Do you work for – or with – a control freak?
Do you feel creatively stifled and suffocated on the job? Are you micromanaged, manipulated and made to feel like you’re two years old? Do you hear things like, “Can’t anyone around here follow directions?” Or “If I want something done right, I have to do it myself.”
Take heart. There is a cure - and it lies not in changing the behavior of the control freak but in changing your own attitude.
Control freaks are everywhere. Typically, they are Type A perfectionists with an over-inflated sense of their own importance. They tend to lack spontaneity. They view work as a grind. Their so-called “constructive criticism” is often condescending and dismissive.
Psychologists tell us control freaks are in truth deeply insecure individuals who mask their fear of powerlessness by trying to overpower others.
Don’t try to change them. You will only get frustrated – and you might get yourself fired.
Instead, work on changing how you relate to them. Following are 5 suggestions:
- Be assertive, not confrontational. Some control freaks have no idea how they are perceived by others. Educate them by speaking up when appropriate. But don’t pick fights. Control freaks love nothing better than a battle, which gives them an opportunity to prove their superiority.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Does it really matter that only wooden hangers are allowed in the coat closet? Or that all office memos must be triple-spaced? Let the little things go.
- Adjust your expectations. Not everything about a control freak is bad. A case in point: the Duke of Wellington. He infuriated his officers with statements like, “I am obliged to be everywhere and if absent from any operation, something goes wrong.” Yet his attention to detail and close supervision helped bring victory at Waterloo over Napoleon, who was more of a delegator.
- Offer to help. Some control freaks are simply not good at asking for help. Over time they forget how. Shake things up by volunteering for an assignment before being ordered to do it. Ask for specific instructions and check in periodically for feedback. Treat the control freak as a collaborator instead of an adversary.
- Take responsibility for your own happiness. Don’t let your buttons be pushed. Work hard and do your best. Most importantly, don’t take things personally.
After all, it’s just a job – even though the control freak might want you to think it’s life and death.
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He accepts and embraces his inner control freak. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 919-619-2441.