The Control Freak

I’m not sure if I can do this without a book but I’m gonna try. Also, this isn’t technically development, it’s government, we don’t develop, it’s system implementation.

About a year ago I left a government job to go to work for a smaller agency. I figured that there would be more opportunity and the bureaucracy would be less. I even took a pay and benefit cut because they wouldn’t budge and “they” according to my manager wouldn’t start you past the point they did. Actually they do it all the time, especially for senior management, they just caught me at a point where I was willing to take a shot.

The problem is that my manager is a control-freak, the worst I’ve ever seen. He’s created this world where he’s the only one who can get things done. When people make mistakes, even little one’s he gets really sideways, because HE WILL HAVE TO FIX IT (true, because they probably won’t have access to fix it).

He’s constantly working late. In fact, pretty much, you can count on him to do your job for you, which contrary to popular opinion, at least for this .gov worker, is not a good thing. He also has to set everything up and know more than his people. This leaves you pretty close to knowing nothing because everything is in the black hole that is his brain.

All of this control, and zero error tolerance, even in test environments causes me tremendous stress. I’ve for all practical purposes been shut down and given up. When I help, it’s wrong, when I don’t help, I should have helped. If I suggest X, the correct answer is Y, and vice-versa. Literally, everything I do gets picked apart, even work that is plenty adequate to the need. Even our reporting, which is orders of magnitude better than before, gets picked apart, even when it’s fully functional, the users want it a certain way, because he knows better how it should be.

I’ve made stupid mistakes. I don’t trust myself. Pretender disease has come on full-blown. I now understand why the dogs give up when they get randomly shocked. This guy is actually smart. He does know his stuff but working here is awful. I don’t think he can tolerate anything outside of his patterns and control and when he runs into it he wrecks it.

So I gotta survive this insanity, at least until I can get off this ride. I can’t begin to tell you how angry and frustrated I get. And this doesn’t count the sheer psychological beatdowns I’ve gotten on a pretty regular basis. I’m really afraid that I’m going to light him up one of these days, in public. That’ll be the end of me for sure. But also, the anger and frustration manifests outside of the job both in my personal life and interactions with other co-workers.

Any suggestions, tactics, tricks? All ideas are welcome and thank you for any that may come.


My suggestion to overcome the situation is to trust yourself and ‘get off this ride’. Some managers suck, they have low self esteem, especially in our industry they mostly think about how to CTA (cover their asses). Suggesting X and he always says Y is a sure sign he’s a moron. If you suggest X and he suggests Y and you agree with Y being the better solution then you’ve learned something. If X is the better solution and he always suggests Y then he is unfit for his job.



I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that it’s time to leave. Regardless of right or wrong, for me to be as worked up as I’ve gotten speaks loud and clear.

It sucks that you have to deal with that type of people at work. I went through a similar situation a few years ago at a nonprofit organization where the guy in charge of IT was a sociopath and a fiend. But this guy, unlike your manager, didn’t know his stuff as much as he said he did and had a huge ego. He also forced his religious beliefs and political ideologies on people, and got mad if someone disagreed with him or refused his invitations to his church. Everyone hated him, even his wife and daughter. He made things so that every employee from every department had to rely on him. He had to be involved on every aspect of the organization. Even the CEO was afraid of him because the organization would cease to operate without him.

One thing that helped me deal with that scumbag was knowing his weakness, which in my case was his ego. I told myself that my peace of mind is not negotiable and started letting him win arguments just to satisfy his ego and pride. Note that this is not the same as giving up. It was just a measure for not letting him get under my skin and to preserve my peace and self esteem. I was also on the lookout for other opportunities, and left as soon as I had the chance.

You should get out as soon as an opportunity comes up, but in the meantime just let him have it. It’s just temporary. It sucks, but sometimes the best way to not lose a fight is by not getting into it.

I think this is good advice. Thank you!

