I’ve worked for a number of micromanagers over the years. They’re a real pain in the noggin for EVERYONE. The trouble is, they rarely understand they’re that way. A micromanager is either taught to be who they are from their mentors. They can also become that way due to poor leadership and/or bad luck finding talented and coachable staff. In some industries, such as military, police, trades and others, a micromanager needs to be who they are in order to ensure success due to the specialised nature of what they do.
Often micromanagement causes negative issues such creating insecurity among staff — Ie., feeling you can never get something done right. The unneeded stress they cause inevitably leads to high turnover. This stressful issue makes it even harder for micromanagers to hold any faith in the people who work for them. While attrition is part of the natural ebb and flow of a business, high turnover is always the fault of management.
“It’s my way or the highway” is the resounding theme when a subordinate walks through the door to work every day. When you find yourself in such an environment, it’s important to give these sullen and broken souls a chance to gain trust in you. Here are 4 effective ways to become a pain-in-the-butt micromanager’s ally, in lieu of being just another annoying employee who makes their day more difficult.
1. Uncover the source of their lack of trust.
They’ll usually tell you why they’re the way they are if you’re listening with an unbiased ear. Micromanagers are definite OCD types, and often reasons like a lack of consistent progress updates, or staff constantly changing things without their input are the fault. To gain their trust and make them less of a micromanager, you need to find out the root cause of their issue and help them fix it.
How to gain their trust:
Send them frequent and detailed updates, don’t attempt to do things your own way until you’ve gained their trust. Get in their flow, gain their trust, and encourage those you work with to do the same.
2. Coach micromanagers to victory.
This sounds more simple than it will be in real life. However, once you understanding the micromanager’s hidden insecurities about how the team is run, you can find ways to help them let go a bit. Just a little at a time though. Don’t point out they need to let go, this will often backfire — you have to be clever!
How to coach a micromanager to victory:
Let them know when you notice a coworker who’s highly capable at a task the manager always reserves for themselves. When you see they’re getting busy, distracted — overwhelmed — identify ways to help them. Offer help, listen to their instructions, and complete them to a “T”. A few small wins is all you need to get the trust train rolling.
3. Ask them what you can do to be a trusted team member.
This is a possible hit or miss. But, an experienced micromanager will often appreciate an employee who flat asks what they’re ideally looking for from their employees. They’ll tell you every single thing you and others can do to alleviate their insecurities about delegating responsibilities.
How to implement their advice:
Unless you’re a John Forbes Nash type, making detailed notes of everything micromanagers tell you is the only way to gain the small trust-building victories you’ll need to be successful. Do exactly what’s asked of you, exactly how it’s detailed to be done. After a solid foundation of trust is realised, then you can start finding ways to sneak your own ideas and methods into the equation.
4. Mimic them as precisely as possible.
Imitation is the best form of flattery available. We all know when we’ve met a good friend or significant other when they start mimicking our behaviors, gestures, pacing, communication methods, and ways of doing things. You can identify any good relationship by simply watching how people interact and, in particular, how similar they are. A micromanager is very susceptible to giving trust to those who mimic them as closely as possible — without making it weird!
How to effectively mimic a micromanager to build trust:
An example of weird would be following them into the bathroom for their daily 10:00 am bowel movement. Good examples include mimicking the gestures they use when communicating, and working at the same pace as they do (Ie., not slower or faster). Even pick up on and use the same buzzwords and phrases they do (Ie., “awesome,” “cray cray,” “get er’ done,” etc.)
Use the advice listed above and the sky is the limit in how far your career goes. While micromanagers limit their own success, failure to win over and gain their trust often limits the success of those who work under them. Being clever and working your way into their circle of trust is the only way to avoid allowing their limitations to limit your own rise.