• Micromanagement usually stems from insecurity, distrust and inexperience
  • Acknowledge each other’s working styles and find a middle ground
  • Change your mindset and attitude to improve the situation
Unless you’ve been super lucky, you’ve probably had at least one shitty boss that you had to work for.

And if you’ve really run out of luck, you may find yourself dealing with a shitty boss that’s also a total control freak - the double whammy.

You know the kind we’re talking about.

You can’t set up a meeting with any upper-level folks without their consent.

You can’t send out a broadcast email without their approval.

They scrutinize every little tiny detail on every presentation deck you’ve created.

Even worse, you have to log every detail of what you’re working on every day.

You’re being micromanaged to within an inch of your life, and it’s making every workday absolutely miserable and you feel like quitting.

Hell, you feel completely smothered and trapped.

Sometimes, you wonder if you should check if it's okay to go to the bathroom.

Knowing you’re under so much scrutiny is super stressful. It’s getting so bad that you’re dreading showing up at work.

You know you can do your job well but the constant requests for updates and check-ins are holding you back. You can’t be productive since you need to get approval at every turn.

While it may feel like an insult to your competence, having a micromanaging boss is rarely about you. Quite the opposite, in fact. Most of the time, control-freak bosses have major issues that are driving their actions.

Spotting a control freak boss is the easy part. Dealing with the stress it creates is a whole other story.

You can’t suddenly stop a control freak from being controlling but you can make things far more bearable.

It’s not going to happen overnight but you can turn things around. Switching up your mindset and taking a different approach to handling a controlling boss is the secret work-life hack we’re going to cover here. 

What Makes A Control Freak Boss?

Controlling bosses have a few characteristics in common. Once you’ve experienced enough of them, you’ll start to see the similarities and patterns.

If you’re routinely experiencing the following situations, you’re almost definitely working for a micromanager. 

1. It’s Their Way Or No Way

Here’s the thing about control-freak bosses - they’re usually not open to any other way of thinking.

Forget about being given a task and allowing you the freedom to make it happen.

With a micromanager, they’ll let you know exactly how to do it so it’s done their way. Sometimes, down to the smallest of steps.

“Okay, double-click this icon then open a new file.”

No shit Jack, we know how to work MS Windows.

It might not be the most efficient or sensible way to tackle the project but it doesn’t matter. They’re more concerned with controlling the process and not just the end result itself. 

2. They Make Demands, Not Requests

Another sure sign you’re working for a controlling boss?

You’re not asked to do something. It’s demanded of you. And not always in a nice, polite way either. The word “please” doesn’t exist in their vocabulary.

“Give me your final version now.”

It’s demeaning and it makes you feel shitty, especially when it’s happening day after day. It makes it nearly impossible to get through a rough day.

3. They’re The Final Authority On Everything

Another common characteristic of a controlling boss?

Since they assume that they know best, they’ll rarely (if ever!) consult anyone else.

Whereas a true leader can recognize when to get opinions and feedback from their colleagues, a micromanager hardly ever asks for outside opinions or perspectives.

They don’t see the need since they’re convinced they’re right. All of the time.

You’re scared to voice an opinion (and so are your co-workers) because you know that you’ll just get shot-down or worse, humiliated in front of others.

It makes for a frustrating workplace where no-one feels valued or listened to. 

4. They Make You Feel Crappy About Your Work

A control-freak boss is super hard to please and you always feel like you’re walking on eggshells when you’re waiting for approval from them.

Too often, you end up redoing the work multiple times over and feel resentful about the wasted time. The worst is when you go through countless revisions, only to revert back to the original version you came up with - ugh.

It also leads to “learned helplessness” and being scared to take the initiative because you know that your boss will shit on your work and then rant about how it should be done.

Sometimes, they can turn into real assholes at work.

Having someone critique every aspect of your work can make you feel incompetent and stupid. Hell, some days you can’t help but feel like a total idiot.

You think to yourself, “Surely this wouldn’t keep happening if I’m good at my job.”

With a micromanager, it definitely will!

And it has no reflection on your talent and skills. 

Why Bosses Become Control Freaks

It can be hard to believe but most control-freak bosses demonstrate these tendencies because of underlying factors and not because you suck at your job.

