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5 Signs That You Work for a Micromanager

Topics: Career Advice
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It’s perfectly normal for a manager to be emotionally invested in the business. They should care a great deal about outcomes, personnel changes, new clients and anything else that impacts the company and its bottom line. However, a good manager also knows how to delegate effectively and encourage employees to feel empowered.

Managers should be involved, but they shouldn’t take it too far. Micromanaging can destroy a company. One main reason for this is that micromanagers tend to make their employees pretty miserable.

However, there’s a fine line between an involved boss and a micromanager. Understanding whether or not your boss falls into the latter camp could help you determine how to cope. Here are a few key signs to keep in mind:

1. They’re always looking over your shoulder — in person and online.

Micromanagers like to know what everyone is doing all the time. They’re often concerned that someone is slacking off and not attending to their responsibilities. So, they monitor everything. They literally walk around the office looking over shoulders and asking questions. They monitor online activity, too. Some even use messaging applications to note when employees are active or idle.

“Usually you had like a 10-minute window before your light turned yellow, and then they changed it to only two minutes,” says Marjon Bell, describing her micromanaging boss to NPR. “And I came back from the restroom, and my boss was standing at my cubicle wondering where I’d been.”

2. Projects and assignments are given and then taken away.

Micromanagers have a difficult time letting employees do things their own way. They also change their mind a lot. They try to delegate tasks and projects, but they can’t stand it when assignments are carried out in what they see as the “wrong” way. So, micromanagers tend to assign projects and then take them back and finish the work themselves. This can be frustrating and feel disrespectful, especially when you know you’re perfectly capable of doing your job. Over time, this behavior can chip away at your sense of autonomy and independence.

3. You feel you can’t be innovate or creative.

Micromanagers think there is a right way and wrong way to do almost everything. They have very specific ideas about how work ought to be completed. So, their assignments tend to be tightly defined, with restrictive parameters. Employees, in turn, feel like they aren’t able to innovate or be creative. They have to follow strict guidelines to try and meet the highly specific marks set by their boss. This is the kind of experience that makes once-enthusiastic employees feel like mere cogs in the wheel. Eventually, it can take a real toll on morale.

4. They try too hard to build consensus.

It’s rare for everyone to be on the same page. Good managers can help facilitate communication and compromise … and then make a call. However, they understand that not everyone is going to agree with their decision, and they’re OK with that.

Micromanagers, on the other hand, want everyone to see things they way they do. So, they spend a lot of time and energy trying to build consensus among their employees. They create task forces, have long meetings and talk things to death. It can be an altogether exhausting situation for workers who often find they’re ready to move on to the next thing long before their micromanager is willing to let it go.

5. They act like a manager, but not a leader.

There’s a big difference between a leader and a manager. Leaders inspire their employees to trust them and to trust themselves. Managers, on the other hand, rely upon control to get things done. Leaders focus on people while managers are more concerned about the work itself.

It’s not a good sign if your boss feels more like a manager than a leader. There’s a reason why people don’t write articles about “micro-leaders.”

How to Deal With a Micromanager

If most or all of the above indicators apply to your boss, you could have a micromanager on your hands. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to cope. You can create some structure, perhaps a weekly meeting, where you update your boss regularly and help them feel comfortable. You should also always be careful to avoid surprising them. Be sure to keep them posted when anything important comes up.

Also, if you work for one of these bosses, be sure to take extra good care of yourself. Take time away from the office to recharge. It’s crucial to work toward finding some solid work-life balance in these situations. Working for a micromanager isn’t easy.

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