Managing an Overbearing Manager
It's a manager's job to maintain control, but what happens when the manager is too controlling?
Having high standards is not a bad thing; it can drive a team toward excellence. But when those standards are too high, and nothing but that manager's idea of excellence is tolerated, your organization can encounter a number of problems, including reduced productivity.
The negative effects of control
People with control issues can be prone to micromanaging, which slows down work because they tend to hold a microscope to everything, and sometimes even re-do work if it doesn't live up to their high expectations.
Micromanaging also leaves team members feeling like they aren't valued, that they can't be trusted to get the job done, and that nothing is ever good enough. In fact, the costs of micromanagement can go even further than lost productivity when lowered morale leads to high employee turnover.
What can you do?
If you're tasked with managing an overbearing manager, you have your work cut out for you. People with control issues obviously don't like to be controlled, so you're bound to encounter resistance if you take the wrong approach. At the same time, you don't want to affect their potential to extract the best performance from their team. So what can you do?
Assess the situation
How do you enjoy all the benefits of a manager with high standards, while minimizing the negative effects of their control issues? First, you can try to understand where they're coming from. Start by getting a better understanding of their personality as it relates to their work.
Either before you hire someone for a management position, or during current manager's performance review, try administering a work-specific behavioral assessment. Through a series of simple questions, these assessments can give you a better idea of their workstyle and which kind of roles will be the best fit for them and the organization as a whole. Since the person is an active participant in the evaluation process, it might even open their eyes to the negative effects of their behavior.
The results of work-related behavior assessments often shed light on the kind of situations that will trigger negative behavior in an employee, which can help you avoid them in the future. Behavior assessments designed for the workplace often include tips on how to work with and manage different personality types to get the best results.
For example, our research has shown that people who exhibit control issues are likely to display high levels of dominance and are extremely regimented. A suggestion for dealing with an employee like this might be to explore non-threatening ways to ease their need for control. Another idea is to ask them directly why they are micromanaging – what do they not trust about the people working below them? This could be a non-threatening way to start a discussion about the positive effects of delegation, and accepting the occasional error as the cost of learning.
The bottom line – you don't have to do it alone. Tools are available to help you get the most from the managers you manage, while mitigating the effects of their less than desirable traits.