Do you Work For a Perfectionist:
Managing a Micromanager
Does your boss give you detailed instructions on everything?
Are there memo-reminders everywhere?
Has there been a lot of turnover in the practice?
Are you thinking of leaving too?
If you said ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you’re likely working for a perfectionist. Intense style. Controlling nature. Obsessive attention to detail.
No wonder you’re thinking of exiting the practice in search of a more satisfying work environment. Perfectionists hurt productivity and morale—and often drive others away. Perfectionists also are often called “control freaks.” Yet, to really understand and deal with a “micro” boss, it’s important to separate the behaviors from the person. That is, unless your boss is a true bully, his/her behavior is probably due to ignorance more than malice.
1. The need to control stems from fear. Your boss may be afraid that he/she won’t succeed. Dental leaders have plenty of reasons to be vigilant about their practice. They also tend to be over-achievers and put themselves under intense pressure to be perfect. Unrealistic and negative thinking are common reasons for perfectionism. There’s a huge difference between trying to avoid failure and striving to succeed.
Disarm your boss by making it clear that your goal is his/her success. Remember that the source of intensity is a worrisome mindset. Find things that you respect your boss's position, hard work or experience, despite the micromanaging. This is a much better place to build trust.
2. Lack of trust is the main reason for perfectionism. Having relied on themselves throughout school, dental leaders often find it unsettling to depend on others…sometimes for the first time in their life.
Get your boss to be very clear about expectations. Ask good questions and take good notes. Work hard to earn his trust and confidence. When he sees that you pay attention to the details, he may begin to relax. Be patient – it will take some time.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Although it’s natural to resist the intrusions of a perfectionistic boss, to build trust requires a lot of information exchange.
If she’s driven to know what’s going on, don’t wait to be asked. Find out what she needs to feel confident and comfortable, then get it to her—ahead of time. Carefully listen to her comments about how she wants things done. Give your boss proof of your abilities and skills. Be a trustworthy employee by demonstrating consistency and dependability.
4. Speak up for yourself - be assertive but respectful. Some bosses have no idea how they have been treating someone until that person speaks up. However, giving feedback to a perfectionist is delicate.
It doesn't work to confront your boss by telling her she's a micromanager. Instead, identify specifically what she’s doing that frustrates you. For example, “When you continue to leave post-it notes all over my desk, it erodes my confidence. It would help me if we could set up a meeting each day to review the things you want to be sure I do.” Other possible questions are:
- What is the end result you are looking for?
- Is there something about my performance that you find hard to trust?
- Can you coach me to show how you’d like it done?
Show confidence by expressing your wish to do a good job. Tell him/her your intention is to convey how certain behaviors affect you and your ability to meet his/her expectations. Be open to whatever they have to say. Have the attitude of discovery and cooperation. Instead of focusing on what you already know, focus on what your boss can teach you – if you let him/her.
It’s not your job to “fix” a perfectionist. However, it is your responsibility to do what you can to defuse the disruptive behaviors that upset you. You can't change the personality, but you can change the way you work together.
If you’d like information on building more trust in your office, contact Dr. Haller at firstname.lastname@example.org
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