How to Deal with Over-Controlling Bosses

controlledMicromanaging gets everyone nowhere very fast, and having a boss who is over controlling is one of the worst things any employee can deal with; especially when it comes to project management.

There is only so much information which can be relayed at any given time, as the progress of project work very often depends on other people and how they have advanced their own tasks. Dealing with over controlling bosses is something everybody will have to deal with at least once in their life.

When team members become frustrated with their over controlling project manager or when you as a project manager have to deal with an over controlling manager, this can often result in conflict. While conflict can be productive on occasion, it’s definitely not good when confronting a micro manager. As such, there are some far more professional ways to deal with over controlling bosses.

Let’s get to the basics.

Do not show you are annoyed

This might seem like a simple solution, but it does not just entail ceasing your complaints when somebody is constantly looking over your shoulder. When you label a manager a “control freak” or you become visibly irritated by their demands, your micro manager boss may actually think that they need to keep an even closer eye on you. Stay calm, stay cool and remember to breathe. While challenging, it is a small step in the right direction

Do not use recrimination, rather use reassurance

Before you even begin with a project, meet with your manager and get a clear understanding of what he wants, when he wants it and how he wants it done. Make sure you are concise and set expectations during this meeting; also be sure to clearly document  your discussion.

Firstly, you want to make sure your boss knows you are taking his instructions seriously, which means he will be less worried about you making mistakes. Secondly, and possibly more importantly, it will give a measurable result to be delivered at a specific time, in writing.  Any notes and/or timelines will come in very handy when your manager tries to interfere and control the process in the future.

Deliver status reports and task deliverables before you are asked for them

Excess information is vital to cull the fears of a control freak. If you appear to be on top of the project by constantly providing feedback, even before you are probed for it, it will ease the panic of a micro manager. It will also reassure your boss that you are indeed taking the project as seriously as he is.

When your boss tries to control the project, question whether the end product has changed.

Remember those notes mentioned earlier? This is where they will come in handy. Before the initial meeting, take out those notes and reference them. Attempts to interfere and control the project should be treated as a request to the end the project. If the ultimate goal hasn’t changed, remind (and show) your boss about the timeline and expectations you both agreed upon.

Keep swimming

If you keep repeating great work, and you keep on delivering on time like you said you would, eventually your control-freak manager will stop worrying about you and find somebody else to fuss about. It is important to remember that this behavior is not something which will happen overnight or even over a month. It might take some time before you reach a point where an overbearing manager trusts you completely.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to an over controlling boss is to not overact.  Doing so is the basic human knee-jerk reaction to unreasonable control. Some people have a very loud voice, but it’s important to remind yourself to not let your inner teenager make or break career choices for you.

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Christopher Scordo PMP, ITIL
Christopher Scordo (PMP, ITIL) is a published author and Managing Director of SSI Logic, owners of the popular PMP training website, PMPerfect. Visit PMPerfect for the latest on PMP exam prep, live online classes, and self-paced PMP courseware. Visit Christopher's website at and check out SSI Logic's PMI-ACP exam site at at