Workplace Wisdom: How to Manage a Controller Boss to Create a Drama-Free Office

By Kaley Klemp and Jim Warner, Special for US Daily Review 

Most of us at some point have worked for a Controller: usually a perfectionist who “always knows” the right solution. Controllers take charge of everything while setting impossible goals for themselves and everyone on the team. Regardless of your skills or efforts, this workaholic boss obsesses over tasks and picks relentlessly at your outputs. While you try your best, it seems you can never meet their expectations—and you pay the consequences!
What to do? By following these four guidelines, you have a much better chance for a positive working relationship with a Controller boss:

1. Develop Rapport: Overtly confronting a Controller boss is risky and can limit your career (e.g., get you fired!) Instead, build a relationship with him before initiating a difficult conversation. Study his behaviors, attitudes, and willingness to receive feedback.
Specific Tip: Accept your role as the reliable soldier and demonstrate your support and trustworthiness, especially during challenging times. Controller bosses are known for rewarding loyalty.
2. Clarify Expectations: As poor delegators, Controllers will often give vague or incomplete instructions. They assume you’ll know what to do and then reprimand you when your deliverable differs from their expectation. Consequently, you must clearly define goals and time frames up front. They may become irritated at your persistence or “ignorance,” but insist on explicit agreements. Better to risk their frustration early in the game than to miss deadlines or fail to meet their expectations.
Specific Tip: Establish crystal clear agreements about deliverables and time frames.
3. Deliver Results: A Controller boss expects you to perform well so that he’ll look good. Focus on delivering quality work on time and then let him get the kudos. Since a Controller expects strength and energy from himself and others, hold your ground, speak your truth, and perform assigned tasks with high integrity.

Specific Tip: Make them look good, so they earn external recognition.
4. Appreciate their Value: Compliment your boss for his efficiency, which he highly values. However, Controllers are sensitive to false praise or fawning, so keep the appreciation short and specific. Deliver it with sincerity but in a matter-of-fact way.

Specific Tip: Praise them for delegating and for displaying trust toward you or others.
Suppose none of this works …
If you work for a Controller who resists coaching or leadership development, understand that the probability of authentic interactions is low and that your best coping strategy is to stay below his radar screen. If you’re willing to take the risk, you might go over his head to seek reassignment or upper-level backing for your role. This is usually a high-stakes move, so be prepared for the Controller to react with swift, angry retaliation, which may mean your termination.
Specific Tip: If they micromanage you or override your best ideas, put on a smile and let them have the last word.
Controllers often make their way to the boss’s chair because they champion efficient and thorough completion of assignments. Also, under pressure they can be tough-minded and resolute. By following these guidelines and tips you can position yourself as a responsible team member, whom they can trust to understand their goals, ask good questions, and deliver results.  
Kaley Klemp and Jim Warner are the authors of The Drama-Free Office: A Guide to Healthy Collaboration with Your Team, Coworkers, and Boss.  You can get a free sample of the book on Follow them on Watch their videos and interviews on Read more about them at

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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