By Valerie Cade CSP
[This article was first published in the January-February 2008 issue of CGA Magazine.]
Strategies to save your sanity
Carl is completely exasperated with his boss, Troy. “I’ve been in this business for 20 years, and I used to love what I do. But not any more. Troy gets involved in the minutiae of my job and he re-does everything I do. Ironically, he even re-writes his own words at times because he forgets the document is something he’s already rewritten! The thing is,” Carl continues, “I am an experienced professional, but I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t invest any energy up front. Why bother, when Troy’s going to question all my decisions and I’m going to have to re-do the work anyway?”
Carl is not alone in his frustration, as this is a lament expressed by many a junior- and mid-level leader. Working for a micro-manager is not only maddening, it’s wearisome and demoralizing. If you’re in a similar workplace bullying situation, you know exactly how unpleasant it is. Other than waiting for your boss to quit, retire, or wake up one morning magically changed, what can you do to build a better working relationship? Here are a few practical ideas to help save your sanity.
Provide Frequent Updates
Understand that one of the deep-seated dreads of a micro-managing boss is the fear of losing control. And as unlikely as it may seem, this anxiety is almost certainly rooted in low self-esteem. People with low self-esteem need frequent reassurance, so one solution is to give your boss regular assurances that everything is on-schedule and on-budget. Let him know that he will not be surprised by the unexpected, or embarrassed by the unforeseen. He needs to hear, sometimes repeatedly, that all is well and he is in control.
As part of fulfilling this need for control, give your boss frequent updates. Even something as simple as a beginning-of-the-week e-mail summarizing all outstanding issues is a proactive way to keep him out of your office (and off your back!) for the rest of the week. The more proactive you are about keeping him informed, the more likely he will be to trust your decisions, and thus, the less likely to micro-manage you.
This strategy for dealing with micro-managers is very frustrating to some. “Why do I have to pander to the boss’s low self-esteem?” they ask. The bottom line: if you can respond positively, you’ll improve your working relationship and your state of mind.
Change Your Mind
Alter your own mindset to view your work as a first draft. Your micro-managing boss frustrates you because you feel you are wasting time spinning your wheels. Since it’s unlikely that your boss is going to change, it’s up to you to change how you respond. Start doing work that’s 80 per cent good rather than perfect. For many, this is a tough pill to swallow – after all, you take pride in the work you do, and you have built your success on delivering perfection. Get past it.
Change Your Response
Change how you respond to the boss’s fault-finding. Instead of getting frustrated, evaluate your boss’s criticisms using two criteria – validity and importance. If the boss says you mispronounced a word, the criticism is probably valid, but unimportant; whereas if the boss underlines what he thinks is a grammatical error when your grammar is correct, the criticism is invalid, yet important. Simply offer a non-committal response such as “Thank you for letting me know,” and then let it go – do not carry it around in your head for the rest of the day.
As infuriating as they can be, micro-managers aren’t going to go away. Rather than letting them drive you around the bend, implement one of these strategies to improve your working relationship and your state of mind.
Merge Gupta-Sunderji turns managers into leaders by giving people specific and practical tools to achieve leadership and communication success. www.mergespeaks.com