My Boss Won’t Stop Micromanaging Me!

Dear Deb:

Deb Headshot square GradientI was recently recruited to a new company. I was so excited to be sought out by this company, which is a leader in the industry and I knew that this move would be a boon to my career. My excitement has tempered a bit over the last few months on the new job. The problem is that my boss questions everything I do, and every suggestion that I make. He delegates tasks and then second-guesses every decision I make, sometimes even throwing out what I’ve done and doing it over his way. It’s gotten to the point that, on at least one big project, he’s even telling others his doubts about my approach, so I’m on the defensive every time I open my mouth. I’m not sure how to handle this. I’ve tried talking to him about how we can work together more effectively, and although he is agreeable in the moment, no permanent change occurs. I’m wondering if I should take this up with the VP. What do you suggest?



Dear Roger:

The second-guessing and questioning are symptoms of micromanagement, which is a horrible, ineffective management style. Micromanagers are always insecure in their own competence, and feel that by controlling minutiae, they are somehow validated. In the case of your boss, second-guessing your decisions makes him feel powerful. You made a decision, yet he wields the power to overrule it.

Of course, you don’t go to work every day to be an armchair psychologist and to identify the neuroses of those around you. You go to work to accomplish things, move the business forward, and to progress in your career.

To your question, should you bring this up with the VP? No. At least, not yet. There are a couple of things to consider. First, it’s wholly possible that the VP is well aware of this guy’s micromanagement and a) doesn’t care, or b) doesn’t want to address it now, for any multitude of reasons.

You need to take firmer action. Rather than merely meeting and discussing, meet and come up with a detailed plan of what is expected of you. It is imperative that you require him to be specific and to articulate what he wants. Do not allow him to get away with sweeping generalities, like “I need you to do a better job of ________.” Take these specifics and write them down. Share this written plan with your boss and work off of that. With micromanagers, it’s important to document their expectations.

iStock_000008732917SmallIf your boss continues to micromanage you, it may make sense to have a more direct conversation. You might say something like, “I feel like I make strong contributions here and want to continue doing so, but when you micromanage me, I find it difficult to give my best.” It may be that your boss is not aware of his instinctive need to micromanage, and so you need to communicate that you feel you could do better work if you’re trusted to carry out the tasks at hand.

Should all of this fail, then, yes, you should discuss it with the division head. But you must be armed with documentation that you actively tried to solve the problem. If you do wind up meeting with the VP on this, be careful that you don’t just complain about the micromanagement. Focus on the negative impact on your productivity and the business. As always, quantify, quantify, quantify.

All my best,


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