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I'm trying to learn how to work with my current manager. In my opinion he is too much of a micro-manager who is rude and wants an update of every single minute of my billable hours.

As an example of his nosiness, if a colleague swings by to ask how the weekend was, he would pounce on the person and say:

It's just the morning and we are yet to achieve today's goals. This team is 100% unavailable. Please don't interrupt anyone.

What he is saying is technically true, but he does not even exchange pleasantries.

Unfortunately, it's an open office plan (just a desk with a few computers), we sit next to each other and, due to the big external monitors, whatever I work on is pretty visible. Even if I'm on the Java docs website, he would turn around and say "can we please cut out non-project work?" When I tell him it's the Java docs, he says "you were hired because you know Java - I expect you to be able to work without any online assistance".

What are some of the ways I can learn to work with a micro-manager?

There usually is no appreciation, so I am only guessing that he seems to be content with the work of the team (4 people including him). We are paid hourly. He also seems to encourage weekend working just because he wants the team to stay ahead of the project plan's curve.

P.S: The project we are on has a plan and everything is on schedule. I do not have a single missed deadline in my employment of over 2 months so far.

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    dealing with a manager that expect programmer "to be able to work without any online assistance" probably deserves a separate question. This may be considered as a facet of micromanagement but more falls on incompetence (maybe this has been already asked and answered before, I didn't search) – gnat Mar 29 '14 at 17:45
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    Hey happybuddha, I'm a bit unclear on what you're asking. Is he content with any of the people in his teams' work? If so, what are they doing differently from you? Why is he so concerned with billable work? Are you being paid hourly or salaried? Being a micromanager is a symptom, and not a cause. Without having a bit more of an idea of why he is micromanaging, it is incredibly difficult to answer. An edit may help get better answers. Thanks in advance! – jmac Mar 31 '14 at 0:24
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    You asked how and did not explain why you want to learn to work with such boss. Money or an unmissable-colleague or lack of experience or??. I'm curious to know why you don't want to quit. Just to learn to work with this kinda boss? – Jane Apr 3 '14 at 14:48
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    The only reason that somebody would try to control every moment of your day even when deadlines are being met is not because they are a micro-manager, it is because they are a power hungry sociopathic bully. One way you can tell for sure is to try standing up to him and see if he aggressively and emotionally reacts; if so you have a bully. If the boss quickly dismisses you and encourages you to get back to work and stop questioning then they are probably a micromanager more worried about productivity than being confronted. – maple_shaft Apr 15 '14 at 15:58
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    @happybuddha What did you end up doing ? Did you find a way to deal with that manager ? Did you quit ? – Radu Murzea Dec 1 '14 at 15:57
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Short answer: Quit


Long answer:

I happened to work with a similar supervisor who monitors me every hour. And he deprived me of my flexi timings. I need to be in office by 9am while the rest of the team had flexi hours. He accused me of being slow and lazy.

I always stayed sharp with latest tech updates and this helped me find another job.

So my humble request is: find a job and quit and teach them a lesson (skilled employees are the hardest to find).

Don't:

  • Explain to your manager that s/he is micromanaging. This will trigger further severe micromanaging.
  • Expect things will change. Remember that bad habits die hard. A micro-manager will never change his/her habit no matter what.

The rationale for micromanaging AFAIK:

  • This maybe the first time s/he is supervising a team
  • S/he may(must) lack (soft or hard) skills. In my experience technically sound managers are seldom seen micromanaging.

Final thoughts:

I guess I will never get an opportunity to learn how I can work with such a personality.

Are you crazy? I say you will never get an opportunity to teach a lesson to this kinda guy (by finding another job)

I know I can just quit and find a better place to work

Don't put the cart before the horse. Find a better place and then quit.

I insist: skilled employees are the hardest to find. Hence, sack him.


Why confronting a micromanager won't work out

  • Ignorance: Micromanagers never know(confesses) that they are micromanaging. According to them, they are keen and dedicated, and feel responsible over the work. According to them, this is their job. As an example, if you request that they do not question you every minute, their explanation will be: This is MY job.
  • Policy: Micromanagers always have a company-policy or a business justification backing every micromanaging action they employ. In my case: According to policies the office time is 9am to 5pm - however, nobody follows it. All the others in my team come in at 11am and leave by 7pm or later. When I asked him to give me flexi hours, he told me that "9am is not too early and it complies to the policy-XXX. Should you have any questions, reach out to HR". Punctuality
  • Insecurity: Generally, the main reason for the micromanagement is insecurity or lack of (hard/soft) skills. If this is the case and you confront, then they will feel more insecure. As a result, further severe micromanagement results.