Usually, it’s because of one of these scenarios. 

1. Insecurities

Fear can be a strong factor in controlling behavior. Most bosses who behave like this are highly insecure. They’re scared they’re not good enough and they deal with it by exerting their authority via the only way they know how - through micromanagement.

Maybe they’ve been passed over for a promotion recently or have major insecurities about how safe their role is when their direct reports are more capable.

When insecurity is the main driving force, any “wrong” move can highlight you as a threat. And that can result in even more control. 

2. Pressure From Above 

Pressure from upper management can turn any boss into one with control-freak tendencies, especially when there are targets to meet.

If they’re running scared and fear their job is on the line, it can push them to micromanage every aspect of projects.

Your results matter - maybe more than you realize.

They need to impress the powers-that-be and everything has to be perfect, in their eyes, at least!

3. Lack of Trust

Control freak bosses often lack trust in your ability to do things, mostly because it’s different to their approach.

It’s like you can’t have the right idea because it’s not their idea.

It’s nothing personal to you specifically. Control freak bosses don’t trust anyone but themselves to do a job.

Whereas a non-controlling boss will trust you to do your job and let them know if you run into problems, this just doesn’t happen with a micromanager.

They believe you won’t get the work done if they don’t constantly check in with you to see where you’re at. 

4. First Time In Management 

Sometimes, a control freak boss will have no idea that micromanaging isn’t the best way to do things.

Maybe it’s their first time in management and the lack of experience is telling.

If they’re not up-to-date on industry trends or maybe, they’re in a totally different functional area, they may be out of their comfort zone.

Or it could be just the opposite where they’ve always done it a certain way and don’t know any different.

Not all control freak bosses are fully aware of how their actions make you feel. They may even feel like they’re being helpful in laying out every detail of how to perform tasks.

They just may not be self-aware.

The Secret To Dealing With Control Freak Bosses

Working for a controlling boss can feel overwhelming. When your boss is constantly looking over your shoulder and eyeing your every keystroke and click, it can crush you.

Often, it seems there’s no choice but to put up and shut up.

Try these tips to start turning things around and taking back control of your role. 

1. Find Out What’s Driving Their Behavior

Knowing what drives control-freak bosses can help you find ways to resolve the situation.

Is their behavior driven by fear?

Are they facing a ton of pressure from higher up?

Do they have a difficult home situation?

Pay attention closely and you’ll probably find at least one reason why they’re so reluctant to trust other people.

And suddenly, the situation doesn’t feel so personal, right?

It also gives you more power to take control. You can predict their behavior and offer ways to solve their problems. 

2. Develop A Mutual & Workable Compromise

Asking someone to change who they are is not only impossible but also unrealistic.

You can’t change a control freak but you can try to come to a compromise that suits your different ways of working.

It’s all about adjustments.

A) Acknowledge Their Working Style

Actively rebelling against your boss’ controlling working style can make things worse. They may wind up being more controlling, not less!

That doesn’t mean you have to give in to every demand your boss makes. A bit of compromise is needed and some acknowledgment of how they want to do things. But that works both ways, of course.

Finding the middle ground between their working style and what you’re comfortable with is super important for handling a control-freak boss. 

B) Explain Your Working Style

If you’re not comfortable with micromanagement, make it clear that you can’t be productive this way.

If your boss demands frequent updates on how things are going, see if you can provide this at the end of the workday. That way, you can get on with your work without having to check-in every five minutes.

Setting out the expectations for how often you’ll give updates puts you in control, while still making your boss feel they have the upper hand.

Explain why you’re doing things a certain way to inspire trust. And where possible, make it obvious what the benefits are for them. 

C) Find Some Common Ground

Arguing with a control freak boss will get you nowhere.

But at the same time, you can’t carry on the way you have been.

In this study from the Harvard Business School and Rice University, casino employees were scared to experiment and make their own decisions if they were working under a micromanager.

Okay, so maybe you don’t work the roulette table. The same ideas apply to a lot of work environments though.

You need the freedom to work on your terms, even if you can’t totally resolve their controlling tendencies.

Sitting down with your boss and trying to smooth things over can help, especially if their behavior is linked to inexperience or pressure from above. 

