Q. My boss is a micromanager. He needs to control every single detail of any project I am working on, and then he hovers as I work. I'm starting to hide in our conference room to get privacy. How do I get him to trust my skills?
A. You get your boss to trust your skills by realizing he probably has an anxiety disorder. He is terrified of losing control over a project and believes micromanaging his staff will prevent a problem.
Rule 1: Don't take his hovering or constant advice about your next step personally.
Rule 2: Ask your boss what his worst-case scenario would be if the project failed.
Rule 3: Make it clear to your boss that you have a specific plan to avoid this result.
Life and work are inherently unpredictable. We all laugh at people who are superstitious. If a coworker avoids stepping on a crack in a sidewalk, we think they are eccentric. If our boss can't let go of control of our project, we inaccurately believe our boss has no faith in us.
The truth is your boss has an awareness that bad things happen. He also has a superstition that smart people can avoid bad things if they are constantly vigilant.
None of us enjoys walking around aware that an asteroid could extinguish all life on Earth or that Yellowstone could blow up and start the next ice age. We human beings get through our day by denying the reality of our puny powerlessness in a great big universe.
Your boss is simply trying to avoid circumstances he thinks would ruin his career. You could establish that you are his ally by helping him avoid his worries and become his new best friend. If instead you buck his control and get hostile, you'll only make his fear worse.
I know you probably think your boss is the one in charge. But, surprisingly, he may be more afraid of problems at work than you are. To get your boss to trust your skills, you'll have to see him as vulnerable rather than trying to insult you.
You can't build an alliance with your boss if you're busy trying to defend yourself or avoid him. You can't promise your boss a problem-free workplace. You can make it clear you are committed to providing solutions and lowering his anxiety.
When we go to work, we need to see both the head and the heart of the people we work with. When people see we know what's in their head, they want to hire us. When people know we understand what is in their hearts, they trust our skills, our judgment and our actions.
The last word(s)
Q. I want a raise. Any advice?
A. Yes, be visible, effective and profitable.
(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at http://www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)
Managing a micromanager
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
The Baltimore Sun encourages civil dialogue related to our stories; you must register and log-in to our site in order to participate. We reserve the right to remove any user and to delete comments that violate our Terms of Service. By commenting, you agree to these terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.