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Chapter 3. Control Freaks > Emotional Intelligence Approach to Control Freaks

Emotional Intelligence Approach to Control Freaks

Dealing with Controlling Superiors

Working for a control freak is very stressful. The natural reaction to someone invasively micromanaging you is to become angry and push back. With a reasonable manager who slides into being excessively controlling when under pressure, tactfully pushing can be helpful. Pushing back on a control freak, however, leads to disaster unless you have a better position waiting or a very large trust fund. Control freaks are extraordinarily sensitive to any challenge to their authority and may become enraged simply in response to someone having the audacity to make a suggestion. You need to be careful with narcissistic managers. Most of us would not knowingly rattle a lion’s cage when the door is open and there is nothing preventing him from jumping out and having us as his next snack. In the same way, it is not a good idea to push back on a control freak or on any narcissistic manager unless you have a guaranteed escape route and some powerful allies.

To survive working with a controlling boss, you need to exercise an unusual level of tact. Don’t try to show the boss the error of his ways. Don’t criticize him or her. Don’t try to point out mistakes or examples of unfairness. Avoid one upmanship. All of these will lead to narcissistic rage and a blind desire to attack you. There is no chance that you will suddenly break through the psychological defenses of such managers and lead them to see the error of their ways. Above all, do not challenge their authority, power, or greatness. Rather, support their self-esteem. Show respect and even admiration for their accomplishments. Do not show off. Do not talk about your past accomplishments. Give them the credit for new accomplishments. Avoid direct suggestions; let them think that new ideas are actually theirs. Meanwhile, document your work, build relationships with mentors, and keep your eyes open for other positions.


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