Without quitting

  1. Ignore: if possible his trivial complaints. For instance, you can ignore "I expect you to be able to work without any online assistance."
  2. Be goody-goody: Always post him updates promptly. Loop him in all conversation. Never let him come to you to ask for updates. Build a trust. Be the minion that he is looking for.
  3. Get used to it: After few months, you will be used to this behavior and you may see few changes from his side too. But you can't expect dramatic changes for sure.

PS: Micromanagers don't change their behavior unless they experience a heavy loss resulted by their behavior. The heavy loss is only possible through your quitting.
Confronting a micromanager will never work out unless the micromanager is the sanest person in the world. As you described him as rude, it is not possible.


I don't understand why experts urge us to confront the micromanager.
If you set up a private meeting to politely confront his behavior upfront, this will definitely backfire you. Micromanager may interpret your action as incompetence, insubordination, etc. (you knew it for sure).

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    Confronting your manager usually doesn't work, but it's not an always deal. It is a "high risk" play though. Basically if you confront your manager expect there is a strong chance you'll be fired. In my case I'm fortunate enough I know people who have been eager to hire me away from my current employer so getting fired wouldn't affect me much. That said, I got tired of the nonsense micromanaging and pulled my boss aside explained what I had to offer the company and why it was in his best interest to retain me, and then what needed to happen to retain me. (which was basically back off) – RualStorge Dec 22 '14 at 17:45
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    This worked for me. After telling the person "I will quite if you don't stop this" I basically had to follow up on that. His behavior has not changed, and it's 4 years later. The entire department has been replaced, by attrition (we quit), except for him and one other guy. – Jasmine Jan 6 '15 at 18:45
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    I agree with this. I work with similar manager. and now I got a new job with totally opposite culture. it feels so liberating!... don't stay. if you are not feeling appreciated, that means your manager is incompetent. A good managers knows how to make you feels appreciated. – BobNoobGuy Jun 30 '16 at 21:25
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    +1 great answer. Micromanagers' behaviour is often a result of their deep character. You're a fool if you think you will be able to change that. – Ouroboros Jul 25 '16 at 17:38
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    "S/he may(must) lack (soft or hard) skills. In my experience technically sound managers are seldom seen micromanaging." Fairly certain any person in the software business that doesnt understand why a developer may need to read the documentation on a tech he uses isn't sound at all. – Leon Sep 25 '17 at 7:54
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I am not convinced that the behavior you describe is micro managing. My mother had a boss back in the days of paper mail and outboxes who used to flip through people's outboxes while chatting at their desks, not only confirming that they were writing to people they should be writing to, but on more than one occasion discussing with them whether they had the right postage on the envelopes.

Your boss isn't discussing syntax with you, or brace placement, but is quite rudely attempting to "increase your productivity" even though it is not below the expected level. I think I would handle this with questions. After he's dismissed the "how was your weekend" co-worker (not in front of that co-worker) I would ask

Are you worried the team won't meet the goal today? From where I sit everything is right on schedule.

You may learn what is on his mind or you may slide a trickle of thought into his head that he didn't need to protect you from this moment's relaxation.

After "catching" you looking stuff up, and saying you shouldn't need to, you can laugh and ask

Should I just not write the parts that use a corner of the library I'm less familiar with? Of course I know Java but I had to look up WhateverInjectorFactoryAdapter for that new work on the foozle-ator. [Changing tone] Do you really think I need the documentation too often?

Again here he may share his real fears (perhaps he doesn't want someone else seeing you need to look things up) or may start on the road to getting past them.

It's possible that you start every morning with 30 minutes or more of chitchat, never seem to know how to do anything without looking it up, and are irritating this boss to the extent he's trying to "do something about" you. It's more likely you're a perfectly ordinary person who says good-morning-how-was-your-weekend to co-workers, occasionally looks up obscure library functionality to be sure you're using it correctly, hits every deadline and should be left alone by this nosy parker. Not only can we not tell from your question, you probably can't be sure yourself. You could look at the others in your team to see if you're in line with the team norms. And you could ask your boss questions that reveal whether these behaviours are just "nervous tics" that are pointed at everyone, or whether there is actually an attempt underway to "fix" you.

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In my experience there is only one way to deal with this type of manager and that is to confront them about their behaviour. Ask your manager for a meeting in a more private setting (I'm assuming here you do have meetings rooms) and then politely but firmly state your concerns with him.

Firstly go with the easy one, no programmer can be expected to work without online resources. It's simply not possible to hold the entire knowledge of a language in your head. Not to mention there is always someone out there that will have a solution to something you are stuck with, which is why we have resources like SO. Would he rather you struggle to figure it out offline all on your own and take a long time to do so, or spend 10 minutes researching the answer online?

