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Working for a Micromanager is a Macro Pain | BenchFly
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Working for a Micromanager is a Macro Pain

Dear Dora: Working for a micromanagerDear Dora,

My boss is a serious micromanger and it’s driving me crazy. Is there any way to get them to loosen the reigns, or am I stuck?

– Amy, grad student


Dear Amy,

Micromanager PI’s can be particularly frustrating if they try to control every aspect of your thesis project and (possibly) life. You can set limits, but it is best to pick which battles are worth fighting. Some micromanager PI’s create scenes when their students order inexpensive supplies without their approval. While this is annoying, if your PI insists on getting informed about every tiny purchase or any updates in your research, then it is best to keep them in the loop. Many micromanagers will get off your back if you follow their “rules”.

Some PI’s are micromanagers to the point where they keep track of their students 24/7. They want to know why you were not in lab over the weekend, and they might even call you at odd hours on your home phone. If your PI has no respect for your personal life, then it is time to stand up for yourself. Of course, everyone has a different idea of what “reasonable” work hours are, so you need to set up a schedule that is reasonable for you. If your PI tries to cross boundaries, you need to be very firm about your requests such as no calling on home phone, no interruptions while you are running delicate experiments etc. If your PI is nervous about work not getting done, you need to make a case for yourself that you are putting in the hours and are doing the best that you can. Hopefully you and your PI will come to a reasonable agreement, but they might need a kind reminder if they try to cross boundaries again in the future.

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Dora Farkas, Ph.D. is the author “The Smart Way to Your Ph.D.:200 Secrets from 100 Graduates,” and the founder of PhDNet, an online community for graduate students and PhDs. You will find links to her book, monthly newsletters, and discussion board on her site. Send your questions to DearDora@benchfly.com and keep an eye out for them in an upcoming issue!

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Stay tuned for the next Dear Dora in two weeks!  In the meantime, check a few of Dora’s recent posts:

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Submit your questions to Dora at DearDora@benchfly.com, or use the comment box below!

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3 comments so far. Join The Discussion

  1. My PI Tells More Stories than Mother Goose | BenchFly Blog

    wrote on July 21, 2010 at 10:28 am

    […] Working for a Micromanager is a Macro Pain […]

  2. Dear Boss: Time to Trust Me (or Bust Me) | BenchFly Blog

    wrote on August 20, 2010 at 10:07 am

    […] Working for a Micromanager is a Macro Pain […]

  3. The Path to Happiness in Research | BenchFly Blog

    wrote on January 26, 2011 at 5:39 am

    […] hypotheses – our hypotheses.  For those of us who have enjoyed the smothering regime of a micromanager, it’s clear that being told exactly what to do and when to do it is less than […]

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