Are You Controlling or Being Controlled?
Everyone is at their worst under stress and with the amount of change we have experienced this year, people are stressed to the max. Some people react by controlling the people around them. If this is you or someone you know, recognize the signs. If you are a controller, have the courage to let go. If you are being controlled, be courageous enough to stand up for yourself.
The definition of a controlling person is someone who expects, compels, or requires others to cater to their needs — even at others’ expense. Typically, the controlling person targets an individual and dominates them in an unhealthy, self-serving manner.
Why Do People Control?
There are many reasons why controlling people do what they do, including anxiety, personality disorders, and learned behavior that has become a bad habit. Whether you are the controlled or the controlling, when it happens at work, it leads to resentments, de-motivation, and loss of productivity.
If you are a controlling manager, you are putting up roadblocks on your road to success. Your controlling behavior causes a spiral of dwindling morale. Employees who are unduly influenced are not heard or acknowledged. When they have had enough, they find a new job and head out the door. This results in more work for other people and the cost of hiring and training their replacement.
When individual contributors are controlling, it is a nightmare for their manager. If the controller is on a project team, morale suffers and it can impact the quality and timeliness of the project.
When You Are the Controller
Here are more strategies you can put in place to draw back the reigns and empower your people.
1. Observe Yourself.
Become self-aware to find the root of your controlling behavior. Begin slowly and notice your actions when people around you get defensive, argumentative, or withdraw. Once you identify those triggers, start tracking them back to an underlying feeling. Once you understand that, you can manage your state and begin to let go. One way to do that is to talk with a trusted friend or a professional. Another way is to journal. If you decide to work it out by writing it out, here are some ways you can reflect.
- What was the situation and what was your controlling behavior?
- Were you reactionary or did you choose to act that way?
- What do you think would have happened if you did not intervene in that way?
- How could you have acted differently?
When you have clarity, the next step is to put your alternative strategies in place and this is akin to changing a bad habit. When you change your behavior from controlling to cooperative, you will put yourself back on the road to success.
2. Let Go
Acknowledge that you can’t control everything. Learn to go with the flow now and again. Once you see everything works out just fine without your intervention, you’ll get more comfortable with the idea.
Embrace imperfection in yourself and others. No one is perfect, including you. We all forget things, make mistakes, and make decisions that produce less than optimum results. When you expect perfection, no one will measure up and your people will not attempt anything new. You will always get what you always got. What happens if you accept people where they are and view failure as great learning opportunities.
Delegate. Find out who loves to do the stuff that is filling your time and let them do it. Focus on doing things where you can apply your strengths. You will both feel more satisfaction and have more motivation.
3. Take Action
Once you’ve identified the situations that trigger controlling actions and how you will handle them differently, put your plan into action. Start small and give up control in one triggering event. Let the people around you take the lead and resist the urge to make it happen your way.
As you make changes, manage your own thoughts and feelings. Change causes cognitive dissonance, so you will be anxious and have the urge to do it the way you did it before. Other people will also react to your change and expect you to snap back. Don’t. As you hold back, monitor your thoughts. If they are judgmental or accusational, change those thoughts so you let other people grow.
Stop Being Controlled
If you are the one being controlled, recognize that it is not because of you. Controlling people are often anxious and have a deep fear of loss. They are perfectionists who set expectations on everyone, including themselves. For others, controlling may be a reactionary, knee-jerk reaction.
1. Stay calm.
That is easier said than done but if you feel threatened, you will have difficulty thinking clearly. That will prevent you from speaking up, defending your contribution, and offering alternatives. Remember, the controlling behavior is not because of you. If you become angry or withdrawn, it will just continue the pattern.
2. Set Boundaries
Decide what you will and will not put up with, then decide what you will do if those boundaries are crossed. Then make your boundaries known to the controlling person. If they are your manager, let them know that feedback on your work is expected, but judging you is not.
You, your ideas, and your accomplishments matter. It is not appropriate to be personally chastised or belittled. Be clear on what you do if they continue treating you in this way.
You decide on how you will act if their behavior continues, but whether it is to walk out of the room or talk to HR, make sure you take the follow up action.
3. Have a conversation.
If the controlling person is acting out of character, it may be their reaction to the unprecedented change we are all facing. If that is the case, you may want to talk with them about their change in behavior and how it is affecting you.
Schedule a time when neither of you have distractions. Talk about how to share responsibility for your work and your interactions. When talking about how you are affected, use I statements, like “I feel belittled.” or :”I feel like nothing I do is good enough.” Explain what you will do if it happens again (your boundaries).
A person cannot make someone want to change their behavior. If you attempt to talk calmly and openly with the controlling person, and they do not listen, you may need to get some distance from them until you find another job.
Turn your life around by finding the support you need to give up your controlling behavior and form connections based on trust and respect. You’ll enjoy greater peace of mind, and your relationships will be more stable and fulfilling.