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The Question

My boss is a micromanager and working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic has augmented his micromanaging tenfold. He is constantly e-mailing me for updates and scheduling Zoom meetings to touch base, taking time away from my actual work. How do I get him to let go and trust that I can do what’s required of me?

The First Answer

Carine Lacroix, founder and CEO, Reneshone, Toronto

These times are unusual for bosses and employees, and many struggle to find a “winning” approach to working productively from home. The best thing you can do is discuss your experience. Also, let him know what might help you work effectively and convey that everyone will benefit. Here are some tips:

  1. Initiate the discussion according to what matters to you. Share your feelings about the impact these frequent meetings and e-mails have on your morale, motivation and productivity. Ask him candidly what it is about your work that makes him feel the need to micromanage. You may be able to dispel his worries while learning about his perspective.
  2. Quantify the impact of his micromanagement. How many hours of actual work time are you losing by logging onto his meetings and check-ins? How far behind are you as a result? How much overtime has been caused?
  3. Ask for clear expectations and suggest a structure. Maybe this means setting clear deadlines and check-in meetings at specific times. This way, he can keep track of your progress and get updates while you work independently with fewer interruptions to meet his expectations.
  4. Talk about specific achievements. For example, share situations when he was on vacation and you stayed at work and performed with a tangible, undeniable benefit to the team/organization.

During these times, we are all learning as we go. Building a candid two-way dialogue with your boss is the way to go.

The Second Answer

Heather Faire, president, Faire Practices, expat, Atlanta

Under normal circumstances, working from home requires more effort to communicate effectively in the absence of face-to-face discussions. Now, managers and employees alike are dealing with heightened stress and lack of control, given the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19. Someone who already micromanages will likely amplify this behaviour when stressed, to gain a greater sense of control. Your manager may be unaware that he is putting increased pressure on you and raising questions about trust. His more intense behaviour might be more about him than it is about you. Nonetheless, there are a few things you can try to ease your manager’s mind and, hopefully, his micromanagement of your work.

During your next check-in, ask what you can do to give him some time back and ease his burden. Ask if it might be helpful for you to send a brief update each day to ensure he is in the loop and informed of your progress. Also, be sure to ask for feedback on how you are doing. Ask if there is a concern about your work or development. Your questions will create an opening to respectfully express your concerns about having his trust and to have a productive conversation about how to manage things.

If you handle the matter diplomatically, he will likely appreciate the honest dialogue and the opportunity to be a better manager.

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