7 Ways to deal with a boss who’s a control freak

Home / blog / 7 Ways to deal with a boss who’s a control freak

They say “I am involved leader “. Those that report to them say “they micro-manage me”. Yes, the micro-manager still exists in numbers and our work brings us into contact with people who are actively seeking the answer to just one question “How do I prevent being micro-managed?”. The answer is you don’t.

It starts with you; ask yourself the question “What was my role in creating this situation?”. The probability is it’s unlikely to be you, however, start by considering whether it is your mindset and approach and whether it’s something you have or have not done that may be the trigger for this micro-managing behaviour.

If you’ve established it’s not you, your next task is to understand your leader’s motivation for micro-managing. It can be a number of things that you need to consider, for example:

  • Some fear e.g. fear of missing deadlines;
  • Poor understanding of their role;
  • Lack of trust (more often of themselves);
  • Need for control – can’t let go (even if they want to);
  • Gender bias;
  • They are under pressure from their higher level manager or peers.

Here is the most important point to understand: If you rebel against it, you will just get more of it. You can’t change the way your manager leads, but you can change the way you follow. It’s about the choices you make. So what can you do to manage the situation so you retain the autonomy you desire and your manager gets what they want – peace of mind. Try these steps:

  1. Get to understand your manager; what makes them “touchy” e.g. the unexpected, slow responses, confidence things are running to plan. Once you establish what the triggers are set up some sort of customised dashboard that provides the information they require.
  2. Anticipate – be ahead of the game in meeting their needs. Ask and clarify “Is this what you require?” on a regular basis when you respond to a request.
  3. Initiate regular communication. Providing updates gives you a plot point to gauge the extent of control your manager feels they need to exercise.
  4. Provide regular proactive updates – give them a plot point to gauge the extent of control needed.
  5. No loose ends. Discuss/Clarify the process you are going to follow – then ask for improvements. They need a sense everything is under control.
  6. Educate to delegate. As trust builds between you, and it will if you follow what has already been outlined, you can subtlety begin to educate your manager about what you need e.g. you set the meeting times for check-ins with them.
  7. Finally don’t label anyone who exercises a degree of control as a micro-manager to their face as that will more often than not trigger the behaviour you are trying to avoid.

Remember to start with the end in mind which is that you want to retain as much autonomy as possible to operate in your role. Your being micro-managed is unlikely to have anything to do with you and your performance. You may not be able to change your boss, however you have more opportunity to improve your situation than you realise.


Vivente Australia enables leaders and managers develop the bond between people and performance, creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its best.