10 ways to tame a controlling boss

  31st July 2019       Suzanne Sherriff MIRP
 Accounting & Finance, Engineering, Science & Space, Executive Search, Human Resources, IT & Software Solutions, Office & Commercial

Not many employees can shout from the rooftops that they love their boss but many of us get along with our managers or, at very least, can tolerate them during the working day. Sadly, for some, a controlling boss makes employment an uncomfortable experience.

Within the ‘controlling boss’ division is the micromanaging boss – probably the most damaging in the workplace. Countless surveys reveal how detrimental this style is. When researching for his book on how to quit a job, author Sam Dogen discovered roughly 70% of workers he questioned said the main reason they wanted to leave or did leave their jobs was because of a difficult boss who was either unfair, unpleasant, uninspiring or a micromanager.

It’s an anecdotal statistic backed up by a Trinity Solutions survey published in Harry E. Chambers’ book My Way or the Highway: The Micromanagement Survival Guide, which found 85% of respondents said their morale was impacted negatively by being micromanaged. Furthermore, an Accountemps survey found 68% of those polled said micromanagement decreased their morale and 55% said it hurt their productivity.

Micromanagement is stifling, characterised by a boss who sends excessive emails; hovers over workers’ desks; attempts to control every aspect of day-to-day work and addresses minor problems that really aren’t of importance, down to small details such as font size.

If you love your job but not your boss, there are coping mechanisms and strategies you can employ to make the nine to five more bearable. Here are Bond Williams’ top 10 ways to improve the relationship with a controlling boss – all designed to shift the power balance:-


  1. Collaborate more – if your manager likes to try and take over, invite your boss to proactively join you in completing tasks. Getting them involved on a regular basis will build trust and eventually, they may feel comfortable enough to step back.


  1. Ask your boss to become your mentor – if you’re picking up vibes that your boss doesn’t think your work is up to standard, ask them to mentor you so you can learn how exactly they like the work to be done.


  1. Make sure you both know the expectations – a controlling boss is often a poor communicator and this can manifest itself as criticism at the end of a task. Ask your manager for a clear brief at the start, which outlines their expectations.


  1. Identify your boss’s weaknesses – yes, even those in charge have flaws. Once you know what these are (perhaps they don’t set focused meeting agendas or they have poor time management skills) step in and fill the gap – you’ll make both of your lives easier.


  1. Update regularly – micromanagers often feel compelled to frequently check in with their staff to ensure everything is on track – it’s a control issue. Get ahead of the game by providing your boss with daily or weekly schedules and sign off with an end-of-day update.


  1. Set boundaries – a controlling boss can be one who doesn’t respect your working hours or contacts you with issues on your days off. If this is making your employment unbearable, call a meeting where boundaries can be clarified, involving HR if you think it’s necessary.


  1. Identify triggers – if your boss’s behavior is predictable – such as they get angered if the same mistakes are made or they can’t abide lateness – pay particular attention to these areas and work hard to reduce instances.


  1. Treat your boss like a loved one – this leftfield way of thinking is excellent for when you’ve fallen out with your boss. Instead of harbouring resentment or giving them the cold shoulder, look at ways of making peace and improving your relationship.


  1. Become the boss – a controlling boss isn’t necessarily a good worker . If you can see you’re better at some tasks than they are, step up. Being more assertive and is a great way of regaining some control.


  1. Ask for feedback – often work days are so frantic that you’re moved on to the next project with no time to reflect on what’s just been delivered. Always ask for feedback, however, as this will help you deliver what your boss is looking for next time.


Bond Williams is happy to give candidates advice about employment, so please get in touch if you have a recruitment or retention issue.

Suzanne Sherriff MIRP

Associate Director

Suzanne leads a team dealing with temporary jobs. Having started her recruitment career in 2005, she has over a decade of recruitment experience. Suzanne works across all of the agency’s core industries on temporary, contract and interim roles. She places a big emphasis on delivery and accountability and never gives …

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