How to manage the micro manager

Frank Newberryin Training & Education

In the first of a two-part article, Grounds Training Tutor and Careers Advisor Frank Newberry gave his take on the serious problem of micro-managers. In Part 2, Frank provides six tips on how you might 'manage' the micro manager you have now - or the one you may have in the future.

In Part 1 of this article, I suggested that there can be no greater cost to an organisation than the loss of its good workers. With talented people not wanting and not needing close supervision, micro managers can eventually cause their employer to be left with only their less talented employees - those perhaps who do need to be micro-managed.

Doing something straightaway to lessen the problem

So, what can you do about a micro manager? Well, I have heard it said that you should load the micro-manager up with lots of things to sign off or double check for you.

My problem with that is - whilst you are using their own obsession with work to wear them out - the process could take a long time.

During that time, you could be actively doing something straightaway to lessen the problem. So, I will confine my suggestions to those actions that you can personally take, or initiate, that will hopefully start to move things forward for you.

1. Have a meeting

Ask for a perceptions and expectations meeting with the micro manager as soon as you know you have one! You may need to put together your own agenda and make sure it invites you both to share perceptions and expectations of each other - for the good of the working relationship, the team and the work. In my experience, micro managers are happier if I use phrases like 'I don't want to waste your time - I only want to do a good job for you'.

2. Review progress on a regular basis

Once you and your micro manager have shared your perceptions and expectations of each other, make sure to calendar some progress review meetings - maybe weekly to start, and then monthly. During the first review meeting, get the micro manager to be self-critical about his/her performance that month. Offer to go first - that way you can set the level of openness pretty high. In my experience, people are happier to share their personal thoughts on performance if I go first and set the bar for them.

3. Stay in touch

As the weeks and months go by, stay in touch with the micro manager outside of review meetings. Make sure that the micro manager knows you are on his/her side, that you share the same desire for best practice and consistency. In my experience, people are happier when there are no misunderstandings about whose side I am on.

4. Take an interest in your micro manager's world of work

If you can take a genuine interest in your micro manager's world of work, you will find out where the pressures are, how decisions are made, when the stakes are highest and where the biggest threats exist. When you have this level of clarity, offer to help them out - to the extent that you can. In my experience, people are happier at the end of a discussion when I say, 'Is there anything I can help you with?' It is even better when I notice a problem and say, 'I can help you with that' or 'Let me help you with that'.

5. Ask for more autonomy

If you are making progress getting into in the micro manager's world of work, it will soon be time to ask for more autonomy (or freedom from micro-management). Maybe you have had, up until now, to get the micro manager to check things over or inspect your work for errors.

It is time now for you to show that you can be just as particular and perfectionist yourself - for a trial period. After the trial - of say a couple of weeks - review your results in detail (verbally in a brief meeting) with your micro manager. It is my experience that people are happier when they do not have to make a decision 'in the dark'. With a trial period, the decision is tested long before it is actually made.

Whether your work was perfect or not, extend the trial period, review again, extend again and so on, for longer and longer periods.

Eventually, seek permission to adjust the level of supervision in your case (not least because he or she will then have more time to micro manage others!).

6. Ask to attend the same meetings

Now, if you are game, it may be time for you to work on getting a promotion. If Tips 1 to 5 are working out okay, then maybe you should indicate that you can do even more to help. You could then ask to attend your micro manager's meetings with senior people (to ride 'shotgun' or for 'career development'). Indicate that you want to be put on your micro manager's succession plan so that you can cover for him or her always. This will involve the micro manager training you up. In my experience, people are happier when they themselves train up the person who covers for them or will become their potential replacement

So, good luck with managing the micro manager - and remember to make sure they know that you are on their side - or they think you are at least!

© 2017 Frank Newberry

For more on this topic and some great training seminars, why not register for Pitchcare's Supervisory Essentials Workshops this winter?

Frank's proven, popular, highly interactive and entertaining one day seminars are 'stand-alone'. You can take any one, any two, any three or all four seminars. They will all be held at the National Sports Centre, Bisham Abbey, Marlow, Buckinghamshire this winter:

Dates are:

Taking Charge - November 2017 (tba)

Getting Better Results - December 2017 (tba)

Enhanced Communication Skills - February 2018 (tba)

Problem Solving & Decision Making - March 2018 (tba)

For more details, including how to book your place on all Pitchcare workshops, visit the website