April 22, 2018

Small Business Advice

Build trust to prevent being micromanaged

"Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out." ~ Ronald Reagan

Jerry Osteryoung | 6/18/2012

Recently, I wrote a column about how ineffective micromanaging is and urged all micromanagers out there to alter their ways so they can be better leaders. Micromanaging seldom works and it destroys the fabric of the team.

Jerry Osteryoung
Jerry Osteryoung

Since writing that column, I have been inundated with notes from readers asking what they can do if they have a boss who micromanages. The first place to start would be to find out what is triggering their micromanaging. It can not always be assumed that it is the manager’s problem.

Often, micromanagers over supervise because they feel the employee is just not doing the job. I have seen many situations where employees are complaining loudly about a manager they claim is a micromanager only to discover that it is actually the employees who are the ineffective ones. In cases like these, the solution is to build the manager’s trust. The employee needs to prove to their boss that they do not need this constant supervision.

In the event the problem is not an employee performance issue, you will need to have a strategy for dealing with your micromanaging boss. This strategy must start with very honest dialogue.

During this conversation, you might ask your boss something like, “You seem to be managing me very closely. In order to do a better job, what can I do to improve your trust in me?” Keep it very positive and be honest. Honesty is critical as is really listening to what your boss is saying to you.

You may also want to ask your manager how they would like you to communicate your progress on the projects you are working on. Most managers just want to know how things are progressing. Many are simply fearful that things will fall between the cracks. The more you can allay this fear, the better, so it might be helpful to provide regular progress updates.

This is such a small thing, but I have seen this work well in so many cases. The more you communicate to your boss about the status of your work, the less they will micromanage you.

Now there may come a time when you really, really like your job but your boss is giving you grief by micromanaging you. In these cases, you have to do a cost benefit analysis to see if staying is worthwhile. That is, you will need to ask yourself if the benefits of working at a job you love makes tolerating the micromanager a fair tradeoff.

If you have done everything you can, but nothing changes with your micromanager, you may get to the point where you will need to seriously consider leaving the job. Working for a micromanager is very stressful, and we need less stress in our lives, not more.

Now go out and make sure you do everything you can to find out why your boss is micromanaging you. Communicate often so your boss learns to have more and more trust in you. If all else fails, looking for another job might be the only viable alternative.

You can do this!

Go to Links Other small business advice columns from Dr. Osteryoung are here. Note: Articles older than 30 days require registration (it's quick and free).

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses - he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is an bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at

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