Dealing with your micromanager

Chapter 23 of Managing Your Manager (by Greg Connor)
(posted as a comment elsewhere but I wanted to save it here too)

If you have a micromanager for a boss, you probably recognize this scenario.

Q: So, how’s everything going with the X project? (Translation: I just had someone else ask *me* about it, so I thought I should come to you for up-to-the-minute answer. The email you sent right before lunch may be out of date by now, seeing as how it’s almost 3:00. Besides, I seem to have wandered away from my desk so I can’t be expected to remember *both* lines of the message.)

A: Well, I’m still waiting on Y and Z, from persons or processes Y(t) and Z(t). (Translation: Same as before lunch, dill weed).

One symptom of chronic micro management is constantly asking you for “status” on things. You’re not going to like to hear me say this, but the best solution I know to this problem is to give him even *more* frequent status, without waiting for him to ask. Imagine it working like this…

1. You send the message without first being asked for status. This is one way to communicate “I am not forgetting about you. I am here and working. Not everything is perfect, but I’m working through the issues. I will continue to keep you posted.”

(The effect you are going for here is first to satisfy his unnatural craving for status, and to do so on your schedule so you are less likely to be interrupted.)

2. Keep the reports coming. You are still working on what you’re working on, and still waiting on what you’re waiting on, but even the micromanager doesn’t watch you 8 hrs a day. You may think it’s silly to repeat the same information again, but reading it multiple times will make him remember it, and will keep him emotionally reassured that you are thinking about him.

(After longer exposure, he may start asking for status less often, because you have been cultivating the feeling that things are under control and that he is already plugged in.)

3. When you have something you need, delegate up. Make a list of things you are waiting on, and identify whether any of these items are “on the critical path” for your project. If it is a question, make “collect answer from Z” a task on your to-do list. If it is a deliverable, or access, or some other dependency, record “Get L from L(t) person” as a to-do list item. If you tried to get the answer or item or whatever and could not, because someone didn’t have time for you, or said he would get back to you and didn’t, *that’s* when you want to make it your manager’s problem.

(The nice thing about #3 is that if you have a list of these “delegate up” tokens to give out, you will have something to give him when he drops by your cube unexpectedly. This works better if it is something that has already appeared on a status email, and he already knows the issue… this is not negative reinforcement, so don’t just wait for him to wander over and spring it on him… you want to maintain the “proactive” stance of informing him instead of waiting for him to ask. But, if he is coming to your cube when he should be working on unblocking someone else’s constipation of answers/deliverables/resources, give him this shiny token to distract him. Also, don’t “lead off” with the needed item… give him the status he craves first, and then ask casually if he got the message about Z and if he happens to see the Z(t) person, could he mention it to them, or does he know of someone else we could ask for Z?)

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