Dealing with a micromanaging boss

A micromanaging boss can bring anybody down

I received a question on dealing with a micromanaging boss. If you’re suffering, read on:

I just switched jobs and relocated to a new place. The problem is that my editor is micromanaging me. He seems to not trust me and actually gives me interview questions to ask for my story. He tells me through e-mail and in person what he wants me to ask and how the story should be written. The other day he even proposed a lede for my story! I don’t understand, because I have quite a few years of experience. The lede he wanted
was also very thesis-like.

On a recent story, he assumed what the outcome would be, and it wasn’t like that at all. The editor went so far as to edit in what he felt was necessary.

I’ve only been here a few months and I’m getting ready to leave. I understand that editors have to give input and direction, but I’m also a very independent person who’s used to getting out there and getting the story. I’m not a recent college grad either, so I know what I’m doing.

I’ve covered numerous beats during my tenure and uncovered some pretty great stories. I know how people are and their personalities, but my editor is sending me the message that he doesn’t feel I am capable. What should I do? I’ve tried talking to him, but he just blew me off the other day. I’m not a journalist who needs to be taken by the hand and told what to do. Help!

My answer:

You feel this editor doesn’t trust your judgment and, from what you’re saying, you don’t respect his abilities.
Before you do anything rash, do two things. Ask more experienced people in the newsroom whether he treats everyone this way. If he does, I wouldn’t expect much to change. In either case, I would ask to have one more meeting with the editor. I’d want to clear the air without getting personal and see if you can get some
relief. Have this discussion at a scheduled appointment away from the newsroom and deadlines.

Ways to make your point:

  • “When I am given a lot of questions to ask before I go on an interview, I feel like I’m not being trusted. If I come back and am missing something we need, I’ll go back and get it, but I need to make the first stab on my own.”
  • “We seem to disagree on how ledes should be written. You have even told me what they should be. Am I missing the mark? I am trying to write punchy ledes that draw readers in. Is that what we want? I think I write good ledes, but when you write them before I do, I don’t feel you have confidence in me.”
  • “I know you’re the editor and are responsible for our stories, but I sometimes feel you don’t let me make decisions. Would giving you more details on what I am doing give me more leeway to handle the reporting and writing? I have good instincts and abilities and believe we’ll see good results when I use them.”

Maybe they’re not a micromanaging boss but they’re still driving you crazy.

Here are a few strategies on dealing with a boss or editor that you may not necessarily get along with:

  • Change the situation.
  • Get used to it.
  • Get out.

It sounds like harsh advice. But it is right. Be in charge of that process. Get your resume and work samples together, get them out and start interviewing. Try not to get yourself fired. It is better to leave on your own terms and timing. Getting fired will make it harder to get your next job.

Mastering the newsroom:

Want more advice on dealing with a micromanaging boss or an editor that you don’t get along with? These questions, answers and advice come from my book Ask The Recruiter, where I have collected years of experience from recruiting in newsrooms. The book contains popular questions and answers dedicated to breaking open the occasionally opaque nature of newsroom hiring, promoting and managing.

For more information, check out the following resources:

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