Q: How can I get my boss to stop micromanaging? She breathes down my neck, and it’s stressing me out and negatively affecting my work performance. I like my job and don’t want to look for another one, but she’s driving me crazy!
A: There are many types of bad bosses people can encounter in their legal careers, with the micromanager being just one variety. True, your supervisor’s job is to oversee your work, but this shouldn’t include hovering and needing to know every last detail about your current caseload.
There are several ways to approach this problem — including being upfront and getting some career counseling. To deal with your boss’s overbearing demeanor and boost your job satisfaction, try the following tips:
Check in frequently
Some bosses come across as micromanagers because they either don’t hear from you often enough or they’re not getting necessary information from you. The easy solution is to keep your manager in the loop, especially when your work has a direct effect on how she does her job.
In your weekly report, list the projects you’re working on, what you are doing on each and any problems you’ve run into. She may want numbers, so list how many documents you’ve drafted, the amount of time you spend on e-discovery, and so on. Even though these efforts seem like overkill, frequent status reports may be just what she needs to feel comfortable giving you some breathing room.
With your first check-in email, announce what you’re doing and why. Don’t make it sound accusatory with something like, “It seems that you need more information on what I’m doing.” Instead, write something like this: “Because I’m not sure I’ve been giving you enough information on my various works in progress, I’ve decided to send you a detailed report each week. Please let me know if this seems like overkill, but I want to make sure I’m letting you know enough about what I’m working on, the status of each assignment, and what’s coming down the pike.” If you consistently meet her expectations, she’ll be more likely to loosen up on the reins.
Confront the problem directly
Excellent communication skills can resolve many issues in the workplace. Though a frank discussion with a supervisor is never easy, you need to take that first step if you’re going to stop the micromanaging. Tell your boss you’re eager to learn and grow in your role, but to do that you need more autonomy. In the best-case scenario, this conversation may help your boss realize she’s micromanaging, leading her to back off.
Make sure it isn’t you
Ask whether your performance is up to par; some bosses micromanage because their direct reports’ skills are lacking. In a less-than-ideal scenario, she may say she lacks faith in your abilities, and you’ll have to ask what you can do to gain that trust. Brace yourself for some frank words and possibly a critique of your performance.
Consider career counseling and training
Ask for support if you’re struggling to resolve the issue on your own. Seek out career counseling related to legal careers in your city or online. It’s often helpful to get an outsider’s perspective on your particular situation.
If your boss says she micromanages because she’s worried about your accuracy or time management skills, then you definitely need to up your training and legal continuing education.
Exit gracefully as a last resort
Some people have controlling personalities that can’t be changed. If your boss’s micromanaging doesn’t let up despite your best attempts to gain her trust and resolve the situation, it might be time to consider an exit strategy. Look into transferring to a different team or leaving the firm altogether.
The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of your micromanaging boss. Before you get to the point where resignation seems to be your only choice, get some career counseling for strategies to improve your job situation. If you work hard to win her trust, chances are you can solve this problem to both your and her satisfaction.
Charles A. Volkert is executive director of Robert Half Legal, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major cities throughout the United States and Canada.