3. Minimize Confusion And Problems 

With a control-freak boss, you never seem to be on the same wavelength. Not even close. It's like they don't even know their own mind, so what chance do you have?

It leaves you super confused and it's going to crush you if you can't get things to change.

You need to set some boundaries and help your boss to deal with their insecurities.

A) Have Open And Clear Lines Of Communication

Communicate often and clearly when dealing with a control freak boss. This takes away most of the fear and insecurity that’s bubbling under the surface with them.

Spend a bit of time explaining what you’ll be working on and how you’ll be doing it to create trust.

Going above and beyond the normal level of communication can work here.

When you’re oversharing on details, there won’t be any surprises for your boss since they’ll know exactly what to expect.

And if they know what to expect from you, there’s more chance they’ll trust you to get on with your job and ditch the micromanagement.

Here’s a quick 2-minute YouTube video clip that sums this up.

VIDEO: How to Survive a Micromanager
LENGTH: 02:01
Summary points:
  • Demonstrate your competence to gain trust
  • Over-communicate to constantly keep them in the loop
  • If you screw up, focus on over-delivering and rebuilding trust

B) Keep An Email Trail

Keeping a communications trail in your email can be super smart.

Rather than just having verbal discussions, put it down in writing too. It lets both parties know what the score is.

If nothing else, it’s something you can leverage later on, if you need to. It’s digital proof.

A little tip - keep the email string on the same subject/topic so that it’s easy to track and search for.

C) Confirm Big Changes 

If there’s one thing that control-freak bosses don’t appreciate, it’s surprise.

When they don’t know about big changes, it strikes at the very core of what they don’t want - not knowing what’s going on and thus leading to feelings of lack of control.

So if you’re going to switch things up, be sure to give them a heads up ahead of time. It builds trust. 

4. Be Proactive & Share Your Thoughts 

When you’re dealing with a control freak boss, a new perspective can be a game-changer.

You might not be able to change who they are and how they work, but you can take away some of the power they're holding over you.

Plus, it helps stop the situation from getting any worse. Let's face it, work life is a bitch, why make it any harder than it has to be? 

A) Stay One Step Ahead

Pre-empting your boss’ requests ahead of time can help them see that you have everything covered. They might not stop bugging you overnight but even the biggest control freak won’t get much fun from reminding you to do something you’ve already completed.

Do this enough and what will slowly happen is that they’ll begin giving you more freedom and a longer leash so to speak.

B) Stay Focused On Your Work

Working for a control freak can send your productivity nose-diving but you definitely don’t want to intentionally put out substandard work just to spite your boss - that’d just make a tough situation even worse.

While it may feel good to screw over or stick it to your boss, it can backfire big-time in so many different ways - just don’t do it. 

C) They’re Not Always Right

A control freak might assume they’re always right but that doesn’t make it true.

Your boss might have more authority than you but if you know they’re wrong, find a tactful way to start a discussion about how you can do things differently.

Perhaps you can ask to share your thoughts and ideas. It’s a friendly way to get your two cents into the conversation. 

Shift Your Approach And Mindset For Success

If your shitty boss is also a control freak that needs to dictate every aspect of your workday, life can be miserable.

You may be micromanaged at every turn right now but there is hope.

There are lots of reasons why bosses can become a control-freak from hell - most of which have nothing to do with you personally or your work.

Finding some middle ground between your working styles, taking practical steps to reduce the chaos that comes with being micromanaged, and making mindset shifts will help you manage this.

When you have a negative biased mindset about micromanagement, then any and all things related to your work and boss are seen through a shitty attitude.

But, if you flip it and see it like a clear step-by-step process with each little task completed as a “mini win”, you’ll trick yourself into getting in the zone at work. And when that happens, you’ll make all sorts of magical progress that will make you feel satisfied, even happy too.

Just be sure to give yourself a little mental break when you can. Even one-minute meditations can bring quick stress relief and won’t piss off a controlling boss.

While your current situation may not improve overnight, it will get better. This isn’t a permanent thing. The tough times will eventually fade and you’ll settle into a new norm that will be much better.

So, stay focused, follow the strategy and it will turn around.

Believe in yourself. You’ll get through this.

Feel Better,

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