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Dear Dr. Dina
My boss is a notorious control freak; he micromanages almost everything I do. I feel constantly frustrated, but I want to keep my job. What should I do?

Dear Frustrated,
While there are many fair bosses, there are also some very controlling people who are attracted to positions of power. These are often insecure individuals trying to boost their self-esteem by exerting dominance over those 'below' them. Fortunately, just because someone is dumping his emotional baggage onto you, doesn't mean you have to take it in. Although your boss may be able to fire, give raises, etc., you are likely giving him more psychological power than he is due. Should he (who you probably would never choose as a friend) be the one to control your happiness and quality of life? If you keep your boss in perspective, you may be better equipped to dismiss some of his dictatorial behaviors.

It may help to have a diplomatic discussion with him about your dilemma. Start out sharing what you like about the job, especially as it relates to him. Then you can share your feelings about aspects of his management style that are affecting you negatively.   Be careful not to be accusatory or insulting in any way. Starting a sentence with 'I feel' rather than 'you are' usually reduces defensiveness. This conversation may help to increase your boss's awareness and alter his behaviors towards you, but it is important to keep in mind that this will probably not change his underlying character.  

If you continue to feel chronic frustration, remember that there are other options. For example, you could soul-search to see if this predicament represents a pattern in your life. If so, it may be beneficial to work on your personal growth (e.g., through psychotherapy). If not, you may want to consider the possibility of leaving this work environment. We are lucky that as adults, we almost never have to stay prisoner to a chronically painful situation.

Please contact Dr. Friedman for further information or to schedule a consultation.

Dr. Dina Friedman
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Private Practice
Reston, VA