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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Workplace Doctor: Micromanaging boss is stifling me

It is important for managers to know when to taper off support in order for you to thrive on your own

Being constantly scrutinised by a manager can be counterproductive. Jason Alden/Bloomberg
Being constantly scrutinised by a manager can be counterproductive. Jason Alden/Bloomberg

I have been in my role for 12 months after being promoted. I work in the retail sector and while, over the first few months, the close attention and support of my boss was useful, there has been no let up. I now feel perfectly capable of undertaking my role without that same level of attention and I am confident in my abilities, but the continuing micromanagement I am being subjected to is, frankly, stifling. How should I address this issue?

BD, Abu Dhabi

Being promoted can be both exciting and stressful, as often the skills that got you recognised in the first place are not necessarily the skills that will make you successful in your new role.

In the early days, good support from your manager can be crucial to your future success. At the same time, it is important for managers to know when to taper off support in order for you to thrive on your own.

Given the young demographic profile of the UAE working population, this is an important concern that you are raising, as regional research highlights that Generation Y or Millennials don’t respond well to micromanagement, and yet it is still prevalent among many leaders across organisations. Micromanagement is detrimental to businesses and employees alike. It can stifle innovation, demotivate and frustrate employees and stunt their professional growth. A survey from the recruiter Accountemps on micromanagement of 450 employees revealed that nearly 60 per cent of them had worked for a micromanager at some point in their career. Furthermore, 55 per cent reported a decrease in their productivity and 68 per cent said that it dampened their morale.

Micromanagers resist delegation of work, immersing themselves in detail while not paying enough attention to the bigger picture or strategic direction. They may be seen to take pride in correcting others, push aside others’ knowledge and experience and discourage them from making decisions. Their actions make others feel disempowered, resulting in the loss of motivation, commitment and loyalty. A micromanager can be someone with very high standards who likes control, specifics and details. Similarly, it can be someone driven by power who gives little autonomy to others. It can also be someone who does not feel well enough equipped to take on the responsibilities of their own role, therefore they revert back to a lower level where they feel more confident.

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As a start, look at your own behaviour – could you be doing anything that your boss feels uneasy about? Perhaps you have a more relaxed approach to some procedures whilst your boss is pedantic about it? It is also possible that the level of involvement in your job is a form of feedback from his/her side, so be sure to ask if you are falling short in your performance. It is likely that your boss is not aware that you are being micromanaged, so it may be helpful to be clear on the expectations your boss has of you. Ensure that your job description aligns with the scope of your role and responsibilities and that you are operating well within this.

Next, try to understand what is causing your boss to behave this way. What do you think motivates or concerns your boss, and how can you address these? Get a better sense of the big picture – your boss may be working under pressures and responsibilities that you don’t anticipate. Having an understanding and empathy for this may help you to be more accepting of your boss’s actions. Be pro-active and predict what your boss will do or need, and provide this before they ask for it.

Finally, let your boss know how you feel about the level of his/her involvement. Other than the direct impact this has on you, there are further consequences to his/her actions. The over-involvement of your boss creates the impression that he/she does not trust you to do your job, and you are likely to work below your own level because your work is being done for you. If this is happening to you, it is likely that others are being micromanaged as well which will compromise the performance of the team overall.

Doctor’s Prescription:

Act on it sooner rather than later as you do not want your resentment to accumulate into something undesirable. Earn your boss’s trust by succeeding where it matters most. Communicate well and early, keeping your boss informed with regular, appropriate updates. Agree with your boss the level of involvement needed from his/her side to maximise their expertise. Flattery can help, so remind your boss that his/her time is too valuable to be spent on small details.

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