How to assertively deal with a micromanaging coworker

Updated on January 28, 2023
how to deal with a micromanaging coworker

If you are dealing with a micromanaging coworker, then you are probably frustrated and possibly even kind of worried about your job.

If the situation you’re in is draining away from your mental energy and impacting your work, then you should definitely do something about it.

In this post, I will outline how to deal with a controlling coworker based on my personal experiences. I will tell you about what worked for me in my situation but remember that you are dealing with your own unique set of circumstances.

You are in a delicate situation so make sure to consider all known factors and possible outcomes before you make a move to solve your control freak problem.

As a bonus (and a little bit of comedic relief) let me tell you about a saying I stumbled upon over a decade ago that has stayed with me. It goes a little something like this…

“Trying to manage people, especially when they have computers, is like trying to manage a gorilla, especially when it is on fire.”

The point is, managing and controlling people is hard. Very hard. Until we become robots, there will always be some degree of freedom. You can not be managed fully, and you can’t manage others fully. So don’t lose hope!

Before you deal with your controlling coworker

Before you deal with your micromanaging coworker

You might be thinking that the only way to deal with your micromanaging colleague is to go straight to your boss and complaint. But hold your horses. Just calm down and think about it logically. I advise you to take a slow and steady approach.

1. Assume good intentions

Right from the start, it is best to assume that this bossy colleague of yours has the best intentions in their heart. They are probably trying to do a good job and guide you in the right direction, according to their best judgment. And perhaps they don’t realize the harm that they are doing by being a control freak.

Besides, what other possibility is there? Is it possible that this person is micromanaging you as part of their private agenda? Have you considered the possibility that your coworker is micromanaging you because they feel professionally threatened by you?

Absolutely. But let’s not get into dark territory just yet. Not until we exhaust all possibilities.

Of course, if you are colleagues working on the same projects, then that explains everything. But if that is not the case, then the next step for you is to find out more about the position that your micromanaging coworker takes in the company.

Maybe they have some responsibilities related to your team or your department? Maybe their work is somehow connected to yours? If there is a way for you to figure out exactly what their responsibilities entail, then that would be great.

Understanding their position will give you the answer to why they are micromanaging coworkers so eagerly. Yes, they are probably doing that to other people as well. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they are doing it in the best way possible.

Breathing in someone’s neck, especially at work, is not conducive to great outcomes. And this is what we are trying to achieve here, right?

3. Ask your direct manager for feedback

You need to figure out if you are doing great work because you have to make sure that the behavior of your controlling coworker is not provoked by you. Of course, the best way to do so is to speak to your direct manager.

Simply ask them to speak privately and request to hear their honest unfiltered feedback about you and your performance. Ask them if they think that you are a reliable member of the team. Ask them about what they think about your professional skills and so on.

This will be a wonderful bonding moment for you and your boss. Just think about it. How often does somebody come forward asking to be evaluated? Your boss might think that you are after a raise or something so do take the opportunity if it presents itself! I assume that you’ve been working hard and you deserve to be paid more.

However, if the feedback you receive is not all that positive, then this might explain the behavior of your micromanaging coworker. At this point, it would be right to ask your manager about how you can improve your performance and tell them that you will do your best to do better.

Don’t mention anything about how you are being micromanaged by another person just yet. This comes later, if at all.

How to deal with a micromanaging coworker

how to deal with your micromanaging coworker at work

It is time to deal with your micromanaging coworker directly now that you have completed your little research.

1. Talk to your controlling coworker in private

It’s time you face your tormentor. Whether they are a caring person trying to help you, someone with a private agenda, a coworker who is trying to get you fired, or simply a bully, it is best you talk to them first, before you raise the question in front of somebody else.

This is because in all cases, talking to somebody else first would be going behind the back of your micromanaging coworker and this can harm your professional relationship.

So tell your coworker that you would like to talk to them privately and explain the situation with honesty and respect. Tell them that you feel like you are being micromanaged by them and this is stressing you out. Ask them what will it take for them to trust you with your work and tell them that you will do your best to earn that trust.

You see, there is no grand psychological trick behind this. The core of all good coworker relationships is honesty, respect, and trust. If the other person is kind and understanding, then they should be able to respond to how you feel and give you the chance to prove yourself worthy of their trust.

2. Resist them without harming your projects

If nothing changes even after you had that conversation, then this is truly turning into a very unpleasant situation. You are officially in dark territory. It seems that this micromanaging coworker of yours doesn’t care about your feelings and they are willing to cause harm just to get their way. These are classic signs of a toxic coworker.

So what can you do?

Let me tell you what worked for me when I was dealing with a controlling coworker.

Resistance! You have to remember that this is not your boss. They are not your direct manager. Their position parallels yours. They have no authority over you. This means that you can selectively ignore their communication toward you.

Be it private messages or emails, you are not obliged to respond to them. You can communicate with this person according to your best judgment when your work projects are concerned. But that is where you can draw the line.

Also, have you considered that the person who is micromanaging you might actually be attracted to you? This is just their weird way of trying to get close to you.

3. Take the matter to your higher-ups

In case “that person” doesn’t change their approach with you after you talked to them and after you adjusted your behavior towards them, then it is time for you to take this matter to the higher-ups in the office.

Ask your boss or your direct manager to talk privately and explain the situation. After all, the best part about having a boss is that you can turn your work problems into their problems.

Let’s hope that at this point they will finally get the hint and back off a little bit. And in case they don’t, then that person probably has some serious problems. And you should feel sorry for them. Find out how to deal with the most common types of difficult colleagues in our complete blog series.

Key takeaways

  • Do your best to understand why your micromanaging coworker is acting like that.
  • Have your work evaluated by your boss/manager before you take any actions.
  • Talk to your controlling coworker in private and explain how you feel.
  • In case you can’t settle this privately, do your best to resist “that person” and talk to your boss/manager if necessary.
  • Micromanaging others can be a sign of narcissism. Find out if you are dealing with a narcissistic coworker.
  • Being micromanaged all the time at work can be quite stressful. Here is how you can effectively unwind after work and deal with all the stress.
Written by:
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co-founder / office worker
Alex has been an office worker for more than 10 years. He is dedicated to helping other office workers to achieve the perfect life-work balance through well-being, effective communication, and building productive habits.

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