She's not your boss, but she's in your business, bugging you about a report that needs to be turned in, looking over your shoulder or wanting to be cc'd on every email. She's likely a micromanager, commonly defined as a person who manages situations using excessive control.
The coworker micromanager may regularly overstep bounds by keeping tabs on your every move and essentially not allowing you to do your own job without interference. This type of behavior is not only a hassle for the victim—it can be a big problem for businesses.
Studies have shown that micromanagement can be a major barrier to productivity and can hinder performance. Micromanagers can also cause low morale and high turnover.
Worse, almost 60 percent of employees in one survey reported having to deal with a micromanager at work, and a large percentage of those workers reported negative effects as a result. Sometimes, in extreme cases, micromanagement can cross that fine line into harassment, even bullying.
So what can you do if you find yourself in the grips of a non-boss micromanager?
First, understand their motivation. "Call it what you like: controlling, insecurity, show off—I believe it all boils down to fear," says Marla Tabaka, Inc. Magazine author and business growth expert. "Micromanagers are often driven by a lack of self-worth and a need for recognition. Feeling out of control of any situation can cause great discomfort and even feel threatening to them." Attack the problem by addressing the underlying emotional triggers. "Begin by offering praise for their legitimate contributions, skills, and talent. Subtle remarks like, 'Thank you for that great input, I'll take it into consideration,' are also useful," she says.
Listen carefully. Sometime people micromanage when they feel they aren't being heard. "Employees, including micromanagers, are increasingly engaged and productive when they have a voice and understand how their work impacts the bottom line," says Tabaka "Also, built-in systems for recognition and reward seem to decrease micromanaging tendencies."
Speak up. If the problem is ongoing it's time for a direct conversation with the individual. Be kind, but be certain to point out the negative consequences of their behavior, says Tabaka.
Seek help from higher ups. "Micromanagement, even bullying, is an ongoing problem in the workplace. However, in my observation, as CEOs are recognizing the importance of a strong, positive culture, it is becoming less of an issue," says Tabaka. "In a healthy culture, everyone feels valued and safeguards that are more psychological in nature are built into the system." If this is not the case at your organization, reaching out to your boss may help the situation.
Be alert to signs of stress. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that negative interactions with coworkers or a lack of support can lead to job stress, which can lead to loss of motivation and even physical illnesses. Chronic headaches, loss of initiative and sleep disturbances may be signs something is awry.
Look inward. While you may be the victim of a micromanager, also take stock to ensure you're not the problem. If you have trouble delegating, like to be involved in every aspect of a task, are regularly dissatisfied with others' work or want to be looped in on every interaction, you might be a micromanager. If this is the case, it's time to step back, focus on your own responsibilities and allow others to do their jobs.