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How to survive to remote micromanagement ?

21 July 2021, par Équipe Thorens Chasseurs de têtes

Whether you are a manager yourself or not, chances are you have already been in the presence of micromanagement.

With the new reality of working from home, new management styles and new questions are emerging.

Do you know how to deal with this new era of remote management and the new micromanagers that the pandemic seems to have created?

Recognize micromanagement
Address the problem
What to do if the situation doesn’t change

How to recognize micromanagement

First, controlling managers often do not have the bad intentions ascribed to them. They often have a hard time trusting their employees and this unwillingly translates into control and intense supervision. Most of the time, this kind of behavior was there long before the pandemic, but some aspects might have changed. In the past, we recognized micromanagement by:

  • Frequent meetings to ask about the progress of tasks
  • Attention to small or unimportant details
  • Unrealistic deadlines
  • No encouragement for initiative or autonomous decision-making
  • Very specific requests on how the job should be done
  • The requirement to have detailed reports and documentation for all tasks performed
  • Dissatisfaction with the work done by employees
  • Little flexibility in general
  • And finally, a high employee turnover rate!

While we can still observe this kind of management while working remote, the following behaviors can now be added to the list:

  • Frequent surprise calls to inquire about the progress of tasks
  • The requirement to be carbon-copied on all emails
  • Monitoring of hours worked using technological tools or a timesheet
  • Monitoring employee behavior using technological tools


Unfortunately, criticizing, monitoring and controlling your employees will undoubtedly demotivate them. Indeed, humans need to feel autonomous. To have the freedom to do their job and accomplish their goals without someone controlling every step. This is one of the three basic and innate needs that are found in everyone, regardless of age, origin, etc.

“Far from being anecdotal, destructive leadership (like micromanagement) is believed to be the cause of increased healthcare costs and a drop in productivity of around $ 23.8 billion each year in the United States, and between 15 and 17% of organizations would be affected by this type of leadership. ”


How to address the problem?

If your first instinct is to tell yourself that your manager will never change, and the only solution is to quit your job or endure, we are here to tell you that other solutions exist!

A good manager will know how to adapt his management style to his employees. So if your supervisor’s approach is stressing you out and making you less productive, a conversation is in order.

As mentioned earlier, humans need a minimum of autonomy to feel motivated. This need for autonomy is unique to everyone and it is therefore also your responsibility to communicate what helps you, and what hinders you in your work. Know that in order to feel autonomous, we must feel that we have the ability to make choices, based on our expertise.

Establish clear goals

Management by objectives is intended to be a more flexible management style. When employees have clear goals and know that achieving those goals contributes to business success, they are more motivated. Management by objectives therefore creates engagement, and better performance. Many articles and studies can be found on Internet on this subject, if you want to suggest this practice to your supervisor.

With your manager, try to establish, in a collaborative way, SMART objectives, which are :

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Specific objectives will allow your manager to clearly communicate his expectations to you. However, you remain responsible for choosing the means to achieve these goals and you therefore have more autonomy and control over your work.

Be careful, however, to communicate the resources and tools you will need to achieve the objectives. Communicating effectively, especially while working from home, is an important aspect to reassure a supervisor who is inclined towards micromanagement.

Establish when and how to do follow ups

If surprise calls and follow-up emails every 5 minutes are stressing you, it should be mentioned (in a polite and professional manner). It may be obvious to many employees, but it is not always obvious to a controlling manager. Quite simply because micromanagement is not necessarily voluntary!

Establishing a specific schedule, such as weekly meetings, will also help your supervisor know when to follow up with you. In these meetings, you will be able to expose your progress and also your pitfalls. Schedule these meetings at a frequency that works for both of you.

So, what if your supervisor continues to question you about your progress every day? You can answer him/her briefly, while taking the time to kindly mention that you will be available to answer these questions in more detail at the meeting scheduled for this purpose.


The excuse of remote work

“Out of sight, out of heart” doesn’t necessarily apply to remote work. In fact, employee productivity has remained the same or even increased during the pandemic.

Controlling managers should therefore not use this excuse to closely monitor their employees remotely. It’s a safe bet that all employees in the company are responsible adults, so they should be treated as such.

Moreover, if employees were trustworthy in the office, there is no reason why they should not be trustworthy when telecommuting. And if so, the problem is probably that the manager or the company did not hire the right candidate. In any case, it is above all on the side of the controlling manager that efforts must be made to change the situation …


What if the situation doesn’t change?

In conclusion, a new era of management is dawning. An era where supervisors trust their employees enough to work from home … without controlling them, hopefully.

A good remote manager will be someone …:

  • Who clearly communicates their (realistic!) expectations
  • Who encourages employees to give their opinion
  • Who gives the necessary resources to accomplish tasks and work remotely
  • Who encourages and appreciates initiative
  • Who trusts their employees on the allocation of time and the means used to accomplish the objectives


Do you recognize your boss in this description? This type of manager really does exist. So, if communicating with your supervisor hasn’t changed anything, or if you don’t think that talking openly about the problem will improve the situation, it may be a sign that you should change jobs. We suggest you take a look at our job offers section or send us your resume.