If he actually answers he'd like you to work it out then please get him to explain his reasons, and then if they aren't rational as I expect they wouldn't be, counter them.

For the second point about him interrupting you talking with colleagues, ask him why he doesn't want your team integrating with the rest of the company. When he replies that he does ask him why he stops you catching up with other colleagues then? General chat and banter between colleagues improves relationships and integration between teams.

As long as you keep hitting get your targets ask him to give you a little more flexibility around doing your work. Explain how you feel that someone is constantly looking over your shoulder and that you work best when given a bit of freedom to do what you do best. Try to get your POV across to him, but at the same time make sure to listen to him.

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    I don't know why so many people suggest having meetings with bosses and telling them they boss badly. Has that ever gone well for anyone? Really? "get him to explain his reasons, and then if they aren't rational as I expect they wouldn't be, counter them"?? I'm not a command-and-control boss but if my employees felt they were the judges of my reasons, they would be looking for someone else's reasons to judge and counter quite soon. – Kate Gregory Apr 1 '14 at 0:39
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    that said, your final paragraph is excellent advice. Doing that not in a special "you're a bad boss" meeting, but just as a response the next time the boss does that, would be excellent. – Kate Gregory Apr 1 '14 at 0:40
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    @KateGregory The idea is to make it come across as if you have some concerns, not that he is a bad boss. – Styphon Apr 1 '14 at 6:56
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Unfortunately, I too have been in this situation many times.

I don't know where 'micro-management' comes from, but in my experience it is usually prevalent with people that have good track record with managing process or technical work, but lack the empathy and leadership skills to work well with others.

Here are the kinds of things I did:

  1. Get some perspective; reach out to other people. Use your people and influencing skills to firstly learn more about your boss, how others perceive him and what they think about his micro-managing. Chances are if he has this trait, you are not the only one that has noticed it. You may also pick-up knowledge about how they worked to overcome these issues. Try your best to build allies that may be able to help influence your manager or give him the feedback he needs.

  2. Give him feedback. Go talk privately with your manager and explain how you feel and how you would like to be treated. Even if he does not take the feedback well or respond to it, when asked by other mangers/HR, you can say that you have gone through the feedback process.

  3. Keep a journal of how he manages you. Write down and timestamp each major incident and how you feel. You don't have to share this with anyone, but later on if you were to show this to your manager's manager, I'm sure it would add a lot of sway to your case.

  4. Move. Ask to change departments or apply for other jobs in your company. Make sure you have done your homework on your next team/manager though, as there is little point jumping from the frying pan into the fire. By talking to other people as in 1, you may get hints on where the good teams are.

  5. Worst-case scenario, leave the company. Life it too short to work for an awful boss/company.If there is an exit interview, this would be a good time to get your journal out.

The occasions where I've had this situation happen to me, I've done a combination of all these points. Ultimately, I made a strong ally with someone higher-up the chain. He saw my value and after some patience, moved me to a much better team and manager. Don't always expect the organisation to support you - your manager may be powerful and well connected too. The least painful option for all would be to delver your work as best you can and move on as possible.

Good luck and I hope your situation improves soon.

10

I personally recommend seeking other employment, but if you truly want to stay with your current employer here's my personal recommendations from my experience and observations. Remember this is business what's Right is often secondary to what's profitable.

  1. DO NOT SCHEDULE A PRIVATE MEETING! Others have covered this already but if you go in complaining how you are managed it's going to end badly. You are getting results, so long as this is true then your bosses boss is happy. If your bosses boss is happy then your boss is happy. Why on earth would he/she change that?
  2. You can't change a micro manager directly, only their boss can demand that even with that DO NOT SCHEDULE A PRIVATE MEETING with your boss's boss or HR, again same deal. The works getting done and he isn't putting the company in legal danger so why would they change?
  3. You can learn to tolerate it, at least some of it. It's not ideal but if it pays the bills and if you can avoid letting it bother you then no problem! Admittedly that's a weak suggestion, but note worthy
  4. You CAN change how your boss micromanages. If your boss constantly checks at what you're doing make up a board with tasks assigned to you, move those tasks between "To do", "In Progress", "Done" When your boss asks just point at the board. (overtime he/she will stop asking and just consult the board)
  5. Overtime you can help your boss grow more comfortable with the use of online tools. Explain you DO know the language well, however; people are always discovering new faster, more efficient, and more maintainable ways of doing things. Show examples of places in your code that could be improved and an online resource offering improvement. Also explain sometimes it's good to take a moment to look back at something you don't do often to avoid wasting time trying to remember every little nuance.
  6. The colleague issue is admittedly a real challenge. Studies have proven again and again these little distractions so long as not intrusive to work are actually beneficial to productivity, but showing studies seldom convinces people to change behavior. All I can say is over time if you deliver regularly (or over deliver) it'll give you more ability to pick your battles. (Don't say "give me this or I'll quit", but as you establish yourself as an asset companies tend to be more lax on policy to retain their employees, don't expect much leeway until at least six months to a year, and even then it's little by little)

Summary I think the effort in "fixing" your problem isn't worth your time. If you stay try to ignore / tolerate it. You might be able to instigate change in a limited capacity, but this is one of those things that requires subtly and maneuvering. Tackling this head on in private meetings just doesn't work here.

