Most employees have tales of a bossy co-worker. The impossible colleague typically tries to commandeer an entire department by giving the staff unsolicited instructions and advice on how to get their work done, even though she's no higher on the hierarchy than anyone else. Sometimes, her behaviors are belittling and toxic. Or, she may have the best intentions but sees herself as a more senior-ranking co-worker who needs to take charge. Keep a positive outlook as you reign in this person so you can get on with performing your job.
One of your best defenses against a co-worker with a super-sized ego is your own sense of confidence. "You need to show people what you can do, and strut your stuff," says Vicky DePiore, a human resources manager at United Technologies Aerospace Systems in Cleveland, Ohio. Take on some heavier assignments or even volunteer for a team or a project that gives you greater visibility while bolstering your confidence, she says. These new assignments will help you stand out while sending out a clear message that you are competent and not someone who'll easily be persuaded to follow the bossy colleague's lead.
Your candor can help diffuse the tensions between you and that person who won't stop micro-managing everyone on his team. "You need to sit down with them and have a heart-to-heart talk and say, 'This is how you're making me feel,'" says DePiore. "Remind them that they look bad when they boss you." Another important step is to explain how both of you can perform more effectively if you work as a team. "Show them you care and you want both of you to succeed. Make it a win-win for both of you," says DePiore. Extending that olive branch can mitigate the friction so you're working together for your employer's best interests.
Set Hierarchical Boundaries
You can draw boundaries around a bossy peer if you tell her you're going to run her suggestions past your own manager. This reminds her that you report to someone else writes executive coach and trainer Daneen Skube in an article on SeattleTimes.com. This tactic also directs that person to take her issues to your boss, not you. She may be micro-managing you because she does hold a higher position, but you need to deal with her demands by speaking privately with your own supervisor, Skube says. Speaking with your boss allows you to get his guidance on how to perform your job according to a column by Wesley Carter of KRS Consulting LLC in TheCharlottePost.com. This move could also alert your boss to how the colleague may be damaging office productivity.
You can only manage how you respond to an aggressive coworker. Jacquelyn Smith, who covers careers and leadership issues for Forbes.com, suggests you avoid a power struggle. Just thank him for his suggestions and let the matter drop. Arm yourself with plenty of data so you can handle his questions at meetings. These extra facts also can help you probe his comments by asking detailed questions about his information and sources. This step lets you inquire about his own level of expertise. Be aggressive in sticking to your agenda so he can't derail your program with nonstop commentary, Smith says. As a courtesy, let him see your itinerary in advance so he knows he has the floor for only a short time.
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