Being Micromanaged

Scenario: “About four months ago, I transferred to a new role in a new department. My supervisor was initially very hands-on in providing training and frequently met with me to see how my work was progressing. The feedback I received from him was mostly positive and I thought he was pleased with my progress. However, I now know the ropes but he still continues as if I am in training-mode; it feels like I am being micromanaged. I don’t like working this way and want to tell him.”

Preparation: Although it sounds as if you may be the only recent hire, have you observed whether your supervisor tends to micromanage others, or does it just seem to be you? If you are seeing this trait evident in other work relationships he has, you probably won’t see a behavior change in him quickly as this is obviously part of his management habit and habits take time to change. But, you might as well start the conversations now. When speaking with him, contain your examples of micromanaging to those you have directly experienced. You don’t need to be the spokesperson for the group and you don’t want to overwhelm your supervisor with input. Speak for yourself only.

If you don’t observe your supervisor micromanaging anyone but you, consider that it might be a dynamic between just the two of you. Avoid the temptation to ask others if they feel micromanaged, it’s not critical for you to know and it may be perceived as a negative toward the supervisor and/or team dynamics. Consider what specific performance feedback you have received from your supervisor. You state that you think he is pleased with your progress. What has he said or done that makes you think this? Sometimes supervisors will micromanage when they have doubts about an employee’s ability to do the job as it needs to be done. Be aware that in having a conversation with your supervisor about micromanaging, he may tell you something(s) you are doing that he does not like. Practice how you will react should this occur.

Prior to asking your supervisor to be less hands-on, you’ll be well served to establish the level of performer he considers you to be.

Initiation: After setting up a time in advance with your supervisor for discussion, one approach to kick off the meeting may be, “As I said when I asked if we could meet, I’ve been in my role about four months now and wanted to check in with you and see how you feel about the progress I’ve made. You have helped me to learn a lot about my role in the department and, as a result, I feel pretty self-sufficient. I want to contribute to the department and I want to take up less of your time as we move forward. Knowing where I need to focus and where you still need to assist versus where you no longer need to be involved in the day-to-day will be useful for us both. May we talk about that? (If so), I can start off with where I think I am ready to be independent and where I may still need further development. You can then let me know if you agree or have a different assessment. Does that work?”

Discussion: STATE: Share your facts; Tell your story; Ask for their view; Talk tentatively; Encourage testing.

The beginning of your discussion should be focused on receiving a clear picture of how your supervisor views your performance. If that picture is positive, then move toward clarifying when the two of you should expect to be working closely together and when you can expect to be on your own. In the areas where you are ready to be on your own, you might want to make a statement to emphasize your desire to not be micromanaged. For example, “I’m glad to hear that you’re ready for me to handle A, B and C independently. I look forward to this and I think it will allow me to learn even more in a different way – finding answers without having you right there to tell me will round out the training you’ve provided and build my confidence.”

However, if the picture of your performance indicates that your supervisor has some concerns, you are not at the right stage to be asking him to manage you less. Try to get examples to illustrate what you are doing now that is not effective in your supervisor’s opinion and what it would look like if you were being effective.

By the way, in this initial discussion, shy away from calling the problem “micromanagement” and instead just talk about how the two of you are working together without using a label. If the problem does persist and you have other discussions, then you may want to branch into expressing that you feel micromanaged.

Conclusion: If the discussion was primarily focused on improvement areas for you, a conclusion may go along the lines of: “I am glad we’ve talked. I didn’t realize I wasn’t handling A and B as you expected. From the examples we discussed, I have a clearer idea of what you are looking for; it sounds as if I need to do more X and less Y. Is that right? In the other parts of the job, it sounds as if you are satisfied with how I am coming along. Do I have that right? I am a little surprised and nervous right now with the feedback you provided; and I wish I had known earlier. I will think about this further and may have another question or two for you about A. And, please, if you see me doing anything off course, let me know. I want to do a good job.”

If the discussion illustrated that your supervisor thinks you are performing well and there are responsibilities where he feels you can be independent, you may close with something like, “I’m glad we had this discussion. It sounds as if starting tomorrow, I will be doing A, B, C and D pretty much on my own and you are tasking me with coming to you if I need assistance, rather than you outlining the steps for me to follow when you give me an assignment. But with E and F, you are going to want to stay involved for a while longer. Do I have that right? Maybe we can have another conversation in a month or so to see where I am on E and F? Thanks for meeting with me and giving me this input. And thank you for the time you’ve taken to train me.”