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Being micromanaged? Let’s talk

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

If your boss's micromanagement interferes with your ability to do your job, quit casting yourself as a victim.

You can't change the boss, but you can influence many of the situations you face, says Harry Chambers, a trainer and author of My Way or the Highway: The Micromanagement Survival Guide (Berrett-Koehler).

Chambers says you can improve how you work with a micromanager if you:

Don't wait for the boss to ask for progress reports. Let him or her know—daily, if necessary—where you are on each project.

Format your report to show that you're aware of deadlines and priorities, Chambers advises. That will go a long way toward comforting and reassuring your micromanager.

Suggestion: Create a "stoplight summary": Green means the project is all "go," yellow indicates a potential problem, and red marks items that you need to discuss with the boss.

Find out what's causing the boss to micromanage you. With careful digging, you may uncover that the president is leaning on the boss to finish a "pet" initiative, or—worse—that the boss doubts your ability to work independently. Either way, Chambers says, you need to know.

One way to broach the topic: "What, if anything, haven't you told me about this situation that could help me better understand how I can help you?"

Another approach to tap hidden agendas: "I think I understand this from the business perspective. Is there anything from your personal perspective that you would like me to accomplish or avoid?"

Focus on productivity, not personality. Whatever's causing the boss to micromanage you, frame your concerns in terms of its effect on your productivity.

Example: "I know being as productive as I can be is important to you. That's why I wanted to make you aware that reporting my progress to you four times a day keeps me from completing the work on time. What would you like me to do about that?"

"Managers live or die on the performance of their people," Chambers explains, so you're more likely to persuade a micromanager to change something that's hindering your productivity.

Avoid the "b" word. The word "but" can trigger a negative reaction that causes people to stop listening to anything you say after it. So, instead of "I understand you need this by 2 p.m., but I'm already working on ...," say "I understand you need this by 2 p.m., and I'm already working on ... ."

With the second approach, you can enlist the manager's help in reordering priorities.

Final note: Quit thinking of yourself as a victim of a micromanager, and start looking for the things you can control or change about the situation.

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