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Is Your Boss Babying You?

January 25th, 2019

“Micromanaging” may mean different things to different people; for some who prefer to work with no oversight at all, a boss who overexplains a task or brings a completed project back for a re-do can be intolerable. For others, micromanaging simply means close coaching and hand-holding, and when it disappears, these nervous workers feel adrift. The weight of personal responsibility and agency sits heavily on them.

Since the definition varies for each person, it’s up to you—the employee—to decide if you’re being babied. And if you are, here are a few moves that can help you convince your boss to take a step back.

Earn trust, and when you’ve earned, insist on it.

Gently saying, “I can handle this—I’ve done it before” can sometimes be enough to remind your boss that you know what you’re doing. For some bosses, what you have or have not done in the past can be easy to forget. Your manager doesn’t carry a list with her that covers all known facts about your accomplishments and capabilities, so it’s OK to politely point them out. If you haven’t done the task before (or can’t provide simple proof), then work to earn your manager’s trust. When you’ve earned it, capitalize on that fact. Point out your accomplishment and ask directly for the faith and trust that should now be yours.

Show empathy.

Often when bosses hover too close, it’s not because they’re jerks. And it’s not because they expect little of you or don’t respect you. It’s simply because they themselves are under pressure and they have a lot riding on the outcome of your work. They have trouble risking the disaster they believe will result if they walk away from the task and leave you to it. Recognize that their objectionable behavior isn’t personal; it comes from a sense of fear and anxiety. Address the anxiety rather than becoming angry or resentful with the boss.

Just ask directly for what you need.

“I need your trust” can be an ambiguous request. Instead, try something like “I’ll check in with you once a week, OK?” or “I’d like to let my team decide how to do this” or “I’d like to contribute to strategy discussions.” Direct requests might get better results.

Explain the problem.

Wishing and hoping your boss will back off won’t accomplish anything. But if you honestly explain the problem to her, she may see things from your point of view. Try a statement like, “When you step in at every stage of the process, we don’t learn how to do this on our own.”

Instead of resenting your boss’s bad behavior, do something about it. Stay calm and polite but be honest about what you need from your working relationship. Hiding the truth helps no one. For more, contact the career development experts at Merritt.

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