How Do I Tell My Boss He’s a Micromanager?

How Do I Tell My Boss He’s a Micromanager?

Do you have career questions you wish you could ask your boss — but just can’t? Ask us instead! In our “Dear Boss” series, LearnVest managers answer your trickiest work-related dilemmas, whether it’s how to deal with a nightmare co-worker, how to ask for that raise you deserve or something else that's been keeping you up at night. Email us your questions. (And don't worry — all submissions are anonymous.)

Dear Boss,

My boss can’t assign a project without hovering and making sure I complete every task his way. How do I let him know that he’s being too micromanaging?

Under Close Watch

Dear Under Close Watch,

Before figuring out what to do, it helps to understand why your manager might be acting this way. I’ve found that there are usually a few reasons why a boss might become too micromanaging:

  • Based on past experience, micromanaging was a reliable way to get things done. For instance, he may have been burned in the past when a project didn’t meet a deadline and now has a hard time letting go.
  • It's a high-profile project. Your manager would rather play it safe to ensure everything’s going smoothly (even if that means annoying you).
  • Your manager doesn't think you’re ready to be as independent as you’d like to be. (I know … this one hurts a bit.)
  • Your manager got the mistaken impression that you actually appreciate the extra hand-holding. After all, it never hurts to learn the ropes from someone who’s been there, done that.

Bosses are human, too, and prone to biases and preconceived notions. Once you understand how your boss may be feeling, it’s time to have a frank conversation about how you’re not getting the level of autonomy you need to perform at your best. (Yes, it will feel uncomfortable to have this talk, but it’s necessary).

This type of convo might be better had in a more relaxed setting, perhaps over coffee. Acknowledge what you think may be behind your manager’s behavior, and politely explain that you feel you could do your job better if you had more autonomy. Make sure to note that you appreciate the oversight but would like the opportunity to make more of the day-to-day decisions yourself — while still getting your manager’s input during weekly or biweekly check-ins, of course. Also, offer to provide frequent updates in the form of status reports, so your manager feels in the loop (and thus, less likely to micromanage).

It may take some time to see results. Don’t expect your manager to change overnight. If the situation doesn't improve, there's a chance you may have to let your boss' supervisor or your human resources manager know. But I’ve found that these types of situations can work themselves out if you and your manager can build an honest, easy-going relationship based on mutual respect.

Best of luck,
Tauheed Ahmed
Director of Product, LearnVest

Information offered for educational purposes only. Employment and labor laws may vary by state. Remember to check your local regulations.


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