Managing a bossy boss

In most polls of employees, working for an overly bossy boss ranks among the worst management traits. A manager who suffocates you by bearing down on your every move and intruding on your ability to think and act independently can drain your energy and leave you gasping for freedom.

If you’re stuck with a control freak for a boss, take these steps to salvage the situation:

Anticipate and disarm. Don’t fight a meddler. Instead, plan in advance and address the boss’s predictable concerns. For example, if you know the boss likes to examine the phone bill to ensure the staff isn’t making too many personal calls, don’t wait until he asks to see it. Send a short memo every month that summarizes usage. This way, you won’t get irritated later if you’re expected to drop everything to bring him the bill.

Keep information flowing upward. A micromanager usually grows more meddlesome when he feels removed from too many aspects of the actual work that’s being done. If he senses a secret that he doesn’t know about, he’ll really become a pest.

Don’t let that happen. Open all lines of communication and keep the boss appraised constantly of news in your unit. Use e-mail, voice mail, memos, spontaneous hallway chats and any other practical vehicle to flood the boss with information.

Cut a deal. Even if you’re not comfortable leveling with your boss about his penchant for sticking his nose into every little detail, you might find that the direct approach can pay off. During a calm moment, such as a quiet Friday afternoon, level with him about your concerns. Explain that your purpose in raising the issue isn’t to criticize him, but to figure out a solution that preserves morale and enables you and your team to achieve even better results (that will presumably make the boss look good).