Boss Is Constantly Breathing Down Your Neck? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I am the general manager of a hotel property. I have always received great performance reviews, have high employee retention numbers (a big issue in my business) and my teams seem to really like working with me.

About nine months ago I got a new boss and she is a crazy micromanager. She doesn’t seem to understand that I have been doing this job successfully for five years. She is always breathing down my neck and questioning every decision I make. It takes more time to keep her satisfied than it takes to do all the other things I need to do.

It is demoralizing and exhausting. I want to tell her to back off and let me do my job. How can I do that?

Over Managed

Dear Over Managed,

You can’t. You can fantasize about it, but it isn’t going to get you what you are looking for, which is more autonomy. Your new boss is probably just nervous about doing well herself and is operating out of old habit driven by an overabundance of caution.

Here is what I suggest. Ask for some extra time with your boss after you have addressed the day-to-day nuts and bolts. Tell her you want to check in about how she thinks you are doing and about your working relationship. Be prepared to ask some big, open-ended questions to get her talking, such as:

  • Is there anything I am doing that keeps you from having confidence in me
  • How can I make it easier for you to trust me with __ (fill in one of your responsibility areas)?
  • What can I do to increase your belief that you can rely on me?
  • What would you need to see from me to be more comfortable with less supervision?
  • Why are you so uptight? (Totally kidding on this one, just checking to see if you are paying attention.)

See what she has to say. Don’t let yourself get defensive if she gives you feedback. Listen, take notes, and say thank you. Be prepared to take a stand for being left to your own devices with one or two areas that you know you have down pat—not the whole job, just a few areas, so you have someplace to start. With any luck, once you prove yourself to be dependable with one or more areas, she will ease up. The key is to consistently demonstrate competence.

Side note: In a new manager/employee relationship, it is better for the manager to start with tight supervision and then back off as the employee demonstrates competence. If the manager starts off being laid back, it is almost impossible to tighten up in the event it becomes necessary.

If it’s really hard for you to fight the urge to tell off the boss, I recommend getting it all off your chest with a good friend or your dog. Just get it all out so it doesn’t get in the way of your being open and curious when you do talk to her. Asking questions and drawing her out will get you much better results.

Your courage and openness should help get things on an even keel—but she may not change her MO. Ever. She may not be able to. If that ends up being the case, you will have a big decision to make. Good hotel GMs are in high demand!


About the author

Madeleine Blanchard Headshot 10-21-17

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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