20

My team just changed managers last week. He's started out being very micromanagey - he'll constantly call us to see what we did with the previous 15 minutes and then say that we need to change tasks and work on something else for the next 10 minutes, and also try to work on writing some other document in the 30 seconds that we're waiting for a Teams response from someone, and also he needs to observe us drafting emails, and then he picks apart our word choice and asks why we believe it's professional to make typos while we're drafting (not sending) emails. He wants time estimates for things like responding to an email or scheduling a Teams meeting. He's constantly joining code review or pair programming meetings that he wasn't invited to and spending the whole time criticizing someone's IDE font size or indentation settings.

I'm concerned about this because micromanagement is always what's caused me to have to find a new job so far. I have a really hard time dealing with this. If this was an equal power interaction, I'd tell him to stop bothering me, but since he has all the power over my health insurance, I can't do that. Is there a tactful way to stop him from micromanaging, or is it just time to find a new job?

5
  • 14
    If I had a manager that wanted to watch me write emails I'd tell them to write it themselves. That's absolutely ridiculous.
    – Steve
    Nov 30, 2021 at 0:07
  • 8
    If the situation really is as egregious as you suggest - where as little as 30 seconds of pause in a task is attracting suggestions to do other work in the meantime - then I'd suggest simply telling him that you're finding his behaviour frustrating and insulting, and that his suggestion is completely inconsistent with concentration on either the task at hand or the proposed alternative. If others feel the same way - and presumably they do - then approaching him collectively could also be an answer.
    – Steve
    Dec 1, 2021 at 6:58
  • 4
    Assuming that "next ten minutes" and "30 seconds" are exaggerations, could you perhaps edit this to give an indication of what he is really doing, without exaggeration? That would give us a better feel for how bad the problem really is. Dec 1, 2021 at 13:57
  • No and yes, but find a new job first ;) Managers that aren't micromanagers seem to be few and far between these days. It could be narrow attention span and ADHD issues, deep insecurity, etc. They can't mind their own business and instead insert themselves into 10 things that their subordinates are doing...at once. Yes, you need to proactively set boundaries and push back. Give them that feedback straight up, maybe at perf review, or just setup a meeting. And then keep 'training' them by pushing back each time. Your manager doesn't have to like you, but it's up to you to make them respect you.
    – A.S
    Dec 3, 2021 at 14:48
  • This is pico-management at best. I would consider micromanagement asking twice per day for detailed status updates or switching task priorities that often.
    – Vorac
    Dec 4, 2021 at 11:56

5 Answers 5

19

Why not just have a discussion with your manager? This person is a person, and they're likely unaware that they're even doing these things in a manner that is causing stress. Being new, this person is likely going to be open to feedback so long as it's constructive and presented in a friendly manner.

It doesn't need to be a complaint session, it can be a series of questions that call out specific behaviors and look to get to the root of the behavior.

You spent a lot of time in {meeting} talking about {someone's} IDE settings. What goal were you looking to achieve there? Is there a standards document I can help to build?

It's really distracting to have you kibitzing while I'm drafting an email. Would you mind if I constructed the email properly and then sent you an official draft to approve before sending it on? I think it would help me to complete and proof an email fully before receiving feedback for it.

You've asked regularly about micro-blocks of time regarding where we spend our time on various tasks for projects. These regular check-ins are highly distracting. Is that direct control over those time blocks serving an objective for which I'm unaware? I'd like to meet that objective in a more constructive manner without requiring you to come to me for that information.

Continue to stress throughout the conversation that your goal is to make his job easier by passing these tasks down to people in a deliberate manner. Keeping the focus on helping him meeting his obligations will make sure it stays out of the "complaint space" where conversations begin to break down. The key is to go into the conversation as a partner rather than an adversary.

Alternative concepts would be enlisting a more senior manager who is a peer to this person to find ways to submit this feedback without "going over his head". A lot of times, this behavior is a symptom of wanting to look as prepared as possible in front of peers and senior managers. If a peer is able to help with this feedback it may be received in a better light as well.

6
  • 15
    This makes sense for someone who's a reasonable person but things like, "...asks why we believe it's professional to make typos while we're drafting...", in the OP's question that make me worry this guy is just a jerk.
    – BSMP
    Nov 30, 2021 at 2:59
  • 4
    ...in which case asking him will clarify if he's a jerk. He's been there less than a week, a lot of nervous new-starter behaviour could easily look like those of a jerk. Nov 30, 2021 at 8:32
  • 4
    @BSMP it's entirely possible that the guy is just a controlling power hungry jerk. By assuming that right out of the gate the only outcome that can be achieved will be a negative one. I personally prefer to apply Hanlon's razor. Nov 30, 2021 at 14:15
  • 2
    While I'm all for talking with someone first, this seems a bit of a naive answer. Micromanagers tend to be micromanagers specifically because they do not trust their underlings. OP has given several cases where this spills into not just checking up, but actively criticizing the most mundane of tasks or user settings (IDE font size!?). That's not the mark of someone who is open for others' ideas. I'm not saying OP shouldn't talk to him, but the posted question very much warrants an answer that already contains the next step when talking is almost guaranteed to fail.
    – Flater
    Dec 1, 2021 at 13:28
  • 1
    @Flater: how do you build trust? You talk to people openly and honestly. This answer has the next step, seek one if this person's peers and solicit aid. If neither of these works, then one if the other answers might at least be more fun to try. I've dealt with my fair share of micro managers and this has worked every time for me. Dec 1, 2021 at 13:37
9

I bet twenty years ago I'd have had some of the same issues. But since then I've had managers who taught me how to manage effectively, and not micromanage.

