A Workplace Guide to Managing Your Control Freak Boss or Team Member

Those that know me know I’m a control freak who is extremely stubborn, highly creative and often difficult to work with. And that’s also how I described myself down to the letter when I was recently interviewing candidates for a position that directly reports to me.

It’s No Laughing Matter

While some may laugh, I wasn’t kidding. Being a control freak is a work in progress. I have been working on “letting go” my entire professional career. Some days are good and some days are bad. I recognize this is no different when my co-workers, peers and team members who I have to work with, supervise and collaborate with ongoing.

Being a control freak is in my nature, as my Meyer’s Briggs Type Indicator is an ENFP. The key is that I recognize and understand that sometimes it is no walk in the park to work with someone like me.

Not every boss or organizational leader will admit their shortcomings at work, let alone during an interview with a prospective hire. Many won’t even consider working on a personal development plan to improve, develop or grow. But hope is not lost: you can work to help them overcome their control freak habits and shortcomings.

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Build Trust

The key to managing or handling a control freak starts with trust. Building trust is all about being prepared to answer my laundry list of questions, concerns and working to overcome those objections or what you might call roadblocks I’ve placed in your way. This trust starts with meeting deadlines and executing where I often expect you might fail. Please don’t take personally; I, and many other control freaks, just have hard time thinking that anyone can do a job, task or project as good as or better than I.

Use Jedi Mind Tricks

By Jedi mind tricks I mean anticipating my moves, my questions and most importantly my concerns. Like Young Skywalker in Star Wars Episode IV, let the force flow through you to anticipate my questions, concerns and most importantly provide me with information, reports and a timely follow up communication before I even had to ask. This is the best way to win not just my trust but for me to recognize that you are committed to completing this project or task just as much if not more than me.

I’m not asking you to manipulate the space-time continuum, but I am telling you the best way to win against someone who loves to be in control. You need to come armed with resources and information to anticipate every objection, but without making me feel like an uneducated baboon for not knowing.

Focus on the Relationship

As a card holding member of the control freak club, I can tell you the reason I am a control freak is because I’ve been burned before. I’ve given my trust, been disappointed or left a meeting with egg on my face because what I committed to didn’t get done.

The key to winning over a control freak is going beyond that work relationship, and finding a commonality. Maybe its football, Orange is the New Black or my love of photography. Taking the time to focus on the relationship helps softens my exterior. By building a personal connection and relationship, I understand you are committed to the work, which makes it easier for me to let loose the reins a bit.

What do you think?

Got a control freak in your life, or do you recognize the above symptoms in your own behaviors? Let’s talk about it here – please leave your comments below!

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8 Comments on "A Workplace Guide to Managing Your Control Freak Boss or Team Member"

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Jean Miller
I was once a minor control freak. I learned that to go on being a control freak was to become overwhelmed with all of the tasks that in the end I could no longer control. In short I learned, if not to trust people, to at least allow them to make their own mistakes. I found that this opens up opportunities for others to learn and empowers them to resolve their own issues. I have also worked for more than one control freak, just deserts for all that I meted out. In the end I can tell you that they… Read more »
Joe H.

Yeah, or maybe you can relax and reign in your ridiculous and completely energy draining behavior! What gives you the right to continue to drive people nuts to satisfy your own ego? Remember this about business, because it sounds like you need to hear it. ANYONE can be replaced…even you.

Luanne S.
For Pete’s sake, people are hired for a specific purpose, not to walk on eggshells such as to not trigger your trust issues or ego. If you, a control freak boss, are concerned about employee success, it falls on you and only you to deal with your control freak tendencies. Don’t expect your employees to overcome roadblocks to trust or deal with your own issues for you. Managing a control freak is tiring and never works. We are not mindreaders nor should we be expected to be. If you cannot handle a position of power without expecting employees to twist… Read more »
Ser Tin
I agree with Luanne and Joe. Control freaks do not set impossibly high standards because they demand success – they are insecure in their own abilities and believe they can remain invaluable if they can control the game. Control freaks are creativity and trust killers so asking everyone to go out of their way to build trust seems counterproductive. I suggest therapy for anyone who intentionally makes work unnessarily hard for others because they have much bigger issues to deal with. Be advised: in order to save money today’s workplaces are leaner and meaner – if you cannot creatively add… Read more »
Richard Roma

I noticed you had changed (i.e. toned down) the wording of this article from your previous posting and deleted comments. Your revision still carries a foul odor: “I can tell you the reason I am a control freak is because I’ve been burned before. I’ve given my trust, been disappointed or left a meeting with egg on my face because what I committed to didn’t get done.”

It’s awful that you are trying to find a morally acceptable excuse to pardon yourself from this reprehensible behavior.


I work with a micromanaging, control freak megalomaniac. There are seven of us under her “supervision”, and we are all planning to leave the job if something doesn’t change fairly soon. She “charms” her bosses, and uses smoke and mirrors to appear more important than she is. She is a necessary evil at this point, but I hope the company powers that be come to their senses before they lose a very hard working, dedicated crew. She thinks we are all replaceable, but guess what – so is she.

A reformed control freak.
A reformed control freak.
The problem for control freaks is that it will, ultimately, limit their own rise in an organization. The higher you go, the more you must rely on leading by influence, as you will be required to accomplish goals with other leaders who will rarely report directly to you. You will also be expected to help develop the strengths of others, which you cannot do if you are always taking the wheel yourself. You should also recognize that control freaks sometimes get a “rep” over time of being that person noone wants to work for, leading to a downward spiral in… Read more »
Are you listening to yourself? “By Jedi mind tricks I mean anticipating my moves, my questions and most importantly my concerns” Anything else you want? Walking on water, maybe? You are focussing on yourself and not on the work. And another thing: The perfect is the enemy of the good. Even if you can do it better, you are only one person. You can’t get ahead unless you learn to harness the abilities (however inferior to yours) of ordinary mortals. Furthermore, you are unlikely to succeed without the loyalty of your direct reports, and you’re not going to get it… Read more »