Building Trust is Key to Overcoming the Confining Oversight of a Micromanager

Also, some tips on how to motivate skeptical employees to lean into opportunities
  • Also, some tips on how to motivate skeptical employees to lean into opportunities

This article appears in print in the March 2020 issue. Click here for a free subscription.

Q: My boss is a micromanager. He has us sign in and out of the office every day and always wants to know where we are. I am a 100% commission salesperson and am responsible for some significant relationships with key clients. He used to be in sales, so he gets in my business and tries to help. How do I get him to stop asking where I am all the time?

Dear Micromanaged:

Show me the money. If you are good at your job, your numbers should tell their own story and pave the way for you to have a real heart-to-heart about trust.

So, I’m assuming you are top-performing and are meeting or exceeding your sales targets. If that is the case, then it is not unreasonable to want to be left to do your job. You should be able to make sales calls from anywhere and today’s workforce is demanding flexibility and trust from employers.

It sounds like your boss is insecure and a bit old school and can’t figure out how to move from being a “player” to a “coach.” Set up a meeting to review your sales goals, tell him you’ve got this and ask for his trust.

But while you are at it, also ask him if there is something he needs from you that you aren’t aware of, and partner with him to understand any challenges he may face. Remember that he’s running a team and, if he has accountability and performance issues from some of his sales reps, he may be trying to fix them by managing you as a pack.

Q: I am a woman who has leaned into opportunities and challenges my whole career, applying for jobs before I am “technically” qualified, and I have been told this is unusual. I am managing several women who have chosen not to lean into opportunities in similar ways, even when approached. Why am I different and how do I convince them to lean in the same way? I wouldn’t be encouraging them if I didn’t think they were qualified.

Dear Different in a Good Way:

Your team is lucky to have you. I wish all managers who saw raw talent would focus on harnessing it instead of moving on. Don’t be frustrated. Here is where empathy will be your friend — and differentiate you from a typical impatient boss.

An underlying and common element that holds people, not just women, back in their careers is good old-fashioned fear. Fear of rejection, disappointing others, failing, embarrassment and the ever-present “imposter syndrome.” There isn’t a lot of room in our rapid-paced work environments to build a safe space and culture of trust, but you are different. You can see their capabilities clearly, but they can’t see it, so put yourself in their shoes.

How do they know you will have their back if they fail? Do they know they can ask you “stupid questions”? I would bet you had a mentor or two who created a safe space for you to rise, and fail, which allowed you to grow. And you knew it. Having self-confidence can propel you in life, as you have experienced, but seizing opportunities and being brave don’t come naturally to everyone. 

It’s a complex issue that shouldn’t be oversimplified, but they need to see themselves mastering and achieving goals so they know they can tackle new challenges. Take a step back and the extra time to show them where they’ve grown and what skills they have developed — what you see in them.

Highlight the skills that translate to these new opportunities. Ask them what their impression is of the role. Perhaps they have misconceptions about the opportunities that are causing them to hold back. Teach them that they are competent, that they can compete, and that you will support them as they learn on the fly and soar.

Beth Halvorsen spent decades as a nationally recognized leader in commercial real estate. As a management consultant, speaker and facilitator, she offers no-nonsense solutions to navigate tricky, complex workplace issues.

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