Q: My new boss is a micromanager. I know what I'm doing, but he wants to hear about every detail and I can't move forward without his OK on each step. Not only is it frustrating, I find that I miss timelines because he is a bottleneck. What can I do besides find a different boss?
A: Try to get to the bottom of his motivation, and in the meantime, extend your timelines to accommodate him.
The inner game
Having a boss with different expectations than your own can be challenging. Recognize that you may be able to influence him so that he backs off somewhat, but that you also need to focus on adapting as well as you can. This includes not letting negative emotions get the better of you, so take some time to let go of frustration and annoyance. Let yourself have a clear mind so that you can better think through your options and bring some serenity back to your work.
Start from his perspective. He might say that he is trying to learn about what you do in order to be an effective manager. Has he found you to be a welcoming team member? If you've seemed less than open, he may be anxious about what's going on with your work. He may be a "command and control" style manager, and feel that this is the way he can achieve order on the team. Or he may be a new manager and not know what else to be doing in his role. This is worth some reflection, because your strategies for getting him to back off will differ depending on his motivations.
Now get more specific about his behaviors. Is it day-to-day intervention, or engagement at key points in a project? Consider why they get under your skin, whether it's perceived lack of trust, unwanted distraction or something else.
Lastly, think through a conversion strategy. If your boss wants to be involved, design some ways that would help you rather than interfere. Build his engagement into the timeline, and be ready to offer explanation.
The outer game
Talk to your boss. Use a tone that seeks information, not one that confronts him. For example, request feedback on your performance. Get his perspective on the work you do, and ask if he has any concerns that you should be aware of.
You might also be able to get some information about his management style. Unfortunately, new bosses often don't explain their approach to the team. Try asking him about his philosophy and approach, taking care to being open to hearing, rather than ready to counter if it doesn't fit what you'd like.
At some point, perhaps in a different conversation, ask if you can make some requests of him that will help you be more effective. This can give you openings to manage his involvement so that it is useful for you.
The last word
Only you will know if this situation is tolerable. If not, plan for a change. However, open communication might help you and your overly involved boss get on the same page.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.