How to Manage a Micromanager

Funeral Industry News GROW Human Resources March 31, 2022

We believe that every funeral director should have the tools to succeed. With the help of our field-leading partners, we publish daily funeral industry news and provide free tools to help our readers advance their careers and grow their businesses. Our editorial focus on the future, covering impact-conscious funeral care, trends, tech, marketing, and exploring how today's funeral news affects your future.

How to Manage a Micromanager

Thank you to Dr. Davana Pilczuk of The Human Performance Group for this article. Dr. Pilczuk is an award-winning kinesiologist who specializes in human performance. She is a speaker, writer and consultant for Fortune 500 companies, sports teams and small businesses.

If there is ever a boss who can wear you down, it’s the micromanager. Their incessant need to scrutinize and criticize your work, deflates you. Their constant questioning, feedback and input can slow your work down to a snail’s pace. Worst of all, they suck the happiness out of your job, leaving you wondering if it’s time to jump ship. Before you consider swimming in new waters, try these tips first.

Show empathy

Micromanagers tends to be anxious people. Whether that anxiety comes from a lack of self-confidence, very high standards, or personal life reasons, micromanagers need to be in control. You never know what really goes on in people’s lives, so don’t automatically assume you know the motive behind their behavior. I knew a micromanager who never let her direct reports attend company meetings without her. She had to be present, like a mother hen, for any and all conversations about her department regardless of the fact that she had highly skilled managers working for her who knew the program inside and out. Behind the scenes, she was dealing with an alcoholic husband and out of control adult son, who had been repeatedly arrested. Her need for keeping all aspects of her life in check, probably had more to do with her home life, than anything else.

Find patterns

People are very predictable. We each tend to get upset about specific things and nervous about particular situations. Look for the things that your director worries about and then find ways to quell those fears. For example, they might have some very demanding families putting undue pressure on them, so help him or her by arming them with information and help that can give them confidence when they have to face these individuals. Start asking your boss questions, like a detective, about particular people, projects or topics and see how they react. If they seem uneasy in their response, that’s a good indication it’s something that keeps them up at night. And if it keeps them up, then its highly likely they’re going to keep you up too.

Come prepared

Since micromanagers need control to tone down their anxiety, provide them with lots of sources, data and inputs to show that you’ve done your homework. Anxiety comes from over worrying about the perceived threat and under focusing on all the resources we have to handle tough situations. By providing these managers with a plethora of resources, they will feel better equipped to handle a situation that makes them feel anxious. If your director asks question after question, don’t get frustrated. Realize something is making them feel uneasy and then do your homework and come back with information that will overwhelmingly make them feel better.

Be annoying

We often want to hide from micromanagers because they can be exhausting. However, try a dose of reverse psychology and pursue them first. Bring them your ideas first, email them frequent updates on your assignments, and basically keep them in the know ad nauseam. Channel your inner Pepe Le Pew and frequently chase them down. It sounds crazy, but they will see you as a go-getter, competent professional and will probably start to leave you alone. You might feel out of your comfort zone, but by over communicating, you will reduce their need to control, which is what you want. Make them feel safe and secure, and I bet they start to leave you alone.

In the end, micromanaging really isn’t about you. It might feel personal, like you are being singled out, but ask around and odds are others are experiencing the same thing. If your boss seems like a decent, (although mildly neurotic) person, give these tips a try and see if you can’t make this a fun challenge for yourself to learn how to manage up. Not everyone we work with or for will be easy, so why not start building your skills now and see if you can’t improve relations between you two. Worst case scenario, little changes. Best case scenario, your boss backs off, gives you the freedom you need to do your job, and you now know how to skillfully maneuver someone with a very different style than your own.