Most of us at one time or another have encountered a control freak. You are especially unlucky if they happen to be your boss. You know the type. You can’t set up a meeting or send out an email without checking with them first. Every presentation has to meet with their approval. There are constant requests for check-in and updates. You feel smothered, trapped and like your competence is continually questioned. While everyone wants a measure of control over their own lives, controlling people also want to have a say in other people’s lives. At some point, wanting control over minute details of other people’s lives can cross the line and become abusive. Let’s look at some of the characteristics of controlling behavior that becomes abusive.
Common Characteristics Of A Control Freak Boss
Most control freak bosses have a common set of characteristics that are easy to spot.
- They believe they have to control people to accomplish results. Except usually the opposite is true. Their approach results in unthinking followers who learn to keep their heads down and do the minimum possible to avoid getting into trouble. Or worse, they create an environment of ill-will or even undermining compliance.
- They believe they know more than others. Their pride leads them to believe they are smarter than everyone else and closes them down to learning or being influenced.
- They insist on having their own way. Controlling bosses insist on people doing things their way, even down to the smallest detail in matters of personal choice.
- They refuse to accept blame. Bosses who are controlling seem incapable of admitting they are at fault. Even when their actions are clearly the cause, they will find some way to blame others for what went wrong.
- They Dictate Where You Can Go. One of the most intrusive ways a boss may try to control you is by controlling your movements. They may want to know where you are all the time.
- They make demands, not requests. You are not asked to do something. It is demanded of you, and not always in a nice way.
- They are the final source of authority and approval on everything. You have to get their approval to proceed with tasks that healthy leaders would empower you to make on your own.
- They make you feel bad about your work. Controlling bosses can be demeaning, discouraging and hard to please, causing you to feel incompetent, lose confidence as well as drain joy out of your work.
The good news is that their controlling behavior is rarely about you. Let’s take a look at some of the typical issues of control freaks.
Why Do Bosses Become Control Freaks?
Most bosses who demonstrate the above characteristics do so because of underlying factors, not because you are terrible at your job. Some of those factors include the following.
- Pressure from their bosses. Intense pressure from upper management can turn any supervisor into a control freak. If they fear for their job they are more likely to micromanage yours.
- Lack of trust. Controlling bosses don’t trust any way that is different from theirs. Further, they don’t believe you will do the job correctly unless they are constantly monitoring you. They don’t trust anyone but themselves to do a job.
- They are new to the role. Bosses who are new to their position are out of their comfort zone and don’t have the experience to know there is a better way than micromanaging.
- They are unaware. Many controlling bosses genuinely think they are being helpful when they tell you every detail of how to do your job. They are simply unaware of how their actions make you feel.
- They lack information. Sometimes bosses are controlling because they don’t have the necessary information to feel comfortable that the desired result will be achieved.
- Insecurities. Most control freaks are insecure, and they project their fear and anxiety onto you. Fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, fear of being passed over for a promotion, feeling threatened by the expertise of their direct reports are all rooted in deep fear-based insecurities. They respond the only way they know how, by exerting their authority through controlling behaviors.
- Lack of control elsewhere. Controlling bosses may have little control in their personal lives so work becomes the one place where they can exert control.
- Personality disorders. Controlling behaviors can also be a symptom of several personality disorders, such as borderline personality or narcissistic personality. These disorders can only be diagnosed by a licensed practitioner.
Spotting and understanding the causes of controlling behavior is the easy part. Dealing with it is an entirely different matter. In our next post we will look at ways to deal with control freak bosses.
Posted on August 16, 2022