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Is Your Boss a Micromanager?

For many leaders, empowering employees can be a personal challenge. For one thing, the thought of sharing our power might mean confronting some of our personal insecurities. What's more, empowerment requires that we trust workers to fulfill their commitments -- and that can seem risky. We must work hard at being empowering, lest we become micromanagers.

Not surprisingly, our bosses face this same challenge. And that increases the odds that you work for a micromanager.

If you work for a micromanager, you know the drawbacks. Micromanagers continually interrupt you, rearrange your priorities and deadlines, hand off their crises to you, and take credit for your good ideas? If that's not enough, they consume your time with countless, endless meetings and overburden you by commissioning a stream of pointless reports.

Some leaders micromanage because they can -- their positions give them the authority to boss people around and they intend to use it. Other micromanagers fear falling short in terms of their own performances. She won’t get this done, we’ll miss the deadline, and that will make me look bad. That fear prevents micromanagers from trusting their employees; consequently, they attempt to establish complete control.

As long as you work for a micromanaging boss, you will struggle in your leadership role. Through their actions, micromanagers broadcast their lack of trust. Your employees will sense your micromanaging boss's doubts and wonder whether you are worthy of their trust. Therefore, if you work for a micromanager, you need to confront the problem directly.

I suggest that you start by asking your boss the following:

"Am I fulfilling your expectations as a leader? If not, please tell me how to improve. Otherwise, when you meddle in my actions, countermand my decisions, or outright do my job for me, I have to conclude that you distrust my judgment."

If your performance does need improving, this kind of candid conversation with your supervisor can help you grow as a leader. On the other hand, drawing attention to micromanagement behavior could actually help your boss recognize a personal leadership weakness. You might point out the obvious:

"You're probably unaware of how your behavior causes my employees to wonder if I have any real authority. That's why they often go around me to you."

But some people micromanage consciously and deliberately; many micromanagers try hard to intimidate. To them, you need to be blunt:

"You hold me accountable for getting things done. But by constantly overriding my authority, you’re making it impossible for me to succeed."

By challenging micromanagement behavior you're telling your boss that you welcome constructive feedback and are eager to work hard toward improving, but that you are unwilling to endure unwarranted bullying and second-guessing.

Enough is Enough

If your micromanaging boss is unreceptive, or proves unable or unwilling to change, you should consider changing bosses. Unchecked, micromanagement limits your opportunities to grow. Your micromanager will continue to ignore you, abstain from teaching you new skills, withhold company news from you, exclude you from decision making, and selfishly hold back the most demanding assignments. Your employees might see you as weak or untrustworthy. You will expect less from yourself. Your performance will reflect your boss’s low expectations. And, lo and behold, another self-fulfilling prophecy will come true.

If your core personal values include principles like trust, respect, and helping individuals grow then living by the values you profess requires standing up to micromanagement.

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