7 Signs of a Controlling Manager (And How To Work With Them)

How to work with controlling managers
  • Work in peace. Look for ways to benefit from micromanagement. …
  • Learn how they work. Learning what drives your manager’s actions can help you better meet their expectations. …
  • Try to compromise. …
  • Communicate clearly. …
  • Anticipate their requests. …
  • Focus on your work. …
  • Critique yourself. …
  • Stay calm.

At first, it might have appeared to be a good idea — your boss closely monitored your work and made sure you conducted yourself professionally throughout the company. But now that you’re past the stage of learning your part, the tight rein feels downright humiliating and oppressive. Your boss is not only micromanaging you, he’s smothering you. What’s going on?.

Contrary to what you might believe, your boss is probably not being a jerk or feeling threatened by you as the cause of his micromanagement. Instead, his actions may have been motivated by factors unrelated to you, like a lack of understanding of his managerial responsibilities, micromanaging of his own bosses, a lack of drive to question the way he’s always done things, or personal insecurity.

However, if your boss isn’t giving you any slack, it can be difficult to do so. It can seem excessively personal when he berates you for every little mistake you make. The good news is that you don’t have to accept that you will constantly be scrutinized to death. According to Carol Walker, a principal at the leadership development consulting company Prepared to Lead, you might not be able to change your boss. But you do have some control. Walker asserts that you have more influence to change the situation than you probably realize. You probably won’t be able to change things with one excellent conversation or one burst of performance. However, you can gradually own and control a process that will allow your manager to start relying on you more and monitoring you less. Here’s how.

Form an educated guess about where your boss’s sensitivities lie. Consider methods you can use to relieve that pressure, such as running reports to better prepare him for meetings with his manager, if you think, for instance, that he is intimidated by his boss. Or perhaps he’s on a tear to demonstrate how much you and others need him because he’s afraid people don’t think of him as important. Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, advises the man to allay his fears. Show him that you value his guidance. Bring him any breaking news, and bring him your thoughts before you share them with others. Your boss might relax his hold as you gain his trust and approach him on your own.

Knowing your boss better will help you understand the issues that are sensitive to him. It will be easier to find ways to calm him down now if you consider what has previously upset him, such as budget surprises or schedule changes, advises Clark. After that, you can put together a dashboard to keep your boss updated as much as he desires. Decide on your top priorities, decide on the metrics that will show progress, and ask him how frequently he would like updates. Then stick to that agreement.

Your proactive, tailored-to-him system will reassure him. That’s important, since micromanaging often stems from a boss’s insecurity. Former Dean of the College of Business at Eastern Michigan University, Stu Tubbs, calls it “snoopervising.” By anticipating the behavior, you can change it: Tell your boss that you want him to feel like he can depend on you and your work. And use language that signals active listening. Tubbs remembers a young man who concluded each meeting with his boss by saying, “Consider it done.”

Clark warns that if you openly defy micromanagement, your boss might impose even more restrictions. Leadership consultant Ron Ashkenas agrees. He suggests that rather than seeing it as a blow to your ego, consider how you might actually benefit from it. Your boss may have your best interests in mind. He might want to make sure you fully comprehend the company’s protocol or the best practices for utilizing the system to complete tasks.

If your boss doesn’t seem to have confidence in your ability to perform your job, think about whether you’ve contributed to his lack of confidence. Take a close look at yourself and the people around you. Have you missed any deadlines that mattered? When your boss doesn’t micromanage other employees, it may be a sign that you’re performing poorly.

If you believe that to be the case, ask your boss directly about it, advises Clark. Tell him you feel like he is watching you more closely than usual and that you want to know why. In fact, some employers are reluctant to be candid with their staff about their shortcomings because it can be difficult to do so without risking a negative response. It’s a great first step if an employee has the guts to approach the manager and express his sincere desire for feedback on his areas of weakness so that he can strengthen them. Despite how difficult it may be to hear, reassure your boss that you genuinely want their candid feedback.

You and your boss may interact more productively in the present if you concentrate on your future. So initiate a discussion about long-term goals. Set up a one-on-one meeting or inquire if you can discuss your role during one of your scheduled check-ins. Explain that you want to start talking more frequently and openly about your development and other ways you can help the department. Give him some examples of the projects you want to work on and the position you see yourself in in the future. Ask him if he’ll collaborate with you on a plan to acquire the skills you’ll need to realize your vision, and if he agrees, do so.

MY BOSS IS A MICROMANAGER | How to deal with micromanagers

What are the effects of a controlling manager?

