Q&A - The Micromanaging Boss

Answering a reader's question

What is your question?


So i'll start by saying that I like my boss but at times I feel she is extremely impulsive. I find it difficult to judge what issues I should be concerned about that will set her off and others she won't care about, there seems to be no rhyme or reason. She gives a ton of feedback, which I appreciate. However, sometimes I feel like I get so much feedback from her that I can't keep track of it all. The feedback is definitely almost always constructive, very rarely positive.

I've been working on this powerpoint to describe an initiative our team is doing and I sent an editable powerpoint instead of a PDF, thinking the recipient was on our internal team. The recipient was a senior manager and specifically asked for an editable version. As expected she was quick to give the feedback, but this time I almost felt like I was being boarder-line harassed. Here is a transcript of the Teams chat exchange between her and I;

- Boss: You should not have sent that editable PPT
- Boss: You should have just cc'd me. You have to be careful with this Jim. I made it very clear.
- Me: I 100% agree that I should not have sent the non-protected file.
- Boss: I mean - this can't happen again.
- Boss: You have to show strategic thinking. Why would you send that.
- Me: Yes, I need to get better about strategic thinking. Major brain fart on my part lol (me trying to add levity given she's already told me i've screwed up in 5 different ways)
- Boss: To be clear, there is nothing about this that I think is funny.
- Boss: You're a senior member of the team. You need to think better.
- Me: Yes, senior member, Should be more on top of it. I have no excuse. Total screw up. (she liked the message)
- Boss: We don't have time for amateur mistakes.

At this point, I became frustrated with her. I decided to tell her I had to jump on another meeting and ended the conversation out of fear i'd say something impulsive myself and regret it.

Thoughts? Am I being irrational?

Your boss does sound like a negative micromanager. That’s unfortunate.

Feedback is always helpful, of course. But, she’s not being very constructive with it or turning it into a coachable moment.

The threatening tone doesn’t help either (e.g., “I mean - this can't happen again”). No one likes to feel like their job is always on the line with every mistake.

If you feel like the working relationship is salvageable, there are a few things you can try. If not — and you think the interaction will never improve — keep your eyes open for a new job and be prepared to leave.

First, what’s the big deal with sending an editable presentation, especially if they asked for it? Why is she so upset about that?

I would have immediately said, “My mistake. Can you tell me more about your concerns with them having an editable file? I just want to understand so I can make better decisions about things like this in the future.”

Second, if you already know she’s such a micromanager, it's probably a good idea to check in with her on decisions and actions you plan to make. This will help you tune your work going forward.

I worked for someone like this once. Instead of asking what they thought I should do, I would check in and let them know what I was planning on doing and see if they agreed with my course of action.

So, more like, “By the way, I’m going to be sending Susan our latest budget spreadsheet tomorrow. Do you have any concerns with me sharing that with her?”

Over time, you’ll learn how she thinks various decisions should be made and align yourself with that. Now, if you agree with that and are ok with how you’re learning and growing in that organization, great!

But, if you fundamentally disagree with how things are being done, you’re going to be miserable working there. Then, it’s time to start looking for a job with a boss who you’d rather be working for.