There is a fine line separating leaders from control freaks. Many of those around us have control freak tendencies and we don’t even realize it. Think you might be dealing with one? Check out our list of the top 20 signs of a definite control freak.
Have you ever had somebody in your life who always tries to wedge themselves into your life and micromanage it? Or maybe you know somebody that constantly tries to dictate what you should do around them? In psychology, we have a nickname for people like these: control freaks.
Being a control freak is never a good thing.
They have manipulative tendencies that can alienate their peers and make others uncomfortable in their presence. This is because nobody likes being told what to do at every second of the day. People need autonomy in life happy and healthy lives.
And the worst part of all is that control freaks permeate the business world in untold numbers. There is something about the desire for control and influence over others that draws control freak personalities toward business leadership. We have spoken to many people across all industries that claim their workplaces are led by control freaks.
But what sets apart a control freak from a normal, strict leader? Why is being a control freak a negative thing, but an assertive and powerful corporate executive a positive thing?
Don’t get us wrong: strong leadership is always needed in the business world.
But sometimes natural leaders can get carried away and let their leadership skills turn into something pathological. When this happens, workplaces turn toxic and turnover rates skyrocket.
Want to find out whether your boss is a control freak? Check out our list of the top 20 signs of a control freak. If you can check off at least half of these signs, then chances are you have a control freak on your hands.
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The Psychological Attributes of Control Freaks
In nearly all cases, control freaks are serious perfectionists. They always obsess over achieving the best possible outcome and often have inflated and narcissistic ideas about their capabilities.
To protect themselves, control freaks are prone to manipulation and pressuring others into changing their behavior. This way, others become more preoccupied about their own vulnerabilities than the control freak. To do this, control freaks cling to whatever power they can muster and never hold back from exerting over others.
All control freaks refuse to expose their vulnerabilities. This is an irrational belief since everybody has their own weaknesses and vulnerabilities that are inevitably exposed over time. However, control freaks and narcissists are deeply afraid of letting these “weaknesses” become visible.
Most psychologists agree that this is an unhealthy and usually self-destructive belief system.
In psychological theory, we call these personality types “Type A”. These personalities are motivated by the desire to control and influence others. In business settings, these personalities become apparent when someone never accepts blame, refuses to acknowledge their shortcomings, and often puts down others.
By now, you might be thinking of a couple of people in your life that might be considered control freaks. If you have a hunch you might know one, you are probably not wrong. This is because the corporate world is full of these personalities. If you want to know how to spot them, check out our list of the top signs of a surefire control freak.
If we are being honest, there are signs of a control freak in all of us. However, it is only when these signs become constant that we should start to be concerned. So don’t worry if you notice a few of these signs in yourself—that is perfectly natural.
Instead, try to realize when you might exhibit these signs and how you might be able to prevent them from happening more often in the future and not affect your productivity. Here is our list of the top signs of a control freak:
If they deeply distrust your motives for doing things without them. Whether it is your boss or your spouse—if they dislike when you act independently, then something is wrong.
If they dig into your personal space and private information. It is never okay for your boss or superior to search through your phone or searches history, request your personal PINs or passwords, or anything else you consider off-limits.
If they insult you or put you down during arguments. In the home or workplace, disagreements are inevitable. But this never gives someone the right to insult you.
If they get visibly upset whenever you disagree with them. Control freaks never want to hear that they might be wrong, and they often lash out when this happens.
If they constantly check in on you and nag you if you take longer than usual to reply or respond to them. Of course, it is respectful to always respond within a reasonable timeframe, but this is not always an option in a fast-paced business environment.
If they expect you to drop everything for them. This includes your hobbies, interests, friends, and family. If anybody expects you to sacrifice your personal life for them, then something is seriously wrong.
If they guilt you into behaving in a certain way. One of the most common signs of a control freak is somebody who shows no shame in guilt-tripping you into doing their bidding.
If they misuse the word “we” to bait you into agreeing with them. For example, if they insist that “we agreed to make the 2 o’clock meeting”. Or, “did we not say that we would have this done by 5 PM?” If you never agreed to these things, then they should never use the word “we” because they really mean “I”.
If they claim sole responsibility for their success. This could be either their own success or the success of the team as a whole. No man is an island, which makes personal success always a group effort to some extent. Nobody should claim sole responsibility for it.
If they have a hard time maintaining relationships. This could be personal or business relationships. If nobody else wants to be around them or let them into their circle, then chances are there is a good reason why.
If they never delegate responsibility unless they absolutely have to. A true control freak hates when power is outside of their control. That is why they will always hold onto it for as last as possible and never let anyone else get a taste of it.
If they show a lack of empathy or compassion toward others. This does not have to be directed toward work colleagues. It could be signified by their attitude toward other people on the street, waitresses, and other third parties. If they show a blatant lack of respect for others, they might devalue them the same way a control freak does.
They have zero tolerance for mistakes in others. If you feel like you have to walk on pins and needles so that you do not offend or anger them, then chances are they are a control freak. Nobody should feel too scared to fail from time to time.
If their expectations are unrealistic or idealistic. A true leader would never hold their peers to too high of a standard. This puts unnecessary pressure on the team and can shed the bonds of solidarity that make a workplace cohesive and efficient.
If they never let you get a word in edgewise. During a meeting, conversation, or phone call, a responsible leader will always let you speak your mind freely. If they constantly cut you off and insist on shutting you down at every opportunity, they might be a control freak.
If they insist on passive-aggression rather than direct confrontation. Control freaks sometimes do not want to appear too pushy or aggressive, as this could expose a defect or vulnerability in their character. Instead, they will resort to acting passively, and will often talk behind their peers’ backs.
If they are a bad listener. A natural born leader understands that the perspective of others is always valuable and worth listening to. If they dismiss your opinion or act like it is worse less than their own, they might be a control freak.
If they are self-proclaimed “workaholics”. Typically, the desire to work at all hours of the day without any leisure time is a sign of a perfectionist that never takes failure or disappointment in stride.
If they never offer you compliments or praise the good work that you do. If you feel like you deserve recognition for your actions, but that recognition is never offered to you, that is a clear sign that you are dealing with a narcissistic personality.
If you have to question their sincerity at all times. When dealing with a control freak, it is usually unclear to you when you are being manipulated or when you are being treated with genuine respect. When the line between sincerity and manipulation is constantly blurred, you probably have a control freak on your hands.