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How to work with someone who tries to control every detail

Working with someone who’s controlling can be extremely frustrating. Here’s how to stay afloat when you’ve been forced to team up with one — or have to answer to one.

Don’t fight fire with fire

Chances are, you either want to run away from the person or lash out and then sink into the floor. But this is never a good idea — especially if the “control freak” is your boss. There’s no point, so you won’t want to waste time going down this road.

Be both curious and strong in your approach

Larry Kim, former founder and CTO of Wordstream and current MobileMonkey CEO, writes about how to do each of these things in Inc.

One of his tips: “Try to understand what drives their controlling behavior — are they fearful of their own failure, or perhaps power hungry? You don’t have to accept it, but knowing what motivates them can help you figure out how to deal with each new aggression.”

But Kim also shows how being strong can be another useful tactic, writing, “Make it clear that you’re committed to working with them, but let them know your boundaries and that they’re non-negotiable.”

Get clear on what they’re supposed to be doing

Meridith Levinson, former senior editor for CIO.com (now a web and campaign writer for RSA Security), features advice from Kaley Klemp, co-author of The Drama-Free Office: A Guide to Healthy Collaboration with Your Team, Coworkers, and Boss, on the site.

Klemp talks about the four main “drama types” at work — “cynics,” “complainers,” “caretakers,” and “controllers.” After mentioning how “controllers” have the potential to be characteristic of “micromanagers” and “bullies” at times, she tells the site how to work with them.

“The key to handling a controlling co-worker is to understand very clearly where your and the controller’s responsibilities begin and end, says Klemp. For example, you can approach your manager and say, ‘So-and-So has been doing work that I thought was my responsibility. Can you outline for me what my responsibilities are and what So-and-So’s are so that I can be sure I am completing my work and not stepping on his toes?’ ” Levinson writes. “Getting a clear picture of everyone’s responsibilities will allow you to enforce your boundaries with your controlling coworker. If he continues to infringe on your territory, says Klemp, you’ll be able to tell him that you double checked your responsibilities with your manager and you’re certain that she wants you to take care of a particular job.”

Don’t forget to use your voice

Kat Boogaard, a freelance writer, blogger and career editor for The Everygirl, writes in The Muse that you should “voice your opinions” when working with the “control freak” at your job.

“We all know that control freaks tend to think their methods and tactics are superior to everyone else’s. But, you’re still entitled to some self-direction and independence. So, if you flat out disagree with his or her direction, don’t hesitate to speak up,” she writes. “If the controlling person you’re dealing with is a co-worker on the same level as you, you’ll likely have an easier time doing this.

“Explain why you chose the process you’re using — but, don’t feel a need to justify every single one of your choices. That only opens up an entirely new can of worms by making it look like you need a stamp of approval on everything you do. Ultimately, if that piece of the project is yours to work on, you have the right to approach it as you see fit.”

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