We are all control freaks about things we are passionate about and plan to do correctly. If not taken to extremes, one can control a work or social environment to make it effective for everyone. When taken to micromanagement, there are personality disorders to be considered. In terms of personality-type theory, control freaks are very much the Type A personality, driven by the need to dominate and control. An obsessive need to control others is also associated with antisocial personality disorder.
On the positive side, controlling the environment and outcome, often reflects someone's ability to multitask in more that one reality - to go beyond the physical - and create something dynamic.
In psychology-related slang, "control freak" is a derogatory term for a person who attempts to dictate how everything around them is done. The phrase was first used in the late 1960s - an era when great stress was laid on the principle of 'doing one's own thing' and letting others do the same.
Control freaks are often perfectionists defending themselves against their own inner vulnerabilities in the belief that if they are not in total control they risk exposing themselves once more to childhood angst. Such persons manipulate and pressure others to change so as to avoid having to change themselves, and use power over others to escape an inner emptiness. When a control freak's pattern is broken, the Controller is left with a terrible feeling of powerlessness. But feeling their pain and fear brings them back to themselves.
Control freaks appear to have some similarities to codependents, in the sense that the latter's fear of abandonment leads to attempts to control those they are dependent on. Recovery for them entails recognizing that being a control freak helped paradoxically preserve codependency itself.
In the corporate world, control freaks tend to publicly admonish their inferiors, especially during meetings. More positively, the term can also refer to someone with a limited number of things that they want done a specific way; professor of clinical psychology Les Parrott wrote that Control Freaks are people who care more than you do about something and won't stop at being pushy to get their way. There may be a fine line between being a detail-oriented manager, who likes to have things done right, and being a (destructive) control freak. Control freaks are usually a cause of micromanagement.
In some cases, the control freak sees their constant intervention as beneficial or even necessary; this can be caused by feelings of separation or departure from one whom loved, believing that others are incapable of handling matters properly, or the fear that things will go wrong if they do not attend to every detail. In other cases, they may simply enjoy the feeling of power it gives them so much that they automatically try to gain control of everything and everyone around them.
5 Ways to Stop Being a Control Freak Live Science - October 26, 2013
One of the toughest tasks many bosses encounter on a daily basis is handing the reins of projects and tasks to their employees. Dana Brownlee, founder of Professionalism Matters and a corporate trainer for Fortune 500 companies, has found that most leaders don't delegate because of a fear of losing control. She says that fear however can cost them in the long run because what they are really doing is robbing employees of the ability to enhance their skills, communicating a lack of mistrust, and fostering a perfectionist culture
"No one wants to work in an organization or for a leader who doesn't trust and value them," Brownlee told BusinessNewsDaily. "Particularly for younger employees (or those new to a particular area), this can really destroy their confidence, which can have particularly negative repercussions." Brownlee said results actually suffer when a control freak boss is handling all of the work. "In particular, if you're removing any opportunity for creativity or innovation, then you're missing huge opportunities for potential improvements," she said.
Brownlee offers leaders several tips on how they can loosen their grip on controlling everything around the office.
Seek the right fit: Everything shouldn't be on the table for delegation. Not just because of the importance of the task, but also because some tasks are a better fit for the particular person you're delegating to than others. Look for areas where employees have unique ability, interest or insight if possible. Maybe they're a skilled Web developer, but never presented a new website to a client. This task, while new for them, showcases their natural strengths and provides them with a boost of confidence.
Don't have unrealistic expectations: Remember that there is a difference between someone doing something "wrong" and not doing it the way you would have done it. Style differences are just that. If they prefer circle bullets, and you prefer squares, keep it to yourself.
Ask employees what level of support/communication they want: Everyone hates the micromanager who half delegates. Avoid this by asking them how often they want to check in with you. If they propose a timetable that doesn't provide enough feedback in your mind, ask if you can check in more frequently initially and then reduce the frequency as the task progresses.
Reward effort and results: In order for employees to truly learn, they need to feel that it's OK to make mistakes. In a learning environment, effort is as important as results. It's an achievement if employees are stretching their abilities and trying new things, and that should be acknowledged. With increased confidence comes better results, so don't focus on results exclusively.