They are in every office. They impose on conversations, constantly question others’ decisions, delegate their work to others, domineer over every meeting, and whine over every petty imperfection. The bossy coworker can be frustrating and dramatic, but it often takes just a few confrontations to loosen their grip on the office life. Here’s how to deal with such a coworker:
Firmly set the boundaries
Life coach Liz Pryor points out that in most instances, when bossy people are challenged, they usually back down immediately. Admittedly, some people have a bossy personality, while some coworkers care so much about their work that they could come off as imposing. However, you can keep your coworkers from interfering with your work or ordering you around by calmly saying ‘no’ when necessary. The idea is to constantly set boundaries until they understand that you will not take orders from them.
Create a strong front with other colleagues
If a coworker is known to act like a boss toward most people in the office, teaming up with the rest of your colleagues can help to stop the negative behavior. It is usually much easier to call out a difficult coworker as a team than it is to deal with it alone. When the overbearing colleague knows that no one in the office will tolerate their behavior, they will likely start playing nice and become less adversarial. However, teaming up should not entail harassment or alienation of fellow employees.
Talk with them directly or indirectly
There is a possibility that some coworkers are acting bossy without even knowing it. If their behavior is hampering your work, ask to speak to them for a few minutes to express your dissatisfaction with certain incidences. Alternatively, you could email them outlining your concerns and your proposal for maintaining a better working relationship. Even if their behavior is naturally infuriating, use calm and professional tone and language to address your difficult coworker.
Use humor to disarm them
A less adversarial way, to call out a bossy colleague, is to use humor preferably in the presence of the real boss or other colleagues. Humor or slight sarcasm can put a dump on their ego and make them aware that they actually do not have the power to give orders. For example, you could say, “Wow, Joe who died and made you the boss around here?” Be careful not to resort to sarcasm too often as this could escalate into a fully blown confrontation with your colleague.
Do not fight back
Sometimes, your best bet is to give domineering coworkers the ego boost they are looking for. This approach requires a lot of patience and tact, but it can easily prompt an overbearing person to change their behavior. So if the coworker points out some improvements that need to be made on a project, simply thank them for letting you know and move on swiftly; once in a while, agree to their requests but make it clear that it would be nice if they used a friendlier tone when requesting for something.
Involve the management
Reporting a fellow employee to the office leadership should be a last resort if all else fails. Demonstrate to your boss several examples of how your coworker’s bossiness interfered with your work and workplace cohesion. You also want to point out to any form of written or verbal communication you have had with your co-worker in an attempt to solve the problem.
Sometimes, the office can be a jungle of its own. While you do not have to be unnecessarily aggressive, being too passive, overly accommodative or too giving can easily set you up as bait for bossy coworkers. It is your responsibilities to set boundaries and be in control—know when to decline orders from a coworker and when to strategically pamper their ego.