In the more than 10 years I’ve been blogging on communication issues, no one has ever asked about the important topic Rahul emailed about recently on LinkedIn:
“I have a team lead who has micro-managing habits. I have a meeting soon with him and I’m getting help from your videos. But how do I solve this problem?”
Before you communicate one-on-one with a micro-managing boss, observe his or her habits in general. Here’s a checklist for your consideration:
- Does the boss seem to micro-manage everyone or just you? (If the micro-managing focuses on just you, you need to have a talk to find out why.)
- Does the boss seem distrustful in general—of his or her own boss and peers in other functional areas? (If generally distrustful, the micro-managing habit may or may not be solvable.)
- Is the boss confident of his or her own abilities? (If the boss lacks confidence personally, then it stands to reason that insecurity will extend to a lack of faith in others’ ability to perform well without constant supervision.)
But if the above checklist suggests that your boss’s micro-managing is focused solely on you, then it’s time for a heart-to-heart discussion. Here are some key questions for that conversation:
- Is there a past project I’ve handled that has made you feel uncomfortable about my current performance?
- Is there a key skill that I need to improve or a work habit that’s causing you to feel that I might not be able to deliver on the XYZ project?
- Would it make you feel more comfortable if we set up more frequent check-back points on this current project? At what points in the project, would you like me to check back with you?
- I understand that there are different levels of delegation. Which level do you feel most comfortable with between us?
––“Here’s what I’ve done. Let me know if that’s not okay.”
––“Here’s what I plan to do. If I don’t hear from you otherwise, I’ll go ahead with this action.”
––“I recommend we do X. Do I have your approval to move ahead?”
––“Here’s what I’ve discovered. What action would you like me to take?”
You may feel as though you’re “caving in” to the micro-managing boss with even more frequent report-backs, status reports, approval requests, and so forth. And you may be—for a period. But if your goal is to call attention to the issue and change the situation, this focus on the habit can bring about long-term change.
At best, such frank communication gives you solid feedback about performance and perception. At the least, such a discussion communicates to a boss the need to clarify expectations to improve the relationship.