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  • Stephanie Thrower

My boss is so controlling

I have a very difficult boss. Luckily not always, but when things get hard she can be a real [bleep].

BTW, she's me. Even though I no longer have a boss, it sometimes feels like I do.

Whether you work for yourself or have a boss, many of us who have invested a great deal into our careers have internalized our bosses’ (and parents’ 😬) voices and some of those voices are not helpful.

Sometimes what feels like a boss is a yearning for control, a yearning to know the future, a yearning for things to be “just right”. This yearning for control is often idealized in my identities as a straight married cis-woman and a mother. My peers jokingly refer to themselves as “control freaks”, usually justifying the necessity of being good at noticing details and being prepared. I have heard many well-meaning people respond to a mother’s [neurotic] worries with “well, you’re just being a good mom.”

The belief that we can control our future is incredibly alluring. Partially because sometimes it works. We often work really hard preparing for something and then it becomes a success! Then, we’re like, “All that preparation mattered!” Or really, our anxiety amplifies this voice. It doesn't, conversely, amplify the voice that sometimes we don’t prepare at all for something and a good thing still happens.

But, here’s the deal. There are so many things out of my control, an astounding amount of things. My clients’ ups and downs, the weather, a global pandemic, the new limp my dog has, the economy, what my kids eat, what illnesses they catch, what their teachers will think of them, my reproduction, and even the damn thoughts that come into my head.

Maybe now that I work for myself, I have erroneously tried to take over the reins of having too many critical bosses. Make sure I’m giving myself feedback and critiques to “sharpen my skills” and “keep on my toes”, to prepare for everything that might happen so I can optimize outcomes. But, when I overestimate my actual ability to control in the pursuit of excellence (or perfectionism) I end up being the one to take the blame when outcomes are poor.

This is a bad boss.

She’s not interested in me growing or gaining skills. She is only performing perfectly to delude myself of my vulnerability and humanity.

I’m gonna say it again because it’s important. Whether you work for yourself or have a boss, many of us internalize our authority figure voices and some of those voices are not helpful.

If you recognize your yearning for control is the bad boss in your head or you have a bad external boss you need help to stop internalizing, that’s something I support people with. You can read more about my services here.

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