5 Signs You Are A Controller …
1. My way or the highway
You have a vision of how things should be done and if things deviant from your plans, you get angry or shun those who don’t agree with you.
2. You become defensive when questioned
If an employee asks a question to gain clarification about a project, you over react. You don’t like being questioned and view others as incompetent, stupid, or lazy if they challenge your ideas or don’t catch on as quickly as you think they should.
3. Retaliation is the name of the game
If you perceive that someone made you look bad, you will find a way to get back. You don’t care if you humiliate them in front of colleagues or in public, your mindset is to get even and to have the last word.
4. Perfection is the standard
You have high expectations of yourself and others. Anything less than perfection is unacceptable. Nine things out of ten can be correct, and you will focus on the one thing that is wrong.
5. Condescending tone
Your tone of voice reflects superiority and speaking down to others. Even if your words are the “right” things to say, how you speak is flavored with condescension and belittlement.
Influence from Family Upbringing
Controllers often grow up in a family environment of chaos, confusion, and unpredictability. Parents who are supposed to be a source of comfort are often emotionally or physically unavailable. Many times, the home environment is impacted by parent’s use of drugs and alcohol that contributes to anger outbursts, even violence and abuse. Children who grow up in this type of setting never know when the next outburst will be which affects their sense of safety, ability to concentrate (especially at school), and ability to develop close relationships. When they feel upset, they tend to react in anger since that is what was modeled to them.
People who tend to control often come from families where positive coping skills were not taught or modeled. Getting people to do what they want is how they feel in control in an out of control environment. Yelling, blaming, demanding is how controllers keep the focus on others so they don’t have to look at their own internal discomfort. They truly don’t know another way – this isn’t an excuse for a controller’s behavior. In my work both as a therapist and an Executive Leadership Coach, I have personally seen the genuine lack of insight and awareness as to how their controlling behavior affects others. In these same individuals, I have also seen remarkable change, growth, and earnest desire make amends to those they have harmed.
Perhaps you identify with some of these controlling behaviors, but you didn’t grow up in a chaotic home as described above. If that’s the case, think back to times in your upbringing when you felt out of control. What did you do? How did your parents comfort you? How did your parents respond when you misbehaved? Did they teach you how to manage your feelings and offer coping skills? These questions are a starting point to understand how your upbringing could be impacting your relationships today, including your leadership.
Changing a controlling pattern
In her career as a nursing administrator Mandy was extremely successful. She had many promotions, juggled multiple responsibilities, and was known for her efficiency as a leader who got things done. Despite her professional success, she had a reputation of being difficult to work for and had high turnover with her staff. She was referred for leadership coaching because of multiple complaints of treating employees in a condescending, disrespectful manner. Motivated to keep her job, Mandy was receptive to the coaching process and receiving feedback from an objective, unbiased outsider.
An inner transformation happened
Though initially defensive to the evidence of negative perceptions about her leadership style, Mandy became open to gaining insight to how her behavior affected others. Over time, she made a connection between events in her upbringing that influenced her behavior now as a leader. She realized that at a young age she was responsible for protecting her siblings and herself when her father would come home drunk. Her mother was often hit by her father which left Mandy to take charge of keeping the family safe.
There was no quick fix for Mandy rather a gradual peeling away the layers of defensiveness that revealed remorse about how she had treated her staff. She said “I don’t want to be that person”. She stayed on course to learn about her tendency to control and adopted new ways of dealing with stress and anxiety.
Not only did an inner transformation occur for Mandy, but also a transformation in how she led. The company morale change from tension and stifled ideas to positivity and freedom to share innovative thinking.
How does controlling behaviors impact business relationships?
Over the past ten years, neuroscience studies have shown how relationships impact brain functioning. When controlling behaviors as listed above play out in the workplace, it prevents people’s brains from working at their best. Why? Because the same fight/flight response that Mandy experienced when her father came home drunk is the same response employees have when they work with a leader whose behavior is unpredictable, overly critical, and explosive. When employees consistently work in negative conditions they are constantly on edge and it shuts down creative problem-solving, planning, innovation, organization, productivity…all the elements that drive success towards the bottom line.
Your behavior as leader will affect the work environment which in turn will affect the brain functioning of your employees and how well they perform. If you are wondering why you are not getting the results you want, start with looking at how your behavior is impacting others.
Controlling behaviors can be turned around. Like Mandy, it probably won’t be a quick fix, but change is possible. As a leader, you are driving the behavior of your culture based on what you model. Don’t try to do it alone. Surround yourself with people who care enough about you to tell you the truth and who will support you to make the necessary changes. Not only will you see results in your business, but also in your employees and your own peace of mind.
Make the Conscious Choice to turnaround controlling behavior,
there are results waiting for you far more wonderful
than you could ever imagine!