79% of professionals experience micromanagement at work at some point in their careers. And, because experts predict that 25-30% of the world’s workforce will be working part or full time from home by the end of 2021, this means even remote employees will likely face micromanagement challenges. 

This percentage may be even higher now that telecommuting has become a mandate in most regions due to coronavirus restrictions. While micromanagement is never ideal, it’s especially oppressive during a world health crisis. Without the assistance of vital communication cues such as facial expressions and tone of voice, learning how to deal with micromanagement at work while remote can feel even more daunting.

But don’t worry — we’ve got you covered with some tips for learning how to deal with micromanagement at work. Read on for micromanagement examples and other tell-tale clues that you’re being micromanaged. Then, check out our helpful guide to thriving under any management style. 

What does micromanagement mean?

Micromanagement refers to anyone in a leadership position who uses manipulation, intrusive observation, or exhaustive amounts of communication to control others. While the perpetrators often think they are helping employees be more productive, the opposite is true. Most micromanagers make their employees feel paranoid, defeated, and unappreciated. Prolonged duress even forces many of the most valued team members to quit

Micromanagement examples in physical and virtual workspaces

There are countless ways micromanagement can play out in-person and online. While most situations will be specific to your unique situation, here are some examples of micromanagement you may already be familiar with: 

  • Bosses who require hourly or daily check-ins for newly remote employees who normally wouldn’t report progress unless there are important updates. 
  • Lack of clear expectations from higher-ups, especially when work structures change. 
  • Forcefully taking over tasks to redo them or get them done faster despite the employee’s own progress or plans. 
  • Requiring employees to be available through online instant messaging tools beyond normal business hours. 
  • Making team members ask permission to begin or get approval for every small task. 

How to overcome micromanagement

Use a combination of any of these suggestions to improve your own wellbeing, be more productive, and help soothe fears caused by higher-ups. 

  1. Develop a mutually agreed upon check-in system.
    Choose a time, method of communication, and level of detail for each check-in. For example, you may choose to do a daily email at 5:00 pm with a one or two-sentence summary of what you did with your time. Alternatively, you can use a project management software such as Wrike to update task statuses that your manager can view at a glance, eliminating the need for check-ins unless something comes up. 
  2. Defer to team leads. 
    Team leads can act as a buffer between overbearing higher-ups. Ask them to step in or funnel information as needed. It’s their job to help you be more efficient any way they can, so don’t be afraid to speak up! Make sure your team lead is someone you can trust to keep your feedback anonymous. Also, only go through them if you feel that their leadership style supports you more than the micromanager does. 
  3. Offer alternatives to pointless work.
    If your remote work schedule is suddenly overflowing with busywork, take a step back, and come up with some fresh ideas that will actually help speed up your project rather than hold you back. Present them to your manager and get their thoughts. If they approve, let them know (in a polite, casual way) you have to prioritize your time and that this idea would take precedence over their previously assigned busywork. 
  4. Do a self-evaluation.
    See if you can think of a time you may have caused your manager to mistrust you at any point. Although micromanagement is more of a reflection of them and not you, taking the time to self-evaluate your performance can help you either find ways to improve or reassert your own great work. Either way, it may also help soothe your own anxiety if you practice empathy towards the challenges and pressures they are now facing that created this trickle-down effect in the first place. 
  5. Look for patterns.
    Track recurring micromanagement behaviors so you can anticipate and act proactively rather than defensively. Beating them to the punch will help prevent their behavior in the future or, hopefully, eliminate it altogether. For example, if they tend to email you immediately after all meetings you both attend to get your personal notes, invite them to a shared doc before the event begins, and type your thoughts there as it all happens. 
  6. Share your feelings.
    Yes, it's possible to get real with another professional in a vulnerable and appropriate way, even if you’re telecommuting. Use video chat tools to help you connect on an emotional level simply by seeing each other’s body language throughout the conversation. Conversations like these can be tough, so create a bullet-point list of things you want to address with a focus on how they make you feel rather than what they are doing wrong. You can even go as far as planning out phrases you’ll use to express yourself to keep the conversation professional yet friendly. 

The line between leadership vs. micromanagement

Learning how to deal with micromanagement at work is all about understanding what leadership is and isn’t. It’s often empowering — employees flourish through clear expectations, reasonable amounts of project guidance, and trust in their own decision-making skills. Micromanaging, on the other hand, is disheartening. Even the most well-intentioned leaders can go a few steps too far when they do or say things that take away worker autonomy. 

Help yourself or your team collaborate and feel empowered today through Wrike’s project management platform. Streamline communication, get full visibility into real-time progress, and build stronger remote teams in healthy, positive ways. Use our free trial to get started.