Brianne couldn’t sleep. Her mind was replaying her week at work. Her new supervisor had excluded her from meetings, spread rumors behind her back and often made devaluing comments to her. Brianne started to replay the conversations they had had together. Was I impolite? Did I say the wrong thing? The more she replayed the discussions, the more confused she got. She felt as if she had always been kind to everyone on her team. The more afraid Brianne was of her supervisor, the more control the supervisor had over her.
Fear and control tend to happen on a spectrum. When people are afraid, they might avoid, attack or people please to feel safe. Some people might seek to have more control because the more power they have, the safer they feel. In the case of Brianne, her supervisor was trying to use control tactics to make Brianne follow her guidelines. Brianne had been doing her own thing at work, and sometimes she didn’t do it precisely as her supervisor requested.
Consequently, her supervisor felt out of control. To feel more in control, she started to devalue Brianne so that Brianne would lose confidence and begin to listen. Control tactics can look like gossiping behind someone’s back, degrading, excluding, and or isolating from friends and family.
Brianne eventually recognized why her supervisor was treating her differently. To repair her professional relationship, she made sure that she did not threaten her supervisor’s authority. She began to watch her supervisor’s actions, but she did not react. The emotional reaction might have led to more control tactics. The poker face and following authority eventually led to a repaired work relationship where both Brianne and her supervisor felt safe.
On one end of the spectrum, control tactics can be annoying. On the extreme end of the spectrum, control tactics can be dangerous. In romantic or family relationships, isolation, lack of empathy and devaluing can sometimes lead to domestic violence. Lack of empathy and devaluing can also lead to decreases in self-worth and self-esteem.
Suppose you feel like you are being bullied, devalued, or controlled. In that case, a professional can help you to regain confidence or help you to come up with a solution. Suppose you struggle with control and feeling out of control. In that case, a professional can help you to to learn how to feel safe without using control tactics.
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