Micromanagement may be a sign that your boss is starved for information. A weekly status email might be just the ticket.
It seems counterintuitive, but one way to fight back when you get too many micromanaging emails is to send an email of your own. Think of it like a preemptive strike.
Here’s an example, pulled from one of my coaching sessions with a vice president at a local startup.
“My CEO is micromanaging me,” the vice president told me. “He’s constantly in my business. I’ll wake up in the morning with half a dozen emails from him.”
“What are you doing about it?” I asked her.
“I tell him that he has to trust me to run my team,” she said, her tone and body language stressed and angry. “I say he has to let me manage my business.”
“Is that working?” I asked.
“No,” she said. “We agree to disagree. He’s a controlling micromanager and I need to figure this out or I’m going to have to leave this company.”
“What if isn’t him?” I asked. “What if it’s you?” She looked at me, shocked. She looked like she was about to walk out of my office.
“How are you managing upwards?” I asked. “How are you overcommunicating with him?” She told me she talks with him on the phone a couple of times a week.
“When do you send him your weekly status email?” I asked.
She looked at me blankly. “What status email?” she asked.
“He may be a controlling micromanager,” I said. “But it seems like he’s starved for information from you. I bet he’s emailing you in the middle of the night because he’s worried about what he doesn’t know.”
A status email provides detailed updates on progress and risk in your areas of responsibility, I explain. You send it at the same time every week, like clockwork, so he learns that he can trust that he will regularly get the information he needs. Over time, you develop a template that is most useful for him, and efficient for you.
“Let’s try an experiment,” I suggest. “Send him a detailed email every Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. for the next couple of weeks. Let’s see if he is able to back out of the weeds of your business a bit.”
“I’m going to have to chase updates from my team,” she said, dismayed. “This is going to be a lot of work for my whole team.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “Yes, it’s a lot of work. When you’re running your own company, you can run it like a black hole. But for now, spend an hour of your week writing this status email so your boss doesn’t have to worry in the middle of the night about what you’re doing.”
I received an email from her a couple of weeks later. “Maybe you were right about the status email,” she told me. “The volume of off-hours emails has gone way down. And we’re able to be much more high level and strategic in our calls.”
You’re welcome, Mr. CEO out there.