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How to Manage Your Micro-Managing Boss and Eliminate Work Stress

Posted on the 16 April 2014 by Classycareergirl @classycareer

We’ve all been there.  Your boss gives you way too many urgent tasks to complete than humanly possible and asks for updates on a project just given to you this morning.

I don’t work well like this.  When I worked in the past for micro-managing, energy zapping bosses, I get the deer in the headlights frozen look and can’t do anything….because I don’t know what to start on. I get majorly overwhelmed, stressed out of my mind and ready to quit.

Been there too?  I thought so. To avoid the stress and anger with this type of situation, there are easy things that you can do. You have to take control of this fast before your boss starts taking control of your schedule, your calendar and your mind.

When I interviewed Dr. Lois Frankel, author of Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, she had some great advice for us on this topic. She said,

One of the most common mistakes that women make is making miracles happen. I define a miracle as getting something done with less money, fewer resources and in less time as humanly possible. Women need to understand that miracle workers get canonized and not recognized. Every workplace has a baseline for hard work. You have to work up to that baseline or you going to get called out.  If you go over the baseline consistently, it really doesn’t contribute to your career because you just get more work to do. One way to handle this is to learn to manage other people’s expectations.”

Managing other people’s expectations is the #1 way to reduce stress and improve your relationships with these types of bosses.  Here are a few more specific ways to make the best out of this stressful and frustrating situation:

Note: The boss is a “he” in this article but I know micro-managing women are out there too!

Do the absolute best work that you can. It may take time for your boss to trust and respect you but you have to show him what he wants to see. There is something he’s not getting from you that is making him feel uncomfortable right now.  Try to make his life easier and don’t give him any reason to lose that trust.  How can you make him confident in your abilities?  If there is a task that you already do that your boss is constantly reminding you of, get it done early or tell him that you are working on it before he even asks.  Over time, he won’t remind you anymore because he knows that you already have it on your list and will get it done.

Even better, try to implement a new project management/to-do list system where you can tell what the other person is working on. For instance, right now I use Asana with my assistant so I know what she is working on today.  I don’t need to remind her and check-in with her because I can see what she is working on and her deadlines.

Continually check in and ask for help. Give him daily or weekly updates. Don’t wait for him to ask you how the task is going and what you are up to. Instead, constantly remind him until he feels comfortable.  Make sure you know the deadline of when he expects your projects to be completed by. Set times for check-in meetings so he sees them on the calendar and knows when he will get an update from you. That way when he tries to micromanage you, you can say, “I will give you an update at our status meeting on Tuesday.”

Plan ahead. Know what he is going to ask and when. Oftentimes, he might give you a deadline but really want it ahead of schedule. Figure out what the real deadline is, not just when he needs it finalized. One thing that my assistant does everyday which I LOVE is she sends me a daily email with a list of things she completed that day and any issues she had. I now have so much trust in her because she is so consistent and I can really count on her to get the things done that I need done.  If you are being extremely micromanaged, try sending a daily email with the status of each item you are working on and if you need his input or help on anything.

Don’t complain. It just makes you feel worse to stay in a negative state of mind. What are some positive qualities about your manager that you can focus on? Maybe he has a lot of knowledge in a certain area and helps you with certain tasks.  A negative work mindset will breed a bad work environment and make things much worse for you in the long run. Try not to get mad and gossip about him to your family and co-workers. It’s all about the Law of Attraction. The more you focus on the negative things in your life, the more negative things will happen.  Shift your focus.  If you need to, think about the great things you enjoy about your work environment and your other colleagues. What else about work do you love?

You can say no. Don’t do everything that is asked and don’t be a miracle worker. Ask him to help you prioritize the tasks he has given you. At one point in my career, I was given an urgent task by my boss that would have taken me 3 weeks to complete but he needed it in one day. I said no that isn’t possible and then my boss said he didn’t really need it anyways and it all went away. :)

It might be a little shocker at first for him that you are putting your foot down. But, once you start saying no to your boss, he will start getting used to it and it will get much easier for you to say no again. Saying no has actually been a huge motto for me this year. There’s only so much time in the day and I can’t do everything for everyone. I have to focus on what matters and what will give me the best results without taking on additional stress.

Don’t rely only on email to communicate.  There is so much on email that can get misconstrued when communicating. If you are getting stressed with all the urgent red flag emails (that is my biggest pet peeve) ask to have weekly or daily meetings with your boss to prioritize your tasks. You will probably get more details about the tasks and communicating in person (or over the phone) will make your boss feel better about how you are doing. You will also feel less frustrated talking with your boss and getting clear on your action items. Maybe you will find that some of the tasks really aren’t required or urgent anyways.

Most importantly, this experience with your micro-managing boss will teach you so much that you will use again in your future work experiences. That is exactly what happened to me. Once you work for this type of boss, you can easily manage it again professionally and calmly. Trust me, there’s a lot of them out there so you probably will have a few experiences with micro-managing bosses in your lifetime.

And I know you don’t want to hear this but it really will get better with time. It takes time to build that trust and prove yourself. It can be so frustrating when someone does’t trust you right away. Just be patient and pretty soon there will be less micromanaging and you can be trusted to do the great job that you know you can do. Don’t quit. This is just a test and you will learn a ton about yourself and working with other people.  You can do this!

Question: Have you had a micro-managing boss in the past? How did you handle it?  I would love to hear about it in the comment section below.

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