IF YOU are not accused of "exercising poor judgment", you are criticised for a "lack of initiative". Micromanagers can put a serious dent in your self-esteem.

Marie, a manager at a large cosmetics company, knows about control freaks first-hand. "My boss is always hovering over my shoulder and second guessing everything I do. She insists that everything be done her way - even when my way works just as well or even better."

These hands-on micromanagers are typically perfectionists. They over-supervise, hoard information and often delegate tasks to subordinates, but rarely the responsibility or authority to accomplish those tasks. Their philosophy: "No one can do it as well as I can."

Insecurity and fear of failure are the driving forces behind a control freak's persistent meddling. "On the plus side, these bosses tend to be very conscientious, take their responsibilities seriously, and are dedicated and hard-working," says Dr Reed Moskowitz, medical director of the Stress Disorders Center at New York University Medical Center, where bad bosses are a common complaint.

Control freaks can drive you nuts trying to achieve your - and their - goals. To stay sane and keep a control freak off your back, your best bet is to think of this type of boss as an overprotective parent.

"The best way to deal with a control freak is to drown her in information," says Dr Moskowitz. "The more you give and the less she has to worry about, the more she'll let go."

"Resist overtly fighting your boss's suffocating ways. This is the worst thing you can do," adds Dr Moskowitz, because bucking this type of boss sets off an alarm.

"The boss may think, 'This person is not a team player. This person won't take supervision. This person is trying to hide something.'"

Reassure the control freak that you are on her side while simultaneously asserting your own work style.

Says New York career coach and assertiveness-training specialist Hilda Meltzer: "I once counselled a manager whose boss was sending her long memos directing her movements.

"I encouraged the manager to speak with her boss privately and say, 'You know, I work very well on my own. When I get memos telling me to do things a certain way, I feel it is counter-productive. I know what a track record you have, and I'm here to support you, but I can produce best with more autonomy.'"

Always deliver. Hand in everything on time - when you do, point out that you have met your boss's deadline and conformed to her specifications. If you consistently do what you say and when you say you will do it, a control freak is likely to back off or go away and bother somebody less reliable.