One of the biggest roles we play as leaders in an organization is ensuring that we have a motivated, well-functioning team. Part of this means making sure that all of your employees and all of their unique personalities are meshing well together, and that each person is working independently and interdependently toward the common goal.

One of the personality types that we often have struggles with, are employees to whom we refer fondly as “control freaks”. They are fine when it comes to working independently but really struggle with the concept of working interdependently. They can’t seem to quite trust colleagues to do their own tasks, and end up getting involved in every aspect of everybody’s business. The result, if left unchecked, can be dissension and division within the team, which inevitably leads to lower productivity and employee morale.

Most control freaks are like this in every aspect of their lives, and not just in their work environments. You’re not going to be able to change their personalities, but you can try to change their behaviours. Here’s the process for dealing with a control freak.

1. Set up a one-on-one discussion with this employee and begin by explaining your role on the team: e.g. “Alice, my role in the company is to make sure that everybody on the team has what they need in order to get the job done, and to make sure that everybody is doing their part.” This lets the employee know who is really in control.

2. Acknowledge the employee’s strengths: e.g. “Alice, you do an exceptional job at A, B and C.” Then acknowledge the strengths of the others in the team: e.g. “You know everybody else on this team is pretty good at what they do.”

3. Tell her what you need her to do, and why she needs to do it: e.g. “I notice that sometimes you have a hard time letting go of control of aspects of a project that someone else is supposed to be working on.”

Get her agreement or acknowledgement of that, then say, “I need to get you to focus on what you are doing and have a little more faith in the job your coworkers are doing. They may not do it the same way you do it and may not do it as well as you do but you really shouldn’t get too involved with their responsibilities.

Reassure her that if there’s a problem with somebody’s work or if somebody is not getting things done right or on time, that you will deal with it.

4. Get her commitment by saying something like: “Can I count on you to focus on that?”

5. Reiterate the good stuff: e.g. “You really are a valuable member of this team and I need you focused on the things you do best.”

You may have to have this conversation more than once with these individuals. Again, it is part of their personality, but you will find that over time they will learn what behaviours are and aren’t appropriate in the workplace.

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