I don’t know about you, but in my experience until now, there were situations where I felt micro-managed. And I hated it. Badly. It frustrated me. I didn’t understand why I was treated like that and I didn’t like the implications it had on the perceived quality of my work.

Doesn’t my boss think I’m capable?

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If you’re someone who cares about their work, having a boss who micro-manages you is not a good sign. It either says something about you or your work, or something about your boss, or all of them.

First of all, congratulations if you ask yourself questions about your performance and how is perceived by others, it means you at least have some intent of self-awareness. Many people react to being micro-managed by blindly complying to the boss’ nagging requests, getting frustrated, which leads to poor work, which leads to more micro-managing, which probably leads to being fired or simply decide to go somewhere else.

After getting through similar situations a few times, I found the courage and took the boss to a short conversation, “Hey, listen, I noticed recently you are requesting a lot of status updates and details about my work, is there something wrong?”. Now there might be situations where the answer to this question is not a pleasant one, but most of the time it is somewhere along the lines of ”You have been late delivering stuff several times, kept promising and then delaying, the customer is upset!” or ”I’ve had so much work to do recently and so many things at the same time, I feel like I’m loosing control of the deliveries!”.

The first version tells you that you might be a bit too optimistic about your estimates or you can’t say no enough, which is valid feedback and an opportunity for you to learn, while the second says a bit more about your boss than about yourself. Regardless, nothing an open conversation and some change in behaviour cannot solve. But, like with all problems, you first have to realise there’s a problem and then act - talk to your boss - (not just instinctively react) in order to try and fix it.

Why is it so hard to find capable people? Do I have to do everything myself?

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Now if you start with this attitude in mind, you’re off on a rocky road. Most of the people I met really want to do a great job. And even if they wouldn’t, micro-managing them is not the answer. They will never learn better and you will be always busy controlling everyone, rather than focusing on doing what is important for you.

Regardless on which side of the micro-managing you are looking from, the problem has a similar solution: first realise you are in one of the positions described above (maybe the toughest part, self-awareness) and second, go have a conversation with the other person involved.

In the beginning, state how you feel about the situation (“I am really frustrated because I feel micro-managed” or “I am worried that the delivery is not going to get back on track”) and then ask what could be the reason of that and if you could do something to change it. And then listen.

Don’t assume things about the other and don’t make a big deal out of it and certainly don’t continue in the same way if you feel something is wrong.