How To Work With A Control Freak Without Losing Your Mind


There’s no getting around it: controlling people are just as much an inevitable (albeit bitter) reality of the working world as dysfunctional teams and absentee bosses. It takes all types, it seems, to make the world go round. Control freaks, however, often have a particularly negative effect on the working environment, and may even end up being a huge source of demotivation for those around them.


Learning to work with instead of against them, then, becomes even more important. As suffocating as it may be to have a co-worker or superior who is that controlling, the reality is that how you choose to respond can make all the difference.

Ultimately, adopting a different strategy towards working with control freaks isn’t just crucial for your productivity, engagement, and performance; it’s also critical for your job satisfaction and happiness at work.

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1. Find ways to work with it instead of resisting it


Sometimes, the more you resist negativity (as opposed to going along with it), the more it ends up affecting you, and the greater the potential for tensions to escalate into full-blown standoffs. If your frustration ends up making you standoffish, for example, it will almost certainly backfire, making things even more difficult for you.


At their core, controlling people have huge difficulties with letting go and conceding power to others. Consequently, the more standoffish you get, the more they’ll attempt to control you in retaliation, and the harder the blowback you’ll face. That doesn’t mean, of course, that you should simply passively endure any negative treatment.

Rather, taking a more empathetic and reason-based approach towards understanding the other person’s perspective might do a lot to reduce the frustration you well towards them:

  • Don’t use the victim card to guilt-trip them into giving you more freedom: they’re not likely to listen, and might even use it against you by accusing you of being uncooperative in the future
  • Be as proactive as possible in keeping them informed and updated on your progress with different projects and tasks



2. Understand where it’s coming from

It’s easy to empathise with someone who isn’t getting on your nerves, but doing the same with a particularly controlling co-worker is another matter altogether. More often than not, there would be built-up tensions in your working relationship with them, as well as silenced frustrations that might come out once in a while.


As much as lashing out feels so much easier, it doesn’t actually change anything. Dealing with the situation maturely and rationally requires that you take a step back and tap on your emotional intelligence skills to understand what might be motivating your co-worker’s controlling behaviour. Insecurity, for instance, might make them feel as though they have something to “prove” through asserting themselves so rigidly.

MORE: Why Some People Are Such Control Freaks



3. Assert your boundaries


A lot of the time, controlling people use other means of exert dominance over others as well. At their core, they are often highly sensitive to the element of fear and uncertainty that occurs within themselves when someone else tries to do things their own way instead of capitulating to being controlled.


In turn, this fear, however well-intentioned, often manifests itself in the form of being hyper-critical and/or passive-aggressive. Both of these, of course, only serve to rub salt in the wound. It’s therefore essential for you, as someone on the receiving end of such negative behaviour, to know where you need to draw the line. At the end of the day, it’s about knowing which battles to fight and which to let go of.



4. Keep your own emotions in check

Staying calm and collected is one of the most important things to remember when you’re dealing with a control freak. Bottling up your frustration until it explodes one day is extremely counter-productive.

The minute that happens, your working relationship stops being strained, and instead plummets all the way to rock bottom. Again, the more threatened they feel by your behaviour, the more they’ll double down on keeping you “in line.”


To that end, you must maintain emotional control over yourself at all times and ensure that you communicate consistently and rationally with them without letting your emotions get the best of you.


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