We all know one.
That insufferable person who micromanages and treats you like you're completely incompetent. No one else is allowed to have ideas; your judgment isn't trusted, and your contributions aren't appreciated.
A control freak in the workplace is a totally toxic, confidence and happiness-killing distraction no one needs.
But you can't change them.
In fact, trying to change a control freak -to make them respect you, appreciate you, or even just stop being such an overbearing nuisance in your life--will make you crazy. It's an exercise in futility.
They're constantly going to be disapproving of how you do things. Even if you try to do things their way, you won't live up to a control freak's standards. So, step one: accept that you cannot change a control freak. What's left to do?
The control freak in your workplace is an enormous, immovable obstacle. You can't get rid of it, so you're going to have to learn to go around it. Here's how.
1. Recognize when you're being worked over.
Patricia Evans, author of Controlling People: How to Recognize, Understand and Deal with People Who Try to Control You, told BBC it's "crucial to listen for ways a controlling person tries to enter your mind and dictate your reality."
In her book, she demonstrated ways in which a control freak will get inside your head and throw you off your game. For example, they might say, "Here, I'll finish the report. We all know formatting isn't your strong point."
"We?" You wonder. When did I screw up a report? Man, they were talking about it? Who is WE anyway?
Stop. Control freaks love, love, love to get inside your head like this. Stop giving them the pleasure of succeeding.
2. Don't try to control a control freak.
Talk about paddling upstream... trying to assert control over someone determined to retain it is pointless.
In her 2011 book Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life, Dr. Judith Orloff advises, "Be healthily assertive rather than controlling. Stay confident and refuse to play the victim. Most important, always take a consistent, targeted approach."
Control freaks love a good power struggle; playing into it never ends well.
3. Perfect your "scratched record" technique.
If you feel like talking to the control freak in your life is like talking to a brick wall, it's not your imagination. They've already decided how things are going to go; you're just window dressing. UK counselor Barbara Baker says control freaks are master of arguing. Your ideas and opinions simply get lost in their clever rhetoric.
Don't take the bait.
Instead, she says, "Keep it simple. Employ the 'scratched record' technique: state and restate what you believe, feel or need."
Other ways you can outsmart the control freak in your life:
- Try to understand what drives their controlling behavior -- are they fearful of their own failure, or perhaps power hungry? You don't have to accept it, but knowing what motivates them can help you figure out how to deal with each new aggression.
- Keep a neutral gaze, expression and tone of voice when speaking with them. Don't let your emotions get the best of you.
- Make it clear that you're committed to working with them, but let them know your boundaries and that they're non-negotiable.
Finally, move on if it's unbearable. Your life is too short and precious to live miserably under the thumb of an unrepentant control freak. If you feel that your safety, security dignity, self-worth, health or happiness are threatened, you need to seriously ask yourself if it's worth it.
Do you work with a control freak? How do you cope? Share your comments below.