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Why Do People Micromanage? 5 Tips for Dealing with Micromanaging Personalities

While dealing with a micromanager is irritating and can contribute to a lack of productivity in the office, handling a micromanager is a skill you should learn at some point in your professional career. Chances are you feel undermined, anxious, or self-doubting whenever the micromanager is nearby. Micromanagement is even more irritating when it comes from a person you don’t report to, such as your co-worker. The trick is to first identify why people micromanage and to consider the following points to in order to gain a clearer understanding of your situation.

The person you perceive to be a micromanager may simply have good intentions, which manifest in taking opportunities to discuss the work they genuinely enjoy. While frustrating, recognize that this type of office behavior is not personal. Accepting this type of micromanager’s positive qualities, such as her interest and engagement, can help put things in perspective and can keep you from internalizing negative feelings. Her interrupting management style can be dealt with by mirroring the same level of enthusiasm she has, thereby assuring her you are on board with your shared objectives.

The micromanager may be anxious about unexpected situations cropping up and wants to explain to you how to avoid these potential pitfalls in the clearest terms possible. This is a difficult personality to cope with because this type of micromanager can always fall back on the legitimate excuse that she is simply worried the project won’t be completed to standard. As a result, you may feel threatened, discouraged, or burnt out. Take a closer look at yourself and consider whether you are the problem in this situation. It might be the case that there are legitimate reasons behind her need for involvement in your work.

The micromanager may wish to exhibit the pretense of having more control than she does. This type of person may make a show of loudly instructing you on how to perform a task in front of others, for instance, thereby signaling to others that is in control of the issue. Workplace conflicts that stem from a perceived lack of control, while difficult to negotiate, can be dealt with via communication. Gently inform the micromanager that you are aware of your job description and are working diligently towards your goals.

The micromanager lacks a clear understanding of how to work productively, and thus fills her time by creating obligations for both of you. For example, you may be annoyed by colleagues who seek to maintain the appearance of being busy by constantly interrupting you for status updates. They engage in this behavior to project the illusion that they are working, even when they are only functioning to distract their colleagues. Cope with this type of person’s behavior by writing down a schedule of what needs to get done, and informing her that you will be giving her updates accordingly. When you announce the exact timeframe under which you will communicate information, you are setting yourself up for less interference from others who will know what to expect from you.

The micromanager may be genuinely suffering from an obsessive-compulsive disorder. This type of hyper-focused management style can manifest in a variety of ways and almost always contributes to a general lackluster work ethic in the office. Typically, these types of office personalities come into work earliest and stay latest, immerse themselves in details, refuse to delegate decision-making power, and brush aside others’ contributions. They may create deadlines simply to create them and may emphasize mundane tasks and monitor their colleagues to the point that more unnecessary work is created for both of you. When this type of person is an authority figure, this emphasis on seemingly insignificant details may frustrate and demoralize employees, who feel guilty that their expectations for work activities do not align with their boss’ version of how things should get done. Unfortunately, there is little you can do if this type of micromanager is your boss. Focus instead on taking care of yourself, and utilize stress reduction techniques in order to appear as relaxed and responsive as possible. Reach out to your co-workers to confirm that her behavior is being experienced by others, and seek support and approval from your colleagues. This type of horizontal relationship building can help your boss see you in a positive light, thereby counteracting the severity of her management style.

Clarity and understanding are the tools you can use to deal with the discouraging effect chronic micromanagers can have on you and your colleagues. By identifying the causes of micromanagement, you can better understand the techniques used to deal with them and how to respond accordingly, especially when your job is at stake.