How to Deal With a Boss Who Accuses You of Needing Micro Managing

How do you deal with an assertion from your boss that you need to be micro-managed? Often this is a reflection of the inability of your boss to let go and delegate without breathing down your neck, and handling this will require considerable tact and patience.


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    Figure out whether or not the boss has a point. If you feel that this has been leveled at you unfairly, make sure it is not just your personal sense of shame driving your indignant reaction. On the other hand, if your boss is renowned for poking his or her nose where it's not wanted, it's probable that you're right to feel a sense of irritation with being told that you're not managing well alone. Try to see things from your manager's point of view in order to deal with this objectively:
    • Senior management is always under pressure and sometimes middle management is a convenient, albeit unfortunate, target. If your boss has a habit of meddling, there really is no reason to take this personally; it is a bad habit that your boss has formed and cannot shake. Another reason for accusing someone of needing micro-management is a poorly thought out reaction to a stressful situation that has just passed, for example, your team missed a deadline or mucked up some of a task and the senior boss feels a sense of responsibility and possible guilt for not having kept himself or herself better informed. And then there is just the boss who is incapable of delegating and thinks nothing of reprimanding middle management for anything that they think they could do better (but clearly don't have the time to do). In each of these cases, it's about your boss' internalized reactions and it is not necessarily about you.
    • Perhaps there are a series of things you haven't been doing to a satisfactory standard and your boss is reaching the end of his or her tether trying to get results from you. In this situation, your boss might be offering an olive branch warning to you, as in, "get it right with my direction, or else...". See How to Accept Blame when You Deserve It.
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    React professionally. Even if it is about you, try hard not to take it personally but prefer to see this as a management mechanism rather than as a personal attack. This is absolutely crucial to maintaining an objective viewpoint of the situation and reacting with constructive responses. See How to Accept Criticism With Grace and Appreciation.
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    Think through the ways in which you can react to the professed desire to micro-manage you. Here are some things to consider:
    • Ask for a meeting to talk through the issues of concern. Ask that it be set at a time when you have enough time to spend talking about issues uninterrupted and where it will be private.
    • Ask your boss for clarity on what he or she means. They cannot just level an accusation like this at you without providing adequate reason, factual examples, and suggested solutions. Ask for all of this to be explained through with you.
    • Think honestly about what you can do to change your manager's perception. Think less about offloading blame and more about the way forward.
    • Request that your boss give you some time to think over what he or she has said and that you would like to get back promptly with suggestions for a way forward.
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    Be prepared to show what systems you have in place to counter micro-management. Take a little time to write out a plan that will address the issues raised by your boss. Signal areas of weakness (check out How to Communicate Your Weaknesses) and provide evidence of how you will address them. For example, if your team keeps missing deadlines, write out a proposal for how you will prevent this in future. You might propose using a team whiteboard system with a series of mini-deadlines to be met, a series of check-ins with you, and a weekly check-in with your boss. You could schedule client review of progress as an early dress rehearsal to instill the urgency in your team members earlier on. Think of the ways that will improve efforts. Take this plan back to your boss and discuss it with them.
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    Use a little bit of flattery. Say that you're perfectly happy for your boss to review your performance but do not feel there is a need for them to be involved every step of the way. Flatter them by acknowledging that you understand that your boss' time is precious and that he or she has plenty of more important things to be attending to than moderating what you should be getting right as a manager. Offer a weekly review discussion in place of micro-management; in this way, you retain the control and place yourself in the position of discussing progress instead of having it metered out for you.
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    Seek training or up-skilling. If you do feel like a fish out of water in your role and you think training might improve things for your management abilities, let your boss know. It is helpful to understand workplace policies on training availability first so that you can put a solid pitch to your boss. You might even benefit from helping your boss succeed.
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    Lie low. If you really feel that your boss is fiddling too much and making your life a misery, sometimes it is best to just go with it for a while until your boss wears themselves out or finds another pet project to bother. Micro-management is a very exhausting and wasteful behavior and few can keep it up to any extent. If your boss is a perennial micro-manager, however, and this causes you a lot of angst, it might be time to find a new position and a new boss.
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    Perform well. The sweetest revenge is to do your job well. Ensure that you are meeting your job description and doing things to the best of your ability. Human resources can be an ally if you can show them how you are performing all the tasks required of you and other bosses will notice that you are doing what is expected of you as well. Sometimes it is best to just get on with the job and let the micro-manager's fragility evidence itself.


  • Beware if someone is suggesting you are being sensitive. You are being gaslighted[1]. Take a deep breathe and answer calmly the following sentence. "My sensitivity has helped me progressed in my other jobs, I believe what I'm trying to explain is fair and legitimate." Then take another deep breath and see how they respond. If you are feeling worse, you are being bullied. End the conversation with "I'm glad we talked, you've given me lots of advice I have to work with." Stop the damage and seek professional such a psychotherapist to help you move forward.
  • Always be open to suggestions and constructive criticism. It won't help you or your team if you turn innocent suggestions of help and support into "micro-management" issues. Be realistic when assessing your boss' behavior.

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