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Since you have to go to work every day, you want to feel that showing up actually matters. That’s why it’s so important to have ownership over your projects. Once a task is assigned to you, you’d like to be empowered to take the lead. It affirms that your manager trusts you and thinks you’re smart.

On the flipside, working for a boss who micromanages you is not at all enjoyable. It feels like he’s there because he anticipates you screwing up. That’s a lot of pressure, and it makes for a pretty lousy work environment.

If you find yourself in this situation, the best course of action is often to schedule a one-on-one meeting to discuss your communication and workflow. But before you dive into how his management strategy makes you feel, you first need to ask this one question:

Is it because I’m not meeting expectations?

According to best-selling author Ron Carucci, it’s important to ask your manager “if you’re falling short,” because, “your boss’s excessive involvement in your job could be a form of veiled feedback…”

In other words, while a more experienced manager might try highlighting areas for improvement, your boss might be micromanaging you as a reaction to subpar work. And this is not news you want to blindsided with when you’ve gone in to discuss your right to a little breathing room.

So start by asking yourself whether you’re hitting your objectives. Are you on track to meet the goals outlined at your last performance review? Is your work better now than it was six months ago? How does your output rank among that of other team members?

If you realize you’ve been coasting—or falling behind—approach your boss with strategies to do better work (like increased training, shadowing more successful peers, or a new approach to time management). Carucci also suggests asking your manager to step back and coach you when he notices you’re headed in wrong direction, instead of taking over.

Of course, if you’ve been exceeding expectations, then it’s not a reflection of your work. To get on the same page, write out—and refer to—all of the ways you’ve been exceeding your goals. This gives you data to back up why you’re ready for increased responsibility, and it strengthens your request to take ownership of your work.

Management’s a skill that has to be learned, and your boss isn’t always going to get it right. Before you address how he could do a better job, make sure you’ve already had that conversation with yourself.

Updated 6/19/2020