’. By copying your manager in on all correspondence, you give yourself a paper trail that can prove what you were asked to do. This gives a micromanager less chance to be able to blame you for their mistakes.

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    Tip 3 – Keep a Diary

    Not everything ends up in emails so it is a good idea to keep a diary or notebook handy and keep a written record of what you are asked to do. This way if you are challenged on something you can check back and see if the challenge is justified.

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    Tip 4 – Talk to Them About it

    Not all micromanagers are aware that they are acting in this way. It may be they became so used to having to watch your predecessor like a hawk that it has become second nature. Suggest that you would like to complete a task on your own and have them check it at the end, and see what happens.

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    Tip 5 – Get it Noted in an Appraisal or Personal Development Plan

    Appraisals are a time for you to have your say on how you are performing at work. If you believe your manager’s management style is hindering your progress it is in your interest to get it noted. Of course, if it's your manager that is taking the appraisal, you'll also need to use a certain amount of tact on giving feedback to your boss. Appraisals should be constructive for both parties, and you don't want to make the situation worse.

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    Tip 6 – Gain Their Trust

    If a manager has had their fingers burnt with employees making mistakes in the past, it could be that all that is needed is time for you to prove yourself and gain their trust. Take it slowly and don’t push them, try and get them to acknowledge when you have completed something correctly.

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    Tip 7 – Learn How They Like Things Done

    Sometimes the path of least resistance is the best one to take. If they want things done in a certain way, just do it. As time goes on you may be able to put your own stamp on things, but in the short term it may be best to toe the line.

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    Tip 8 – Safety in Numbers

    If you have colleagues in the same situation, get together and compare notes. Just knowing you are not alone can make the situation easier to handle, plus you may be able to swap suggestions on how to deal with the situation.

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    Tip 9 – Carry on Regardless

    You’ll need a thick skin for this one, but you could just carry on, do things in your own way, and deal with the consequences. Sooner or later one of you will crack.

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    Tip 10 – Find Another Job

    There is a limit to what most people will put up with, and if micromanagement is making your working life miserable, the solution is to find alternative employment.

    Learning how to manage a micromanager will stand you in good stead for your working life. Everyone is likely to come up against a micromanager at some point, so knowing how to deal with them is important. By using the above tips you can get yourself ahead of the game and ready to deal with whatever comes your way.

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    References

    All the information and tips contained in this article are based on my own personal experiences gained throughout the past 20 years of my working life.

    Image credit: Ursula Dwyer