From Micromanaged to Empowered

You used to love your job, but now you just feel controlled and helpless. You are worried that you cannot do anything ‘right’, that even though you put so much effort into your work, it’s not recognised and just isn’t enough. You even wonder whether you will lose your job. Do you relate to this?

You’re not alone and you’re not helpless.


Most of us at some stage in our careers meet up with a micromanager, and I’m sure you are all too familiar with their traits such as:

The “do it my way” manager – They exercise control and motivate by threats and discipline. Communication is predominantly one-way, from manager to you. Coaching is more about what you need to change, such as rewriting an e-mail or taking over a meeting, rather than guiding you to the desired outcome.

The ‘I need it now’ syndrome – They are notorious for interrupting others, changing priorities and deadlines. They often monitor what’s least important and expect regular reports, living by metrics rather than outcomes as they are driven to know what’s going on at all times.

Resist delegating work – even when they do delegate, they often take back the task to make sure things are done ‘right’. They don’t trust others to the task as well as they do and generally feel that they can’t trust others to make the ‘right’ decisions.

Focused on process and approvals – a micromanager is focussed on control, as they feel that by controlling the process they will control the outcome – there is little room for innovation, creativity and adapting quickly to the changing business environment.


Micromanagers often don’t realise the effect they have on others.


What makes some people more susceptible to the controlling effects of a micromanager?

Have you noticed that in a workplace with a micromanager, some people seem to be consumed and stressed by the manager’s behaviour while others may be annoyed but generally get on with life? The key to surviving a micromanager is to understand their behaviour. Over the years I found that the more I understood my manager and got to know what made them ‘tick’, the better I could adapt my own behaviour and how I interacted with them. I even had some colleagues that were micromanagers which made working with them difficult considering I didn’t even report to them and yet felt subjected to their ‘control’.


How to work with a micromanager

 Working with a micromanager is difficult and can affect your job performance and your overall wellbeing. There are two areas where you can affect change to deal with micromanagement in your workplace:

Understand your own emotional triggers

By being mindful, notice your thoughts and emotions as they arise when you are interacting with your manager.

  • What is it about their behaviour that you find stressful?
  • Consider whether these feeling come up in other areas of your life.
  • Are there possibly feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, frustration, powerless or not being good enough? You are not helpless or powerless!


“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” … Eleanor Roosevelt

 “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any”… Alice Walker


Understanding your emotional triggers allows you to make better choices when faced with similar situations. You are the master of your own emotions – by watching your thoughts, words and actions you change your habits and the way you react to your world – consciously ACT instead of REACT.


Develop 5 habits to feeling empowered each day

Empowerment is to give power and authority – therefore in order to feel self-empowered you need to have control, authority and power over your own life. We all have an inner strength and power – the only difference between those that own their power and those that don’t – are their BELIEFS.


Take control of YOU – your thoughts, emotions, words and actions.
Take control of YOUR LIFE – take an active role in all decisions of your life and be clear when to say ‘YES’ versus ‘NO’.

Use positive language – use words that inspire you, motivate, you and empower you.
Stop using can’t – should’ve – would’ve – could’ve.

Have a sense of PURPOSE each day when you step into work – finding the meaning in your job inspires you to own your life. It gives you a sense of self-determination.

Affirm your strengths and capabilities – use affirmations and positive self-talk.

Take action – resolve to make changes in your life. Without action you are just complaining. Tackling small problems first builds your confidence and skills for tackling more meaningful problems later.

Change your perception of your manager

Micromanagers feel they need to control everything in the workplace and often have a hard time trusting others to make decisions. This may stem from their own sense of insecurity, pressure to perform or a number of other different reasons that you may not be aware of.


Put yourself in your manager’s shoes

The need to control usually comes from a personal sense of being out of control.

  • Does your manager have stressors in their personal life?
  • Is the business struggling?
  • Are there undue pressures from higher management to perform?
  • Is there a culture of constant pressure and stress?

Understanding your manager’s circumstances doesn’t make his or her behaviour right, but it will bring a level of compassion into your interactions. Having greater compassion changes the way we speak which changes how others respond to us.


Understand your manager’s communication style

As individuals we are all different, but there are some basic personality styles which provide some insight into how we prefer to communicate and how we prefer to receive communication.

There are a number of personality tests but I’ve just listed the S4 Social Styles below for simplicity.

Provide information in a style that your boss needs.

By understanding the personality types, and subtly adapting your behaviour and communication to increase the comfort level of your manager, you can increase rapport, build trust, relieve discomfort and improve understanding.


Earn your manager’s trust

  • Be competent in your work and show your manager that you are ahead of the game.
  • Know the area of the business that motivates or worries your manager and try to alleviate their concerns.
  • Provide regular and detailed updates – keep your manager in the loop.
  • Follow the rules – don’t reinforce your manager’s belief that people can’t be trusted.
  • Consider your own performance:
    • Have you been late to work often?
    • Have you been distracted at work lately?
    • Have you recently made repeated mistakes?
    • What changes are you prepared to make in your own performance?


You can’t change others, but you can change yourself, your beliefs and your actions. Working with a micromanager can be very stressful, but it’s your choice as to how much of that stress you take on. By increasing your self-awareness and being able to identify your emotional triggers allows you UNDERSTAND your reactions and CHOOSE your actions.

You can CHOOSE to own your own personal power instead of being overwhelmed by a micromanager.


Share your story

What are some techniques you've used to successfully deal with a micromanager? Do you have a story to share of how you developed a relationship of trust and understanding with your manager?


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