5 Effective Ways to Deal With the Office Control Freak
I wouldn’t do it that way. Why don’t you try this? What are you doing? That’s not right. Don’t do that. Do this.
Sound familiar? They’re all phrases you’ve likely heard from the notorious control freak in your office. And, while you’ve somehow managed to continue trucking along without snapping, you’re getting dangerously close to the end of your rope.
Whether you have a control-obsessed boss or a ridiculously overbearing co-worker, we’ve all had to work with someone who has a “my way or the highway” sort of attitude. Of course, dealing with this person isn’t easy—but it’s also pretty much inevitable.
So, take a deep breath. You definitely can manage to tolerate this person—without constantly clenching your jaw and balling up your fists. Here are five steps that’ll help you not only cope with this controlling colleague, but also get some great work done in the process!
1. Recognize Pure Intentions
When you’re dealing with someone who seems to want to micromanage every small detail of every single project, it can be tough to see him or her as anything more than meddling and obnoxious. But, recognizing the positive attributes of this person’s work ethic will make working with him or her at least a little bit easier.
Let’s face it—this person probably doesn’t behave this way to purposely annoy you or make your job more difficult. Instead, he’s just incredibly passionate about the work he does and wants it to be as polished and professional as it can be. That dedication makes him a great employee—even if his approach is a bit overwhelming and aggravating.
Of course, while it’s great to recognize and appreciate this control freak’s enthusiasm and drive, that doesn’t mean he or she gets to dictate every part of every project. But, making an effort to accept that his or her motivations are good will make the next steps easier.
2. Ask Questions
How do others in your office typically respond to this pushy and controlling colleague? Does anybody ever say anything? Or, does everybody just roll over without ever standing their ground?
Chances are, if this person is still firing out orders, very few (if any) people in your workplace have made an attempt to refute the demands. So, instead of just accepting this person’s directions and criticisms and then muttering under your breath, it’s time for you to encourage a thoughtful conversation about the course of your project.
How do you do this? By following up his or her demands with questions. Let’s say your meddling co-worker spies over your shoulder as you’re drafting a report. She immediately jumps in and says, “You’re structuring that report wrong. Do it this way!” Follow up by saying something along the lines of, “I know that we don’t have a standard template in place for these documents. This process works really well for me, but I’d love to hear the benefits of your method.”
She might be a little taken aback by your forwardness, but she’ll have no option but to explain her reasoning and open up a dialogue about the project. Who knows—she might even have some great ideas you can use. Plus, incorporating a few pieces of her feedback will help to placate her. Bonus!
3. Voice Your Opinions
We all know that control freaks tend to think their methods and tactics are superior to everyone else’s. But, you’re still entitled to some self-direction and independence. So, if you flat out disagree with his or her direction, don’t hesitate to speak up.
If the controlling person you’re dealing with is a co-worker on the same level as you, you’ll likely have an easier time doing this. Explain why you chose the process you’re using—but, don’t feel a need to justify every single one of your choices. That only opens up an entirely new can of worms by making it look like you need a stamp of approval on everything you do. Ultimately, if that piece of the project is yours to work on, you have the right to approach it as you see fit.
Things get a little trickier if the control freak is your boss, though. Of course, you’re still free to share your ideas and opinions. But it’s probably better to couch them with, “I started doing it this way because…” If your reasoning’s valid and still getting the desired result, it’ll be harder for your boss to respond with, “Well, still, do it my way.” However, your supervisor ultimately has final say on the way you get things done. So, you might just have to suck it up and move forward with his or her instructions.
4. Avoid Arguing
Trust me, I know that dealing with a control freak can be a really aggravating experience. And, sometimes he or she winds up so blinded by conviction that a productive, balanced conversation becomes next to impossible.
But, at all costs, you want to avoid getting into a heated argument. If it becomes obvious that you’re not going to reach any common ground, it’s time to walk away. I don’t need to tell you that screaming over each other will get you nowhere.
5. Request Mediation
When it becomes obvious that you’ll just never be able to agree on something, it’s time to enlist some help. If you’re on a level playing field where neither one of you has the upper hand or a final say on the project, you need to approach a superior to mediate the situation.
Yes, it seems a little childish, and you’d like to avoid this step at all costs. But, if you’re not making any progress, it’s essential. Set a meeting with your boss or supervisor where you and the other employee can each present your case. Then, your manager can decide which method he thinks is best—or even pull pieces from both of your ideas to reach a compromise.
Regardless of the outcome of this meeting, you need to accept the decision and move forward. So, that means no sticking your tongue out and lording your victory over your co-worker. It also means no under-your-breath muttering if things don’t go your way.
I’ve totally been there—dealing with your office’s control freak comes with its fair share of battles, headaches, and tense moments. But, it’s definitely still doable. So, take a deep breath, follow these steps, and prepare to handle that person with poise and professionalism.
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Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author