The Coronavirus pandemic is understandably making people anxious about their job security, health and safety. Adding to the stress and the constant fear, employees also have to contend with the pressure of their boss suddenly turning into a remote micromanager when they transitioned to working from home.
Some bosses have a proclivity for “monitoring” instead of “managing”, because since they usually don’t have enough experience managing people who are remote, they start to feel like they are losing control, which is when they start fretting over accountability, and whether people are taking advantage of them. All this leads to some serious micromanagement!
Even high performers who have managed to retain nurturing relationships with their bosses for year, are now suddenly dealing with their boss’s extra scrutiny. We have even heard from employees who are being told to stay on video calls all day as they work. Newly remote bosses need to be reassured that their employees are being productive at home. Not just content with frequent check-ins, some are even resorting to digital surveillance tools to track their employees’ internet usage and time.
If you are also suffering the brunt of micromanaging bosses, here’s how to get rid of it and reclaim your breathing space!
If Your Boss Has Suddenly Become A Micromanager, Understand Why
Micromanaging is often a product of insecurity. There could be a gazillion reasons why your boss is now suddenly monitoring your performance more than ever and is behaving irrationally. It could be that they crave a semblance of certainty in these dreary times and are fretting over a deadline. They could be going out of their way to ensure that their team is delivering, because they could be worried about their reputation. Perhaps they feel like they have no control over things anymore, so they are trying to take control of the one thing they can: your productivity. Or they may be new at managing remote workers and trying to gain insight to how much people can complete in a day working remotely vs. working on site. Your job is to discover the root cause of their insecurity and mitigate the issue.
Simply accusing your boss of micromanaging can only serve to offend them, without anything productive coming out of your conversation. You would do better to ask open-ended questions to help you unearth the source of your boss’s insecurity, and the resulting change in behavior. Have frequent one-on-ones with your manager and get to understand concerns are so you can set them at ease. Go for what/why questions, such as “is there anything wrong with my performance”, or “What are you worried about right now?” Once you get to the bottom of their reasoning, frame your response in the language that they care about. For instance, you can venture off with something along the lines of, “I know you really care about this deadline, but I get distracted with frequent check-in. Instead, we could…”
Anticipate What Your Micromanaging Boss Wants
A lot of the tasks that your boss is breathing down your neck for, are tasks that you already know you have to do. They just go out of their way to ensure that you have them on your radar. Nobody wants their bosses emailing or constantly pinging them on IM with messages like “just a reminder that we need to get the weekly schedule emailed out today,” when this is a part of your routine work.
If you want to nip micromanaging in the bud, the best thing is to anticipate the tasks that your manager is going to inquire you about and get them done well ahead of time. This way, you will be able to have a retort ready everytime they try to poke their noses into your business. Do this enough times, and you might even minimize the need for reminders. Once your micromanaging boss realizes that you have your responsibilities on track—and that they do not need to watch your every move – they will sit back and loosen the leash.
Provide Regular Updates; Beat Them To The Punch
Micromanagers thrive on being in control; the only reason they waste their breath checking in incessantly to make sure you are going good on your tasks, telling you how to do them perfectly, constantly sending reminders for tasks that you have started on, and frequently asking for updates, is because it helps them hold the reigns. Since they cannot work on all projects alone, micromanaging helps them stay as involved as possible.
To halt this micromanaging behavior, proactively send your manager regular updates before they have a chance for ask for them. Each morning, before starting your work, shoot out an email detailing what you accomplished the day before and outlining your tasks for the day, and listing any questions or feedback request you have. If you have a shared calendar with your manager, keep it filled with your projects, so you can give your manager insight into what it is that you do and how they can help; Managing up is the key to survival when you are working with a horrible boss.
This kills many birds with one stone: First, when your boss stays abreast if your current workload, it will placate their barrage of constant inquisition. Secondly, they will be able to provide input, address your questions, and suggest improvements or changes in direct reply, staving off the need for multiple mid-day check-ins. And last but not the least, once they realize that you are detail-oriented, organized and meticulous, and that you can manage your responsibilities without their constant intervention, they will eventually let go of the reigns.
Ask What You Can Do To Build Trust
If their micromanaging is getting under your skin, schedule a one-on-one video meeting with your boss and explain that you have noticed their heightened level of involvement ever since you transitioned to remote working. Very tactfully, suggest that you will be able to achieve better results if they put greater trust in your capabilities. Ask them if they have any qualms about your performance or if they have noticed anything that triggered their increased intervention. Ask how you can, together, deepen independence and trust. Would more frequent updates put their mind at rest? Do you need to better show your abilities? Are you letting anything slip through the cracks? Talk it through; collaborate on a plan.
In my experience, micromanaging is often born out of lack of clear communication. Make use of technology or implement a viable project management tool to show your leader what projects you are working on, how much time you are putting towards each task, and how you are tracking progress. Let them know that they know they can check up on you at any time via this tool, and that there is no more need of frequent check-ins, urgent emails or constant reminders.
Respect Their Authority
As an employee working under a micromanaging boss, one of the worst things you can do is to challenge their authority and throw their instructions to the wind. Defying their order and superior position is only going to get you on their wrong side and might even cost you your job! One of the most discerning traits of a micromanaging boss is that they do not quite tolerate people who cause disruption within the office or challenge their word. These bosses like to function in a smooth manner following all the protocol. I repeat: do not defy them to their face, ever!