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How to Manage Up Effectively

When Your Boss is a Micromanager

When you think of leadership, you probably think of downward communication, or someone in a leadership position delivering information down through the levels of the organizational flow chart. It is often overlooked that managing up and laterally is just as important as managing down.

Managing up is a method of career development the includes understanding your boss’s position and requirements and working towards helping your boss to fulfill those requirements by exceeding expectations and needs. When managing up, there is a fine line between doing what is best for the team and the company as a whole and manipulating your boss for personal gain.

Managing up is an especially useful tactic when you have a boss that micromanages.

Micromanagers often come from a place of insecurity and a need for control. Micromanagers can make it hard for employees to do their best work and can make employees feel like they aren’t trusted and even dread coming into work. Sometimes employees get so nervous that they are going to do something wrong that they start asking for permission or instructions when it isn’t necessary, slowing down the progress.

How to manage the manager

Being proactive is the best way to get ahead of your manager and anticipate needs so that the micromanagement is dissipated. It is important to try not to sour the relationship between you and your manager during this process.

Have a plan

Consider what might make you feel better if you were anxious about an event or project and you were managing the people doing it. For most people, they just need to see a plan of action. And more often than not, you can build a better relationship with your boss by trying something their way first. It may not be the most efficient way, but it’s much easier to make improvements if you have tried it. Once you are on track and you have built your plan, share it with your boss. Let them know what steps you plan to take and keep communication lines open. Bonus points if you can create the plan before your boss asks for it!

Set boundaries

This can be a hard one. Especially if your boss is the type of micromanager that emails or messages constantly and expects responses immediately. Or if you are fearful you may lose your job if you don’t . One thing to remember is that if you don’t set healthy boundaries, it can affect your work, your mental health and your physical health.

One way to start setting boundaries with constant interruptions is to set a time when you respond to them. Combine all the question or comments into one message where you answer everything. You can even explain that you set aside a specific time to answer message because you were working diligently on the task at hand and didn’t want to interrupt progress.

If you work in the office and your boss is constantly at your desk, you may need to ask if you can set up a daily or weekly meeting (even just 20 minutes) where you both can discuss the project and any updates.

Build a Relationship

Perhaps the most important part of managing up is building a relationship. Make an effort to get to know your boss and what makes them tick. Try putting yourself in your boss’s shoes. Would you have some of the same worries and reactions? What would make your life easier? Having some empathy and doing things that help your boss out go a long way in building a trusting, work relationship.

Consider what your boss’s goals are in the organization, how do they envision you fitting into their plans, what do they value, and what is their communication style? Finding the answers to these questions and tailoring your activities to fit what works best for your boss can ease the stress and tension your boss feels. Now you are managing the micromanager!

Other Do’s

There are many other things you can do to appease the micromanager and strengthen your career path including:

  • Jumping in or offering help when there is a work emergency

  • Admitting mistakes and working to learn from them

  • Asking your boss questions about their work experiences and their goals

  • Asking your boss what works best for them with communicating progress (a daily update, a weekly email, etc)

  • Offering to help colleagues when they are overloaded (if you are not overloaded)

  • If you see something you can help your boss with, offer to help

  • Stay above office politics and gossip, don’t get involved


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