Workplace dilemmas: my manager is a control freak

Workplace dilemmas: my manager is a control freak

This month’s issue for our agony uncle to resolve: what to do when you’re being micromanaged

Dear Tim,

I’m an experienced professional working in the financial services sector. I’ve been in my current role for the last 18 months, having stepped back from a more senior appointment following a period of ill health that’s left me with a long-term disability.

I work as part of a fantastic team and have been given a pleasing level of functional responsibility, without the pressure of managing people.

    ...my line manager never lets me get on with a job unsupervised.  

I’m also grateful that the company has recognised my experience in the employment package they give me. I get paid a really good salary, have a generous holiday allowance and a rock-solid pension. This has helped soften the blow of giving up my former seniority: I actually get paid more or less the same as my line manager, and not much less than I earned in my previous role. It’s made coming to terms with my disability much easier.

That said, there is one thing that I find frustrating. For all that I am valued by the company as a whole, I feel as if my line manager never lets me get on with a job unsupervised. She’s always looking over my shoulder, giving me detailed instructions and checking up to make sure I’m following them.

I think this is more about her personality than about her estimation of my abilities. I notice that she does the same with everyone. She seems unable to let stuff go, and has to be involved in everything that happens in our department. She often works late and is always the first person in the office each day. I’m not surprised: doing everyone else’s job as well as her own must be exhausting!

Workplace dilemmas: my manager is a control freakGiven my track record, and my own experience of managing people, I find her approach deeply frustrating. Should I say something, or just accept that she is what she is and get on with my job?

Tim writes:

Micromanagement is a major issue in many workplaces and has a detrimental effect on productivity. As a former manager yourself, you’ll know how hard it is to avoid getting involved in every facet of your team’s activities. Ultimately, you are responsible for their output, so it can be hard to leave them to it.

It seems fairly clear from what you say that your boss is a micromanager. All the signs are there, including a failure to delegate, over-supervision and a high degree of control-freakery.

This is a problem, but it’s not really your problem. Sure, it affects your satisfaction at work, and clearly causes you some frustration. But part of the deal you’ve made with yourself in stepping back from a position of authority is that you don’t have to worry about other people’s behaviour.

    Micromanagement is a major issue in many workplaces and has a detrimental effect on productivity.  

I get that it’s annoying to be micromanaged, and there are certain ways you can help your colleague avoid doing it. For example, you could pre-empt some of her interventions by giving her regular updates on your progress against particular tasks. It may be time-consuming and irritating, but a daily or weekly email letting her know what you’re up to and how it’s going may be just enough to reassure her.

If you don’t think that’s likely to resolve the situation, you probably ought to share your concerns with someone higher up in the business. This can feel like being a telltale, but an off-the-record chat with your manager’s manager, suggesting that she may benefit from some training and support in leadership, could be just the ticket.

Given that your company clearly recognises and values your prior experience, I’d have thought you’re well placed to make such an approach. And any senior business leader worth their salt would know not to divulge their source when addressing the problem.

Ultimately, it’s in everyone’s interests to help your manager become more effective in her role. You can be a catalyst for that process, using your reputation and expertise to help her develop professionally and personally.

© 2020 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

Published: 2 March 2020

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