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Three Career Lessons My Micromanaging Boss Didn’t Mean To Teach Me

Source | FastCompany : By RICHARD MOY

One of the first managers I ever had was what many people might call a micromanager. If I was five minutes late to work, he knew. If a client copied him on an email to me, he wanted to know exactly when I planned on responding. If I didn’t complete a weekly SWOT (“strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats”) analysis of myself to discuss with him, he wasn’t thrilled.

At the time, this put him squarely in the “worst boss ever” category. And while I still don’t agree with a lot of his choices, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t learn anything from him.

Here are a few things that stuck with me—and truth be told, actually make me a better employee today.


I’ll be honest—I could probably sum up the first year of my career with something I used to say almost every day: “Meh, this is good enough.” Many times I saw things from a big-picture standpoint. And by that, I mean I’d look at the requirements of a task and try my best to get them done. If a minor thing or two got lost in the process, it didn’t bug me all that much.

However, my boss (on his kindest days) held me to a higher standard. Things I considered throwaway tasks suddenly became urgent, and for a long time, it drove me crazy to live under this constant pressure of “just fix this one more thing.”

But a funny thing happened after I started approaching my job the way he wanted me to: People across the entire company started trusting me with bigger projects. Sure, I would’ve preferred to have a manager who wasn’t quite so hands-on, but he did get me to see the value in paying attention to the details of even the most inane, low-impact tasks.


My relationship with my manager was simple. He’d tell me what I did wrong and how to improve it—and I’d go home to a sleepless night of worrying about whether or not I’d be employed the next day. I operated under the assumption that I did nothing well at work.

While that wasn’t true, I’ve learned over the last few years that as much as I tell other people to seek out constructive criticism, I’m not very good at doing so myself.

And I look back on those daily critiques and wonder if the situation would’ve felt more positive if I’d simply asked, “How can I improve this?” whenever I turned in projects.

No matter how good I get at anything, there should always be a few things that make my boss say, “Hey, let’s talk about how to get you to the next level.” Sure, I didn’t enjoy how often that manager came down on me for every little thing or his approach, but I’ve come to appreciate the honest feedback. And I know that I probably grew more as a professional because he constantly pushed me.

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