So my approach here would be simple: talk to your manager's manager, assuming you have at least some relationship with them. Give them specific details, and make it clear you're trying to be constructive here and want to help your manager get to where they can do the most good for the team. Don't be negative: be specific and detailed and constructive.

If you don't have any relationship with their manager at all, you either need to see if this goes away after a little while, or start looking around... or both, IMO.

4
  • 5
    @JoeStrazzere No, I don't suggest complaining. I suggest that, if OP already has a relationship with said boss, that it's worth using that relationship in a constructive manner. From the OP, it sounds like going directly to the manager will not work, at least for OP, or I'd have suggested that.
    – Joe
    Nov 29, 2021 at 21:34
  • 2
    @JoeStrazzere, I once had a job with a micromanager boss. I was the 5th (FIFTH) person in my role because 4 others had quit in the span of LESS than 2 years. At my exit interview the department head asked me why I was leaving and since I had nothing to lose I told him the truth: the boss was a petty tyrant. He asked me "Why didn't you tell anyone?" I perhaps should have. These kinds of bosses can do incredible damage to an organization before upper management gets wise to what's happening.
    – teego1967
    Nov 30, 2021 at 1:38
  • 1
    The point in my answer is to only do that if you have a relationship with that upper manager, in which case they respect your opinion (hopefully) and it won't come across as "going over their head" but just giving them the heads up of a potential problem. If that's the case, then a week in is precisely when you do it - not six months later when several team members have left. A week in, the new manager can get some feedback from their manager and adjust, instead of ruining their relationship with the whole team, as it looks like they're doing now.
    – Joe
    Nov 30, 2021 at 16:25
  • @JoeStrazzere, OK, but there's no magic threshold for how long to wait for this. It all depends on how the manager responds to feedback from his direct-reports. If this person is a brick wall, it's better to not waste time and bring it to the attention of upper-management sooner rather than later. By the time people start leaving, that's a sign that it's too late. I admit it's a risk to go over the manager's head, but one has to consider the harm of having a bad boss too.
    – teego1967
    Dec 1, 2021 at 13:19
2

If you need a coping mechanism, you need to read this book by Manuel J. Smith

I purposefully omitted the title of the book because the title of the book itself gives the wrong impression about what the book is really about.

But I'll give you a small sample of how the technique goes.

then he picks apart our word choice and asks why we believe it's professional to make typos while we're drafting (not sending) emails.

"Yes, I know. I know it looks unprofessional to make typos during the drafting process. But unfortunately, that's my process. I'm not a perfect writer. I'm just a human being. I make mistakes when I draft emails and I will probably continue to do so in the future."

In other words, you accept the part of the criticism that you can agree with, but you reject the notion that you're going to change. At least, that's the idea in a nutshell for this one example.

And before someone someone misinterprets my advice. No, I'm not saying that the OP should refuse to change his behavior for every single criticisms receives. I'm not saying that at all. I'm only addressing this one particular example.

But otherwise, I do think that you need to leave this place. Either change teams, or change company. Listen to your gut. Coping mechanisms can only take you so far. Even if you don't want to leave, I can promise you that all your best co-workers are looking for the exits right now. You better do the same.

Looking for a job takes time. And even if the situation resolves itself before you find another position (which I doubt), you can always change your mind and stay.

1

Just do the best you can to gain this person's trust. When you can do so privately without embarrassing them, provide some frank but constructive feedback.

The new manager might not know how to manage. It takes time. Not everyone knows how to do it and they need to practice. In many cases there are cultural issues that get in the way. Different cultures have wildly different ideas about what it means "to manage" and are more or less rigid in the way they think about leadership.

If it's unbearable, you should carefully approach his boss about the egregious behavior with examples and support from coworkers. It's totally possibly they have NO IDEA what's going on.

0

You have to be political and careful if you want to keep your job and replace your manager or get him to change. This is your manager, and until he is not, he has a lot of power over you.

Going to your managers manager/boss is the best bet. But you have to do it smart. You have to step on his toes, but not overly hard and aggressive, but you DO have to. I also imagine because he is micromanaging you guys, he is going to give you guys bad reviews/complaining to his boss.

Set up a progress report meeting with the managers boss, then tell him that your team is doing a good job refocusing and spending your time and meetings on changing IDE fonts, typos in emails, making estimates as per your managers instructions instead of coding. Spin it positively somehow. Have proof and recordings.

If they don't get it then, red flag, get prepared.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .