You're plugging away at your desk when your manager pops over and asks how your latest project is going. It's a seemingly innocent inquiry in most cases, but if you're dealing with a micromanager, it's one that might send you over the edge.

While it's natural for managers to check in on their employees frequently and make sure things are running smoothly, there comes a point when too much oversight can be a negative thing. Not only can having a micromanaging boss make you question your performance, but it's the sort of situation that can downright drive you crazy.

Woman holding her head while a male in a suit stands over her with papers


The good news? You can take steps to keep your manager at bay and retain some of the on-the-job autonomy you crave. Here's what to do.

1. Figure out if you're the problem

Before you rag on your boss for constantly breathing down your neck, it pays to contemplate why it's happening. Is it merely your manager's personality, or are your actions (or inactions) to blame? Think about your performance over the past couple of months. Have your presentations been clean and error-free? Have you been completing your tasks on time? Or has your work been generally sloppy and unreliable? If it's the latter, then chances are you're the reason your boss feels the need to micromanage -- in which case the best way to get him off your back is to prove that you're capable of meeting expectations.

Not sure whether you're the problem or not? Talk to your colleagues who share a manager or observe your boss' behavior around them. If it seems like you're the only one on the team being micromanaged, then it's probably because your boss doesn't trust you specifically. And that's something you can, and should, work on.

2. Assess your manager's priorities and prove that you're capable of handling them

It's easy to forget that managers have lots of pressure, too. Remember, if you fall down on a task, there's a good chance it'll come back to not only hurt you but your boss as well. With that in mind, talk to your manager to determine which projects on his agenda are most pressing, and give those your focus and attention. If you show that you have things under control, he might manage to relax a little -- and stop looking over your shoulder.

3. Communicate regularly about the projects you're working on

Your manager's micromanaging tendencies might stem from a desire not to annoy you but to remain as updated as possible on key initiatives. So if you make a point of proactively updating your boss on the regular, he's more likely to leave you alone and let you do your own thing. The next time you're given a major assignment, ask your boss how often he'd like updates, and be sure never to miss one. Otherwise, you can count on him showing up at your desk demanding answers.

4. Confront your boss politely

If, despite your best efforts, you're unable to get your boss to ease up on the micromanagement front, it may be time to discuss the situation with him directly. Ask your boss for a meeting and respectfully bring the issue to his attention. Explain that you've tried to earn his trust and prove that you're capable of handling the assignments you're given, but that it doesn't seem to make a difference. You should also let him know that his micromanaging not only causes you to question your own abilities, but takes up valuable time that you'd rather spend actually getting things done. (After all, it's hard to power through projects when you're constantly stopping to answer questions and provide updates.) With any luck, your manager will acknowledge that flaw and agree to take steps to address it.

There's no need to resign yourself to a micromanaged existence at work. If your boss isn't giving you the space you need to do your job, it's time to address the problem -- and the sooner you do, the better.