The impact of controlling managers on their staff and those around them is common. Understanding these effects can inspire you to look for ways to collaborate with this kind of manager. A controlling manager may have the following effects on their team:

Seven telltale signs of a controlling manager

While it may not always be obvious, there are frequently indications that can help you spot a manager who potentially abusively exercises authority. If you feel like your manager frequently does any of the following:

How to work with controlling managers

If your manager is controlling, there are a number of things you can do to lessen the effects of this style of management. Understanding how to deal with controlling managers can help you stay motivated. Make use of the following advice to cooperate effectively with controlling managers:

1. Work in peace

Look for ways to benefit from micromanagement. Remember that even a controlling manager will probably want the best for you and your career development. Recognize that you can learn from them, and do your best to do so.

2. Learn how they work

You can more effectively meet your manager’s expectations by understanding what motivates their behavior. Controlling management often stems from insecurity, distrust or inexperience. For instance, they might feel pressure from their managers or it might be their first management position. Knowing what motivates them can help you foresee their behavior.

3. Try to compromise

Try to find some middle ground between your working styles. Ask if you can report on your progress at the end of your workday instead, for instance, if your boss requests frequent updates on your progress. Making clear expectations about how frequently you will update them can help you feel more at ease while still allowing them to establish their dominance.

4. Communicate clearly

Aim to minimize confusion and problems through effective communication. Communicate clearly and often with your manager. Contrary to other circumstances, it is crucial to make every effort to maintain contact with a controlling manager. Even if you feel like you’re telling them too much, the fact that they know what to expect beforehand ensures they won’t be caught off guard. When they are prepared, it can help to increase trust and hopefully get rid of or lessen their controlling behaviors.

5. Anticipate their requests

Consider in advance any requests that your manager might make of you. They may not feel the need to remind you to do something if you anticipate their requests because you’re already doing it. When you consistently demonstrate this, they might understand that you are on top of your obligations.

6. Focus on your work

Keep your attention on your tasks rather than acting out their micromanagement or delivering subpar work as payback. If you don’t, you’ll only fall further behind on your work and give your manager more justification to be overbearing. The objective is to maintain cordial working relations with company executives. Doing this ensures you stay focused while producing quality work.

7. Critique yourself

Do some introspection, consider your actions, and evaluate your behavior even if you believe your manager is controlling. Think about, for instance, how often you’ve been late or distracted at work lately. Based on your self-evaluation, reevaluate your working style to win back your managers’ trust in you and your skills. Your manager’s actions may suggest you are performing below par even if he isn’t micromanaging other employees. Do this first before bringing up any issues with your manager.

8. Stay calm

If a situation turns tense, stay as calm as possible. Raising your voice might encourage someone in power to do the same, so avoid doing so. Speak slowly and clearly. Be gentle and patient. But if your manager starts acting rude or physically aggressive, leave and let a supervisor or the human resources office know right away.

9. Document your work

Document your performance each day. An overbearing manager may believe they are always right, but that is not always the case. When your boss says one thing but does another, having a record of your work can be helpful. Save the specifics of each project you complete, for instance, on your computer and print a copy. Show evidence that you followed your manager’s instructions exactly if someone questions your work. In the event of a disagreement, documentation may also be cited.


How do you deal with a controlling manager?

Try one or more of these tips to find some common ground with your boss—or at least stay sane until you find a new gig.
  1. Make Sure You’re Dealing With a “Bad Boss” …
  2. Identify Your Boss’ Motivation. …
  3. Don’t Let it Affect Your Work. …
  4. Stay One Step Ahead. …
  5. Set Boundaries. …
  6. Stop Assuming They Know Everything. …
  7. Act as the Leader.

How can you tell if your boss is controlling?

Here are a few tell-tale signs of a manipulative boss.
  1. They Never Listen. …
  2. They Give you the silent treatment. …
  3. They Throw Sarcastic Remarks. …
  4. They Abuse Power. …
  5. They Guilt Trap You. …
  6. They Treat You As Pawn. …
  7. They Control Your Workload.

When you have a controlling manager?

Controlling managers rarely lead by example. They don’t encourage you to give your best effort, try new things, or advance your skills at work. They have the potential to be (in all the wrong ways) dismissive, confining, nitpicking, and intimidating.

When your manager is a control freak?

Control freaks who “insist on being involved with every aspect of your work” are frequently bad bosses. This may refer to a person who is still “getting used to the idea of moving from the position of individual contributor to management and [who] is having difficulty letting go and trusting others to do the job. ”.

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