How to Talk to a Micromanaging Boss

Mitchell_talk to micromanaging boss June 7, 2021 By: Barbara Mitchell

When supervisors hover over employees, it’s usually because of a lack of trust. If you think your boss is micromanaging you, first take some time for introspection, and then work on communication.

Q: My manager has always been a bit of a micromanager, but since we’ve been working remotely, he’s gotten worse. As we move into a hybrid workplace with a few days a week in the office, I’m concerned he may carry over his new habits and hover over me constantly.  What are some ways I can deal with this issue?

A: You might find that your supervisor relaxes a bit when you’re back in the office, but ultimately how he acts is out of your control. Micromanaging is really a trust issue—or, better said, a lack-of-trust issue.

Start by honestly evaluating your own performance. Does your boss have a reason not to trust you? Are you meeting your deadlines? Are you turning in top-quality work? Do you collaborate well with others and follow through on your responsibilities for shared projects? Quite simply, can he depend on you?

If, after you’ve answered those questions honestly, you still feel you are being monitored too closely, here are some suggestions:

Overcommunicate. If your manager constantly sends emails checking on your progress on a project, beat him to the punch. Send quick updates on a regular basis. This should relieve his anxiety and give you a feeling that you have more control.

Share your frustrations. Talk to your manager about how it feels to be micromanaged. How this is received will depend on your performance and your relationship, but don’t overlook an opportunity to share how his second-guessing undermines your ability to do your job.

If your manager constantly sends emails checking on your progress on a project, beat him to the punch. Send quick updates on a regular basis.

Now is a great time for this kind of heart-to-heart with your manager. As you work through this waning phase of the pandemic and return to your office a few days a week, share your concern that this next major change in your working environment may cause him to micromanage. Do this calmly, and focus on your desire to contribute your best work. Give some examples of when his overly close supervision has interfered with your ability to deliver the best results.

Practice empathy. Remember that you don’t know the kind of pressure your boss may be under as he manage his own workload and answers to his supervisor, so if you can, cut him some slack.

Don’t give up if a change in his behavior takes a while. Continue to do your best work, and, over time, your manager may learn to trust you more. In that case, you will have shored up the foundation for a better working relationship. 

Barbara Mitchell

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer? Send it to [email protected]