How to Gain Independence from Your Boss

Sometimes you need to micromanage a micromanaging boss.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #383

Push Back on Micro-Managers

It could be that the problem isn’t you at all, but your boss holding you back. Some bosses care about the business so much that they can’t bring themselves to trust other people to do a good job. Or they may just be insecure dweebs. Either way, you have to take control, without seeming like you’re taking control. Speaking of taking control, have I told you about my zombie army? Of course not. Because I don’t really have one. … or do I? 

If your boss is a micro-manager, it’s probably due to insecurity. You can’t just say, “Boss, you’re clearly an insecure dweeb who is deceiving yourself into thinking you’re doing what’s best for the business.” You have to put it in business terms.

Propose an Experiment

Assuming your boss is driven by insecurity, you need to make it safe to trust you. Prove yourself, by your boss’s standards. Propose an experiment.

In my imagination, you are a poorly-paid writer for a catalog about odor-resistant women’s footwear. Go to your boss and propose, “Boss, let’s do an experiment. You want absolute confidence that our catalog is the best, freshest-smelling ever. I want to develop the skills so you can sniff away with complete confidence. Let me design catalog page 47 entirely on my own. Instead of checking every decision with you, I’d like to try going all the way to the finished product and get your input once, at that point. Please tell me what standards you’re using to judge the final product, and I’ll do my best to meet those standards at a level you can trust.” 

Some bosses care so much, they can't trust others. Or maybe they're just insecure dweebs.

If your boss refuses, add check-ins one at a time until you get to the involvement-level that is the minimum your boss will accept. “How about if I check in with you once at the one-week mark to make sure I’m on the right track, and then again when it’s done?” Or “How about if I check in with you after three days, one week, and then when it’s done?” Hopefully, you’ll end up at an agreement that gives you more latitude than you have now. Then next time, decrease the number of check-ins until you and your boss are confident you can handle the job on your own.

If you’re feeling bogged down in the land of over-involved bosses, someone has to break the logjam. Your boss won’t do it, so it’s up to you. Take it up explicitly with your boss. If you were the one holding yourself back, problem solved. Otherwise, gently ease your boss into having your way by proposing a risk-limiting experiment with specific, measurable outcomes based on your boss’s standards. And if all else fails, change jobs. Self-motivated employees who are eager to learn are a rarity and should be in environments that let their awesomeness thrive!

I’m Stever Robbins. I have upcoming programs on how to prioritize your life so you make progress in a chaotic world. Visit SteverRobbins.com/extraproductivity and use coupon code GETITDONE for a 20% discount.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.



About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.