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    I want to add that with points 4 and 5, these will only work with a true micro-manager. If you are in fact dealing with a power hungry sociopath or a bully then the desire isn't status as much as it is control over people. If this is the case then 4 and 5 will backfire on you and the person will insist on personalized status on every item. – maple_shaft Apr 15 '14 at 16:02
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    Agreed, I did assume we were referring to a well meaning micro manager... if your boss is a genuine sociopath don't walk, run to better opportunities. – RualStorge Apr 15 '14 at 17:25
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    I really followed step 4. And when this guy stopped me in the hallway and asked what I was working on, I told him to take a look at my git log for a clear answer. That was one day, and since then, I have been invisible to him. Literally. – happybuddha Aug 1 '14 at 6:31
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I like @Jane's answer and would just add a couple of points.

From my experience, the golden rule with micromanagers is you need to help them achieve their goals. If you don't know what your manager's goals are, seek them. If you know their problems, bottlenecks or stress-points, then either solve them or help them solve those (as much as possible). Sometimes they worry about the silliest things. Once you are viewed as dependable resource, they will not want to annoy you. Seriously.

Of course when you reach that stage and are asked for feedback of how things are going, you can quite openly give one or two examples of how things could be better eg you'd prefer it if he didn't stop to interrupt you double-checking or referencing Java docs so as to not kill your momentum. Because that is how you get stuff done. For the team. For him.

Hope this helps.

(By the way your manager looks plain rude rather than a micro-manager.)

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I lead an online community of leaders called Resolve, and the question dealing with micromanagers has come up before. I wanted to share an answer from one of our community members.

Clarify Expectations and Request Support to Grow Most of us have experienced a micromanaging leader at some point in our career and few of us enjoy it. This is a sticky situation and I can empathize with your frustration and concerns about how to respond effectively to your manager.

Usually when people are in "micromanagement mode" they are directing others as a way of coping with their own stress and anxiety. Under all of the behavior that can look and feel like circumventing your role, your boss might have some performance anxiety he doesn't know what to do with, so he focuses on the places he feels like he has control. What might help both of you is for him to express what his actual concerns are with the goals or results. You don't want to play the role of coach for your boss but you can ask some questions that help clarify expectations for both of you.

You can start by expressing your own concerns and offering a platform for an authentic and transparent conversation. You may offer, "Meeting our deadlines on time and to our agreed upon standards is very important to me. Do you have any questions about that because I am getting the impression that you are worried about my ability to manage my team and if you have concerns, I would like to discuss them." Yes, this absolutely opens you up to potentially negative feedback, which can be scary. However, the alternative is to keep operating in this pattern with your boss. Chances are, your boss may have a few ideas for you but more than likely just needs an opening to look at what is really causing him anxiety. In the conversation, he may realize where he can show up as a stronger leader for you.

You can inquire, "How do you see us maximizing productivity while maintaining our standards?" Once you get through the specific concerns about deliverables, timelines and standards, you can begin to make requests about the support you need from him as a leader. "Okay, now that we are aligned on the expectations, my request is to have the opportunity to demonstrate my management ability. What would help me with that is for you to come to me directly with your concerns or feedback about my team. I really want to build my leadership capacity and if you come to me directly with your thoughts, rather than to my team, it would really support me to grow." It may take a few conversations like this for your boss to break his pattern of micromanagement and for him to see you as powerful leader who can produce results through effective team management.

PS: Here is the original post

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I answer here as no others have talked about the existence of HR personnel. Ask yourself why companies employ HR personnel.

You should immediately set up a private conversation with your HR rep, if you have one. Explain to them how this lowers productivity.

If this does not work you can resort to following:

Move on.

This is the time for you to test your skills. Better skills = better package.

You should by now be aware if you should confront the boss. Be sensible.

  • 3
    Hey Anne, and welcome back to The Workplace. Edits are good, but should be used to make significant improvements or corrections and should not be used just to move the question to the front page. Please don't do that. Thanks in advance! – jmac Apr 17 '14 at 1:41

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