All Articles Leadership Management How to work for a macromanager

How to work for a macromanager

4 min read


No one wants to work for a micromanager. Micromanagers are control freaks, always breathing down their employee’s, telling them how to do everything and inspecting every move they make.

Working for a micromanaging boss is one of the most frequently reported reasons employees hate their jobs or hate their bosses.

Employees that work for micromanagers probably wish their bosses would just disappear. They dream about what it would be like to go totally boss-less, going about their work in a state of empowered nirvana.

Well, be careful what you wish for! The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence.

While a micromanager anchors the extreme end of the management style continuum (high control), sitting at the far other end of the continuum is the macromanager (laissez-faire).

Working for a macromanager has its own set of challenges. A micromanager is always there when you don’t need them to be there; a macromanager is never around when you do have a question, need support, or need to get a decision made. They have a laissez faire style of management that assumes all employees are completely competent self-licking ice cream cones, needing no support, feedback, recognition, coaching, or direction.

A macromanagement style may be appropriate when managing employees that are self-starters, experienced, high-performing, and self-motivated, but even these employees need a little attention now and then. Where they really get themselves into trouble is when they try to apply their hands-off management approach to brand new employees who need more initial direction and support, or, even worse, to underperforming employees who need a strong kick in the behind.

So are you lucky or unlucky enough to work for a macromanager? I have been. If you are, here are a few tips:

1. Set up monthly meetings. While your macromanager may initially resist this intrusion on their busy schedule, insist on it and take the initiative to schedule them yourself. Explain to the macromanager how it is for their own benefit to stay informed on what you’re doing in case their own micromanager boss asks them for details.

2. Send regular e-mail updates. Keep them high level and brief. Develop a few important metrics for your area of responsibility and report on those. Be sure to make your manager aware of key accomplishments and give them a heads up of any potential problems that they may end up hearing about.

3. Establish measurable goals and manage to them. Create your own goals and development plan, and establish follow-though mechanisms to keep yourself on track.

4. Take care of yourself and your team. Celebrate your own success and the success of your team. Seek feedback from trusted mentors, peers, your employees, and others. Hire a coach if you can.

5. Keep an eye on the big picture. Don’t get myopic and lose sight of your organization’s broader mission and goals. Without a manager to provide this perspective, you’ll have to look for other sources to stay abreast.

6. Learn to manage your peers. Given that macromanagers are never around to confront underperformers, you’ll need to have these crucial conversations yourself. You’ll also want to provide support and recognition to your peers, and when you do, you’ll receive the same in return.

7. Have realistic expectations and accept what is. Don’t get all frustrated that your manager doesn’t give you regular feedback, recognition, or respond to your e-mails. Learn to look for and appreciate the strengths that your manager does bring to the table, and don’t expect pigs to fly.

Last, but not least, count your blessings that you don’t work for a micromanager!

Dan McCarthy is the director of Executive Development Programs at the University of New Hampshire and runs the Management & Leadership channel of He writes the award-winning leadership development blog Great Leadership and is consistently ranked as one of the top digital influencers in leadership and talent management. He’s a regular contributor to SmartBrief and a member of the SmartBrief on Workforce Advisory Board. E-mail McCarthy.

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on being a better, smarter leader.