When you have the training, the know-how and the work ethic to get your job done right, it's a drag to be constantly peppered with questions and directions from your supervisor. Before you buckle down on a job search to find a new position where you won't be micromanaged, try to smooth over the situation with your control freak boss so you can do your job effectively and happily.
It's tempting to lay low to avoid the attention of a control freak supervisor, but that's likely to just reinforce the behavior of a misbehaving boss. Instead, go on the offensive, suggests career adviser and resume expert Tim Backes of ResumeGenius.com, based in Wilmington, Delaware. "The No. 1 easiest way to accomplish this is by asking questions," he says. "Don't ask a random question now and then. Ask a lot of questions -- tons of them." For example, ask the boss when the best time is to send a professional email, and whether you should end it with "Regards" or "Sincerely." When your boss starts to get impatient with these questions, suggest an interoffice training manual. "Basically, you want to preempt any micromanaging that they can do by beating them to the punch with your questions and then assign them a task without them knowing what you're doing," Backes says. "It takes a certain amount of subtlety, but it can be very effective." At the same time, consistently offer detailed updates on your projects through meetings, calls, reports or update emails. Perhaps, in the end, a proactive approach will show the micromanaging boss that you're clearly capable of handling your tasks without constant monitoring.
Be Firm From the Get-Go
It's hard to clearly delineate between work and personal time, particularly for a working mother who might need to duck out every once in a while for a family obligation. Stephanie Lindquist, mother of two and co-founder and CEO of the Denver-based Love Your Job Project, knows this all too well, but she recommends setting boundaries from the very beginning. "I went in and told them in the interview and offer negotiation that I had to leave by 4 p.m. every day in order to get my kids." She adds you're typically not required to carry a smartphone or sync your work email; if you choose to do so, turn off the email function once you leave work. "This will train your bosses not to expect to hear from you outside of working hours," she says.
Give Feedback When Appropriate
It's not likely that a micromanaging boss will want to hear you telling him to stay out of your work; however, if you think he's controlling because of a well-intentioned personality flaw rather than out of spite or lack of trust, appropriately timed feedback could help the situation. Jean-François Manzoni, co-author of "The Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome: How Good Managers Cause Great People to Fail," tells "Harvard Business Review" that a scheduled performance review might be just the place to have this conversation. If necessary, bring in someone from human resources to discuss the situation. A heart-to-heart talk worked for Gari Anne Kosanke, who now owns her own jewelry website out of Daytona Beach, Florida, after a younger supervisor was hired to manage her. "She would email me nightly with detailed steps I should take with my work the next day," Kosanke says. "I directly told her that with all of my experience I knew just as much -- if not more -- than she did about how to do my job. That stopped it, thank goodness." Of course, phrase your words tactfully to avoid drawing ire from someone who controls your paycheck.
While a control freak boss is probably the personality flaw of the manager and not you, it never hurts to do a once-over of your own work ethic. Ask yourself if you have had any problems with punctuality lately -- whether arriving to work late or turning in work after deadlines -- if you've been distracted by personal matters or if your work has fallen in quality. If the answer to any of those questions is yes, the micromanaging boss might be trying to get you back on track. Straighten up and rededicate yourself to a job well done, and the manager might back off.