I’ve worked with a lot of Executives over the years and I have to say one of the trickiest personality types are those that micromanage their staff. The problem is that many of them do not realise that they are micromanagers and certainly wouldn’t admit their management style causes any issues if they were called up on it – which it often does! It can be really frustrating, especially for assistants, working with a micromanager. It is pretty painful constantly having worked checked, not having any autonomy over projects and wrestling tasks out of the clutches of a micromanager. The situation can be improved but it does take time and lots and lots of patience! Here are five tips that I have used in the past when working with a micromanager:
Gain their trust
This is easier said than done and it takes a lot of time. Firstly you have to maintain a high level of confidentiality (Fort Knox levels!) throughout the time spent with this manager. Never, ever, share information about your micromanager with your colleagues. If the manager gets even a suspicion that you are not to be trusted they will never let you take on any meaningful projects or manage any aspect of their life. Once you can prove to them that you can be trusted the next stage is making them aware of your skills.
Make them your project
Find out everything you can about your micromanager. Do they micromanage everyone or is it just you? If it is just you do they understand the assistant role and how you can help them? Why are they micromanaging? Is it that they are incredibly effective and make the right decisions (about everything) or are they simply control freaks? Are they terrified someone is going to make a mistake or do they just like to be involved in every little detail? Once you have a better understanding of their management style the easier it is to work with them. Remember they don’t tend to know they are micromanaging so the more information you can gain from observing their management style the more effective you will be in working with them.
Start with the small things
This could be completing a really simple task. For example, printing out their board papers in exactly the same format they print them out. Don’t ask them if you can complete the task – simply do the work and hand it to them. The really little bits and bobs are much easier to let go of than the big stuff. Continue to make small steps and see how you get on. After a few weeks mention to your boss all of the tasks that you have completed on their behalf – if they respond positively ask them if you can make these tasks an ongoing part of your role. Obviously the small stuff should be the tasks you do every day without much thought. But, unfortunately, with a micromanager even the small tasks are a big deal.
Over share information
Once you have more autonomy over you work do remember to keep your manger in the loop. Despite the fact they have given you more responsibility doesn’t mean they won’t go back to their old micromanaging ways, especially if they agree to let you work on bigger projects or manage more of their day to day tasks. Over sharing information will help them feel like they are still in control and although a total pain in the ass will also mean that you can take on more work.
Communication is key to making this relationship work. Make sure that you are in regular contact with your micromanager. Schedule daily one to one meetings so that they are aware of what you are doing (and what you can be doing). If you have tried all of the other tips then finally communicate the problem with your manager. If you do decide that enough is enough make sure you come to the meeting with examples of their micromanaging and the impact it has on you. Also mention the impact it has on them – you should be helping them maximise their productivity.