How Micromanagers can Deflate Your Confidence

December 5, 2014

“How do you prefer to be managed?” is a common interview question. Generally, it is answered with some variation of, “I prefer to be given autonomy on my projects and not be micromanaged.”

Webster’s online dictionary defines micromanaging as “manage[ment] especially with excessive control or attention on details”. But how do you really know if you are being micromanaged? Especially while in a training position, this perception can be quite subjective. One person might label their PI a micromanager and another could describe that same person as a very available, hands-on supervisor. And what causes micromanagers to feel the need to control every project?

Often micromanagers want to be involved in every aspect of a project because there is an underlying fear that it won’t be done the right way. Or, they may expect people to handle projects and problems exactly as they would, no matter how viable alternative solutions may be. Overtime, a prolonged micromanagement supervisory style can cause an employee to internalize the insecurity that their boss distrusts their work products. Micromanaged employees also often become apathetic and disengaged from their work because they have become conditioned to believe that their ideas aren’t worthy of consideration. They realize their contributions aren’t valued and consequently, their productivity and morale often plummet. This lack of confidence can even bleed over into job interviews as the employee moves on from this group.  The job candidate questions their actions and can’t necessarily see clearly what skills they could contribute. No matter the job or what stage of your career, confidence is a key component of success.

Micromanagement of certain time-sensitive or especially important projects can be rationalized if not overlooked. As a trainee, you can probably surmise that there are other stressors causing your supervisor to put extra stress on your work at that moment. In the world of science, the current funding climate can cause severe financial stressors for PIs as they try to ensure they will have funding for everyone in the research group. It is also worthy of noting that there tends to be a lack of management training as individuals rise in the scientific ranks.

How can you begin rebuilding your confidence and positivity after working for someone you would define as a micromanager? Realize that it might take time, but assess where you are at in the moment. Meeting with a career counselor can help you objectively review your situation and identify new tools for coping — whether that is by starting a job search or finding new ways to manage your work environment.

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Building Confidence for a Successful Career in 2014

February 25, 2014

Almost everyone faces challenges with confidence in the workplace at some point in their life.  Challenges with confidence can be more noticeable if we live or work in a culture that is different from the one in which we were raised.  Our family, cultural background and personal preferences may also affect our comfort with expressing ourselves in a confident way.  However, one can stay true to their values and still learn to express themselves confidently.  Two key steps to increasing your confidence include:

1.       Identify areas where you feel both confident and unsure.

In an article in Science Careers, Sharon Ann Holgate offers many useful suggestions about developing confidence.  She notes, “For those with low self-confidence, establishing appropriate metrics and measuring your progress against them can be difficult, so make sure to involve people you trust to offer honest feedback and support …Conversely, seeking out constructive criticism is important whenever you are feeling supremely confident about your job performance.”

The take away message from her article is that confidence needs to be grounded in reality. Seeking support and feedback are essential because we can both underestimate and overestimate our abilities.

2.       Practice confidence-building activities.

There is some interesting research from Harvard which indicates that your body language not only affects how others see you, but also how you feel about yourself. A power pose is to stand in a posture of confidence – standing tall and upright with shoulders squared and back. The simple act of power posing can have a positive effect on increasing confidence and reducing stress.  Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, shares how this works in her TED talk.

Confidence is often built over time with repeated practice, so seek opportunities to continue to develop your skills.  Start small in an environment that feels safe to you and push yourself to work from there. The OITE has many workshops that could be a great starting point in developing your confidence.  For example, do you feel uncomfortable asserting yourself in lab? Then, make a note to attend the workshop Speaking Up: How to Ask For What You Need in the Lab and in Life.  Are you feeling less than confident about your English speaking skills? Then, be sure to come to the two day class on Improving Spoken English.

Whatever the issue may be — self-doubt happens for many.  When it comes up for you, make sure you take time to recognize it and then take steps to make it more manageable for yourself.