No one likes a helicopter boss (one who hovers over you.) Micromanagement is a major source of inefficiency and frustration in most work environments. Still, it's commonplace. Many bosses will tell you they have to micromanage because employees aren't accountable and don't deliver the quantity and quality of deliverables required. Employees will tell you that the bosses don't provide the trust and empowerment to allow them to perform at their best. In all likelihood both are correct in some aspect.

Management is not easy. It's not a black and white process that everyone can figure out quickly. If it were, every boss would be loved and every employee would perform perfectly. Productive management takes careful thought and consideration. It also requires effort and honest feedback on the part of the employees. Even then, it can be a challenge to get a micromanager to loosen the grip. Here is my solution and more insights from my Inc. colleagues.

1. Find the source.

Someone micromanages for one of three reasons:

Fear of failure.

The need for performance.

That is the only type of management they know how to do.

Have a heart-to-heart conversation with the micromanager and find out which of these three is motivating their behavior. If it's number 1, let them know you have their back and you will do whatever it takes to help them succeed. Assure them you will check in to let them know how things are going along the way. If it's number 2, set specified goals together with milestone check-in meetings. Then get them to agree to leave you alone during the interim. If number 3, share a trusted management book to inspire them how to take a better approach. If none of that helps, find a better boss.

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2. Show them a better path.

No one likes being micromanaged, and this includes micromanagers. Work closely with the micromanager to change his or her style of management -- providing new approaches and techniques that ensure the job gets done, but in a way that doesn't require looking over everyone's shoulder all of the time. Set goals with employees, get metrics, monitor their performance, and correct as needed. Then step out of your employees' way and let them do their jobs. Peter Economy--The Leadership Guy

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3. Avoid surprises.

People micromanage because letting go of control is, in some way, frightening to them. For instance, they may worry about looking bad, or being outdone: a typically unconscious pattern rooted in insecurity or pressure to perform. Rather than view your micromanaging maniac as a jerk, do your best to understand where they're coming from -- not to justify their rude behavior, but to position it differently in your mind. Then, you may be able to let go of resentment and frustration and find a way to work amicably with them. Begin with frequent updates, especially on issues that threaten to send your project south, like going over budget. Micromanagers don't like surprises! Marla Tabaka--The Successful Soloist

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4. Delegate, delegate, delegate.

Unfortunately there are micromanagers at every company. More often than not, they have been given power or responsibility that either they weren't ready for or don't know what to do with. That power manifests itself in the form of micromanaging their staff's tasks and will test their team's sanity.

Usually their micromanaging is a sign of their own insecurities of not performing well enough or not feeling respected.

You need to spend time digging deeper to determine what the actual problem is. Maybe they don't know how to give up control. Maybe they measure their worth in their work. Maybe they have never managed before and don't know how to handle the new role.

Micromanagers are salvageable. Teach them to delegate by explaining that delegation frees them up to do what you really need them focus on. Explain that if their team members need to be watched that closely, they need to be replaced. Eric Holtzclaw--Lean Forward

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5. Anticipate the requests.

Assuming that the micromanager is someone you feel you have to work with (a boss or an important client, for example), and assuming that you've had a direct conversation about their micromanaging tendencies, the trick is to get ahead of them. This means anticipating the granular-level criticisms they'll have before they offer them, and having complete, effective responses. Basically, it means you have to wow them to the point that they feel comfortable taking a more hands-off approach. If this doesn't work however, it's probably time to reevaluate whether it's truly so important that you remain working with them. Bill Murphy Jr.--Action Required

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Published on: Sep 29, 2015
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