Micromanaging, unless it’s a result of a mental-health issue, is a reaction to feeling unsafe.
If you have a client or team member who micromanages you, whether all the time, or periodically, it’s likely for one of these reasons:
- You’ve dropped enough balls that she doesn’t believe you’ll do what needs to be done unless she watches you like a hawk.
- Her last VA (or someone else she worked with closely) dropped enough balls that’s she’s gunshy, and you aren’t doing all you can to help her feel safe in the relationship with you.
Either way, when the client feels unsafe, it’s a big deal. It’s also something that feeds on itself and gets worse over time.
The more you make mistakes (or when you don’t know that you need to take extra steps to help her feel safe), the more she feels like she needs to micromanage, and the more you feel watched, the more mistakes you’re likely to make.
It can be incredibly painful on both sides of the relationship.
Depending on how long this has been going on, it may not be easily fixed because her feeling unsafe translates into not trusting. And your not feeling trusted leads to your feeling unsafe. A lack of fundamental trust in a working relationship, over time, will break the relationship.
So, if you see that micromanaging is happening and you value the relationship and want to stay in it, there are things you can do for the best-possible outcome. I say “you” because you are the only person in the relationship you have any control of.
Here are five steps you can take to address, and fix, the situation:
1. Make sure that your own systems and processes allow you to stay on top of things.
A great VA should rarely (and I mean rarely!!) drop balls.
If your own systems and processes aren’t helping you achieve that, fix that and fast.
Once your systems and processes support you well:
2. Have a conversation with your client or teammate where you share that you’ve noticed that she’s watching over you and your work.
Let her know that you realize you’ve dropped balls (or whatever it is that’s been happening), tell her that you’ve made some changes to your business to prevent those things from happening in the future, and ask her what would let her relax and feel confident that you will take care of things so she doesn’t feel the need to watch you.
3. Listen closely to what she says. Acknowledge it all. Be curious, not defensive.
Implement changes and let her know what changes you’ve implemented.
4. From there, it’s on you to do your best work.
Use your systems and processes to help you show that you don’t need to be watched.
5. Be vulnerable enough to check in with her periodically to see if the changes you’ve made are allowing her to feel relaxed. If there’s anything else that needs to change, change it.
Remember that you’ve likely played a big part in her reaction (again, unless her reaction stems from a mental-health issue). Even if her issue is feeling unsafe due to a previous relationship, and you are perfect, there are still investments you would want to be making in the relationship to help her move beyond that feeling. And if you aren’t doing those kinds of things, changing that will make a difference for her.
Fix what you’re doing, and you’ll positively impact her feeling of safety. Impact her feeling of safety, and she’ll have no reason to micromanage you. With no reason for her to micromanage you, you’ll relax and do better work.
It all starts with you, because I promise you that the client has no idea why any of this is going on or how to make it better. All she knows is that she feels like she has to watch you. And, again, you can only control what you do.
The first step is 100% yours if you want to fix it.