My Boss is a control freak, what can I do?

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They say “I am involved leader “.   Those who report to them say “they micro-manage me, they’re nothing but a control freak”.

Yes, despite the funds invested by organisations in leadership and management education, the micro-manager still exists and more than you might think. Our work brings us into contact with people who are actively seeking the answer to just one question, “How do I address being micro-managed by my boss?”.

The answer starts with you because there is one vital question you need to answer honestly “What is my role in creating this situation?”.

There is a strong probability it’s unlikely to be you, however start by considering whether it’s your mindset and approach, and whether it’s something you’re doing or not doing that may be the trigger for this controlling behaviour on the part of your boss.

If you’ve established it’s not you, your next task is to understand your boss’s motivation for wanting to micro-manage. There are a number of aspects you need to consider; your boss may have:

  • Some fear e.g. fear of missing deadlines
  • Poor understanding of their role
  • Lack of trust (more often than not 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 grasp; if you rebel against it, you will just get more of it.

It’s incredibly difficult to bring about any change in the way your boss manages, 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 boss gets what they want – peace of mind? Try these steps:

  • Get to understand your boss – what makes them “touchy”? For example, is it when the unexpected happens, or maybe it’s slow responses, do they have confidence things are running to plan? Once you establish the triggers set up some sort of customised dashboard that provides them with the information they require
  • 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
  • Initiate regular communication – providing updates gives you a plot point to gauge the extent of control your manager feels they need to exercise
  • No surprises and don’t do anything to blind-side your boss – openness and transparency are key
  • No loose ends – discuss/clarify the process you are going to follow, then ask them for any improvements. They need a sense everything is under control
  • Educate to delegate – as trust builds between you, and it will if you follow what’s been outlined, you can subtlety begin to educate your manager about what you need so they delegate to you
  • Finally, don’t label anyone who exercises a degree of control as a micro-manager to their face – this 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.