WFH This Pandemic Brings Another Challenge: Micromanagers

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As the pandemic continues to keep teams working from home, look out for a decline in employee morale. This isn’t linked to the usual suspects, such as overworking and tight deadlines. The low morale isn’t also related to a sheer lack of social contact. The culprit will likely be your boss—your micromanaging boss.

Micromanagers create seeds of doubt.

Working from home or WFH comes with many benefits: no tiring commute, you can eat more home-cooked food, and your boss is not hanging over your shoulder. But if you’re stuck under a micromanager, your-boss-hanging-over-your-shoulder can easily turn into constant check-ins, changing demands, and extra layers of approval. These behaviors can create seeds of doubt. You might start to think: “Why are they asking for too many updates? It feels like they don’t trust me.”

Since micromanagers show distrust to employees, some workers push back by purposefully withholding information or working more independently. The problem, however, is that this response further increases the anxiety of the micromanager. Then, the whole thing turns into a vicious cycle of more frequent check-ins, stricter demands, more stringent approval processes, and employees feeling tired and frustrated.

But here’s a greater issue: You can’t change your boss’ personality. You are much better off focusing on things you can control to mitigate the situation and make your relationship more effective during WFH.

Here are a few ways to find some middle ground that will keep you sane and your manager satisfied:

  • Find out your boss’ preferred communication platform.

Some managers prefer Slack, Skype, or phone calls. Others stick to sending emails, especially if the company employs Office 365 email malware protection. Find out which platform your micromanaging boss likes to use to avoid information getting overlooked, which often leads to multiple follow-ups.

boss talking to his employee

  • Be proactive and get ahead of your boss.

Micromanagers want frequent updates—that’s a fact. So come up with a game plan that works best for you. Perhaps you can propose sending an email update every day at 1 PM or having a Zoom meeting every Friday afternoon for a weekly progress review. By setting the schedule on relaying updates, you can prevent your boss from suddenly reaching out to you and interrupting your workflow.

Make sure to create a paper trail for such agreements. This way, you can make sure everyone is on the same page, and you can reiterate the agreed schedule when your micromanager suddenly bothers you.

  • Show respect and choose your words wisely.

Setting expectations with a micromanager can be difficult, as you might come off as demanding. Choose your words wisely and focus on asking questions to make it clear you’re collaborating with them, not simply firing demands.

Also, since trust is a big issue for your micromanaging boss, reassure them. Say you want to work and aim to do it well, but their behaviors make it tough to get any work done. Of course, you should walk the talk. Make sure to deliver the expected results—and do it consistently—to finally build or increase your boss’ trust in you.

It’s tough to work with a micromanager. This stressful relationship can add to an already fraught situation we all face this pandemic. Though it’s impossible to change your boss’s personality, you can pick your battle and focus on changing anything you have control over. This way, you protect your mental health, day in and day out.

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