Is Your Boss Subtly Controlling You? Here Are 7 Tell-tale Signs

There are few things as exasperating as working under a boss who is set on controlling your every move.  Manipulation is all about power and control. A manipulative boss creates a great deal of suffering for those reporting to them. Is your boss trying to control the hell out of you using covert or psychological power? Here are a few tell-tale signs of a manipulative boss.

They Never Listen

Arrogance is one of the hallmarks of a control freak and this means that controlling managers are inherently bad listeners. There’s nothing more frustrating than suggesting top-of-the-line ideas to your boss only to have them turn a deaf ear to your improvements. They are too self-absorbed to value anybody else’s suggestions above their own. On the other hand, good leaders are active listeners.

They Give you the silent treatment

Another thing that manipulative bosses do to assert psychological dominance is to pull the silent treatment on you. They intentionally ignore your text messages, instant messages, emails, calls, etc. just when you need to urgently discuss team plans, needs, progress reports, and job challenges. Imagine the frustration of being avoided by your boss who you directly report to, and wait on their approval to go ahead with a plan. According to psychologists, crafty bosses use these mind games to show their importance and further entrench their authority in the workplace. It’s a quiet way to get you to yield to their demands.

They Throw Sarcastic Remarks

A manipulative manager may also make disparaging comments about your appearance, work, qualifications, or even something as silly as the color of your car, in front of your colleagues, to make you feel inferior. They may also trash your ideas or use them to mock you during office meetings, even if you are a high-performer. They use ridicule and seemingly harmless banter to always put you down and find fault with you. They always try to present you as inadequate through toxic phrases to subtly maintain a strong hold on you and your emotions. When you start feeling inferior and low on self-confidence, you are much easier to manipulate and bend to their will.

They Abuse Power

Abusive managers use their superior position to intimidate subordinates. They are notorious for taking an unusual amount of unfair, inconsistent, and self-serving decisions. They won’t think twice before firing or demoting you if you do not submit to their patronizing attitudes. They won’t even hesitate to force you to put in extra hours or work weekends to handle problems that are not even your concern.

Such leaders will take credit for your achievements and always put you in the shadows.  They rarely, if ever, express appreciation for your contribution and are offended when you try to offer a different opinion. On the other hand, effective leaders only use power sparingly. Instead, modern leaders influence their staff and persuade them.

They Guilt Trap You

A boss who is fixated on control will play the guilt card to get you to do what they want. They will leave no occasion to remind you of how they helped you out of a tough spot or pulled the strings to get you that promotion in order to bend you to their will. Conscientious people can easily be emotionally manipulated by capitalizing on their innate shame and guilt. If you have a manipulative boss, they can press your guilt button to sway you to their side whenever it suits them. 

They Treat You As Pawn

The boss with manipulative tendencies always view their staff as pawns, simply a “pair of hands” to get work done and nothing more. If you ever feel that you are totally replaceable and not at all valued at work, you are probably working under a controlling manager. On the other hand, leaders fully well know the value in drawing on the full creative powers of people they work with. Leaders treat their subordinates as valuable assets and recognize their contributions to win their respect and boost productivity.

They Control Your Workload

Do you always have to seek permission from your boss when starting a new task or taking on a project? Do you have to checking regularly with your boss? An empowering boss will give you free rein. A controlling boss will expect you to check in with them on regularly. The controlling boss engineers this dependency over time through subtle forms of micromanagement and micro-iniquities.


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