How to cope with a control-freak boss

October 8, 2011

Controlling bosses can make the workplace a living hell, but winning their trust is essential to improving office relations.

So says Kaley Klemp, an executive coach and co-author of “The Drama-Free Office: A Guide to Healthy Collaboration with Your Team, Coworkers, and Boss”.

“Trust is a big, big deal,” said Klemp, who wrote the book with her fellow coach and dad, Jim Warner. “Controllers are looking for those who are on their side.”

With “National Boss Day” right around the corner on Oct. 17, Klemp said now’s a good time to think about how to smooth things over with an unruly micromanager before a bad situation gets worse.

According to Klemp’s statistics, some 46 percent of employees work for or have worked for an unreasonable boss at some point in their careers.

Once underlings demonstrate support and willingness to go the distance for a micromanaging boss, that person is more apt to be receptive to the worker’s needs, said Klemp, noting that controllers typically reward loyalty.

Beyond developing a good rapport, those under the grips of a controller would do well to ask for clear-cut goals and expectations, she said. That way the employee can deliver results that will make the boss look better.

“Have their best interests in mind,” said Klemp, who notes controllers are typically poor delegators. “Understand where they’re coming from.”

Launching a surprise attack on the boss to voice complaints – alone or with co-workers – is among several tactics that can backfire and even lead to dismissal, she said.

Controllers are not intentionally trying to be difficult, she said, but are often subject to unseen pressures from above, such as a board of directors, or investors.

“Their intention is they want the best results,” she said. “It’s not like they woke up one morning and said ‘I wonder if I can be a jerk.’”


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Allow me to disagree a bit. What you said could be true for some managers. But some control freaks are so because they want everything to be in their hands. They want to gloat and say that no one could do anything without their advice and help. They want to say that no one could think but them. In that case even if employees work hard to gain their trust they always pick on anything and they refuse to share experience to make sure they are the ones always in the picture. Such bosses also work to make sure their employees don’t believe in their abilities to remain in his shadow always. I think how to deal with control freaks depends mainly on understanding the personality we’re dealing with and why he is being such a control freak. There is no one way to deal with it

Posted by Doha | Report as abusive

Having worked for a micro-manager in the past, I, too, must disagree with you. That boss was manipualtive, and believed that every nit-picking detail was his key to success. I even overheard him one day saying that he was careful to hire people that were not as smart as himself! This is the typical attitude of a micro-managing boss.

Everyone in the organization knew he was a “jerk” as you put it. I’m sure he didn’t “decide” to be one, but he certainly didn’t decide to mentor employees and cultivate their success along with his.

The business world is replete with such bosses and the organizations that encourage them by overlooking their behavior and treatment of subordinates are doomed to stagnation or oblivion.

You say, “Once underlings demonstrate support and willingness to go the distance for a micromanaging boss, that person is more apt to be receptive to the worker’s needs…” This is nonsense and insulting. Further, micromanagers rarely reward their workers or their colleagues. They remain forever self-centered.

Posted by bgreen | Report as abusive

This article is absolute B.S. It does nothing other than to advise the employer subjected to a control freak to bend over, take it, and please, please, please. Control freaks need clear and reasonable boundaries. Knowing that employees won’t jump at every email, knowing that they won’t answer emails after a certain time or on a certain day, etc. Control freaks need to learn not to treat their employees like crap. The best way to deal with a control freak boss is to give a reasonable amount of your time and energies, agree with them, then do just the best you can. They usually end up doing the work anyway, so really, do the best you can, document, document, document, and if something goes wrong under their freaky directions then you have proof, I’m sorry, maybe I misunderstood but your email clearly says to… but don’t sweat it or stress about it. The rest of their staff tend to shut down, and so, you’ll just be surrounded by like minded people. But if you let them stress you out or work you to the bone, no, that’s not the best way to deal with a control freak.

Posted by BusinessNanny | Report as abusive