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Recognizing and Dealing with a Subtly Controlling Boss

Posted by Brian Spence on Oct 30, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Management, Leadership, Career AdviceIf you've worked at a few different places, then chances are you've come across a boss who has tried to dominate you in some way. This type of domination may be overt or covert. There are bosses who will scream and yell at you or criticize you openly at staff meetings. They may tear down all your ideas and never let you work independently. In this case, it's obvious that the boss is a controlling boss.

Signs That You Have a Covertly Controlling Boss

There are other types of bosses who are not obviously controlling. You may get a subtle feeling that things are not going well at work. Or you may actually blame yourself for doing something wrong. But the reality might be that your boss is making you feel this way. They'll say something that they know is going to get under your skin; they're insidious in that way, and they know how to push your buttons.

  1. Networking and Reputation Management. While a caring boss will encourage you to develop a network of work associates and do everything possible to develop your reputation, a controlling boss will try to limit your network and will trash you in front of people.

  2. Growth and Development at Work. Everyone wants to grow and develop at work. A caring boss will treat you as an individual; they'll ask you what your aims and goals are and help you to develop in that direction. A controlling boss, on the other hand, is not going to want you to develop further unless it benefits them in some way. If you get a better job offer, a caring boss will encourage you to take it, but a controlling boss will try to keep you where you are.

Dealing with a Subtly Controlling Boss

So how do you deal with a controlling boss, especially one who is subtly controlling? The first step towards solving any problem is to acknowledge it. If you've been getting negative feelings about your boss but you are not exactly sure why (because their outward behavior is fine), acknowledge that they are subtly trying to control you. Acknowledge the things they told you that were disguised as legitimate but were actually designed to hurt you, your reputation or your standing in the company.

  1. Understanding the Boss' Behavior and Motivations. Then try to understand why people do the things that they do, either by reading up about it or by deconstructing it yourself. Observe the way the boss acts towards you and others and the tactics they use to put themselves forward while making others look bad.

  2. Confronting a Subtly Controlling Boss. Confront your boss about the things they've been doing. You may not be able to change someone completely but if you can even change certain aspects of their behavior, then you'll benefit from it. If nothing changes, you can at least walk away from the encounter knowing that you made an effort to stand up for yourself.

To learn more about this and related topics, visit the Management & Leadership and Career Advice sections of our blog.

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