“How do you move forward if you have a controlling manager?” – Kendra in Riverside.
Most people have had at least one manager like this. The kind of manager who checks up on you constantly, attempts to control everything, or forces you to do your work the way they would do it (even if that’s not your way, and the results would be the exactly the same).
The first thing to recognize is that their behavior is coming from fear. Anyone who is or has been a manager knows that you do worry about the people you’re responsible for. It’s hard when you’re managing a team and you can’t always see what they’re doing or what decisions they’re making. That anxiety will sometimes manifest itself in a manager who seems controlling, or micromanaging, or constantly checking up on you.
Here’s a few things you, as an employee, can do to help mitigate that:
#1 Frequency alleviates fear.
I often tell managers that the most important thing they can be doing with their team is frequent, light-touch check-ins about near term future work. If you have a controlling manager who isn’t doing that, start doing it for them. Knock on their door or put some time on their calendar for a ten-minute conversation where you tell them what you are working on that week, and what you think is a priority. The more controlling your manager; the more you can check in with them to help alleviate their fear.
#2 De-mystify your strengths.
The next thing you can do is let your manager know where they can rely on you the most. If their control is coming from fear, letting them know your strengths and where they can lean on you the most is a wonderful gift you can offer to them. You may not think you’re much of a mystery, but any manager trying to lead a team needs your help identifying your unique strengths. This way, you’ll both win.
#3 Teach your manager.
The final thing you can do is to teach them – without bragging, without being self-important or self-indulgent – how they can get the best out of you. You may need to mention some of the things that do not get the best out of you (and some of those behaviors will probably be things that your manager is currently doing). I promise you that knowing how they can get the best out of you is a gift worth giving.