And it’s not like I have a choice. He’s the terminator of initiative. At least it makes going home at 5:00 a guilt free experience.

I thought I might follow up on this as I’m still in the same job. Don’t worry I really am planning to leave, just life and not a lot close opportunities in this area.

Anyways, I had a pretty major family issue come up where I was responsible for taking care of things. Literally life and death, ultimately death, and a lot of big decisions. A couple of things came out of it for me. First, despite what’s gone on in this job, I’m actually a functioning capable person who can not only make decisions I can get some pretty serious stuff done. Second, because of the death aspect I’m in a much different financial position. I still need a job but my need to care is significantly lessened.

What’s interesting is that when I came back from this, my very first day, the weenie stuff started up. It didn’t take a day before I got hit. Later I was assigned a joke of a project but to cover the bases I called the vendor, got their recommendation, told him what I was doing, did it, and guess what, I did it wrong.

Now, actually, I didn’t do a single thing wrong. I did what the vendor recommended, notified the chain of command accordingly, did it, and everything worked. But, he couldn’t help himself and it was probably the most nothing project I’ve done in my life. Amazing!

I’ve learned a lot about control freaks too, some of which may help people to understand them if they run into one, and you will in tech.

First, they aren’t powerful. Sure they’re your boss, and by that extension have power, but they really don’t. Extremely controlling people are often driven by extreme insecurity. Nothing is good enough and that means nothing they do is good enough either. It must be a horrible way to live.

Second, they can wreck you. The best advice is still to get as far away from them as you can. They will nitpick your work to death, and in my case, had me doubting that I could tie my shoes correctly. And, even if you can tie them correctly, they will interfere in a way that makes it significantly harder to tie them.

Third, the best thing I read about them was from a control-freak and they called it the jedi mind trick. Basically, you had to guess what they wanted done and do it without them telling you what they want done. It’s a prescription for insanity because there’s no way to achieve that for the average person, even most exceptional people, given that working for a control-freak will come with information limitations galore, making your guesses very uneducated. It’s a ridiculous paradigm but it’s what you are working with.

Fourth, it will catch up with them. Their need to do everything is eventually overwhelmed. I see it happening here. This guy is done, it’s just a matter of when. Unfortunately, when can be longer than you want to wait around for.

It’s been interesting how much my approach has changed. I’ve assigned him work, it’s hilarious, but it works because he can’t help himself. I mostly just surf the internet, read books on kindle and help out if there’s a problem I can help with. I’d rather be working, and getting stuff done, but it’s just not possible.

You sir, are my new hero!

Just a suggestion, and totally optional, but i’d give an explanation for your reasons in a letter of resignation. This manager’s behavior can’t possibly be healthy for the organization and whatever management is above him has a right to know. They’re likely to be idly wondering why there’s so much turnover in his department already.

i just realized how old this thread is so it’s probably too late, so I guess consider this a suggestion to others in similar situations who come across this page :smiley:

Hi Centipede,

It’s OK. I’m still there actually. It’s a government job and it’s taken awhile for other opportunities to open up. Some have, finally. And, some things happened there that finally broke me. I have no hope of salvaging the job.

The organization knows so there isn’t a lot of point to expressing it. And there’s nothing they can do. He’s buried inside the tech so far that he’s almost part of it. It’s going to require major surgery to remove him and they don’t have the top-end brainpower to get it done. Besides, the craziest part of it is that he’s a super smart technical person. Unfortunately, he a rotten manager which is his job.

In regards to the job, without going into specifics, I’ve had some awful things happen since my last post. People like this never relent and they never stop. So, sure, I thought I had it managed but there’s always something and it’s always lurking. It’s like coming to a one-way street. There’s a cop there, so you confirm that it’s a one-way street. You turn right on the one-way street. Then an email shows up criticizing because you didn’t wait 5-seconds before turning right. You confirm that you did that. Well, I meant at 50-yards before the stop sign.

Run, run fast and run far if you can.