HOW To Handle A Coworker Who Thinks They're Your Boss? Like This.

You've run across these people at the office before. On the organization chart, they are equal to your position. They just don't play that way. Work culture writer Jared Shelly says the characteristics are pretty easy to spot. "They critique your work. They delegate responsibility. They talk over you in meetings." Sound familiar?

The situation hurts morale. And over time, there's a bigger problem. A reduction in productivity caused by less interaction and sharing of ideas. You real boss may be oblivious to these issues, perhaps because they hired this person in the first place. Maybe they saw their drive, but did not see how they could throw the business in reverse. Not the mention the fact they are bothering you personally, affecting your mood.

You don't to be labelled as a troublemaker if you go the boss. But things cannot stay this way. The the solution? Go to the source, but do it in a way that will be a teaching moment for them.


Ask why they’re acting like the boss. Posing a basic question to them is a good start:Is there a reason you’re acting like the boss?“Just ask the question,” says workplace expert Ilene Marcus. “Maybe they don’t even know they’re doing it.”

Get coffee or drinks together. Get to know them a bit more. Grab some coffee together. Do lunch with them. You might be shocked learn how much one-on-one time can strengthen your relationship by letting them see your value to them, more than just skill set.

Use reflective listening. For example, when they say “you’re going to see the client on Tuesday” just repeat that back to them with a little twist: “so you’re telling me that I’m going to see the client on Tuesday?” Play that game a little -with a respectful tone- and “they will start to realize you don’t want to be told,” says Marcus. “They may not hear themselves. When you use reflective listening, they understand they’re being bossy.”

Use “you” statements. “I feel like I’m being treated poorly” or “I feel like my ideas aren’t being considered" are some good examples. When you are equals, “you” statements perform much better. Say things like: “Why do YOU feel like you’re in charge of this project?” “Why are YOU talking to me like that?” (Again with respect, without getting defensive.)

Invite them to lead a project with you. Explain to your bossy peer that you don’t perform best when being told what to do. Plain and simple, yet direct. Explain that you’re both looking for the same positive result—and offer to lead a project together.


Bring them back to the common goal. “We’re all here to make this project as great as possible, but I’m not feeling that motivated if you’re telling me what to do.” That can help show them you’re looking for a more collaborative approach. “Sometimes it’s a style thing and they don’t realize it unless they’re getting specific feedback,” says career coach Julie Jansen

Find other coworkers they’re bossing around. If they’re bossing you around, chances are they’re doing it to other people too. So ask around. “Hey, is Larry giving you assignments too?” That can help you gain valuable input to get your independence back.

Find a coworker they don’t boss around and have them coach you. This is awesome idea. They are likely not bossy with everyone. Is there’s someone else that seems to handle this bossy coworker well? If there is, ask them for some advice.

Go to the actual boss. Ask the person who’s actually in charge for clarification on roles and responsibilities. Tell them “Larry doled out the assignments. Is this what you expected?” and see what the reaction may be.

Stop beating around the bush. At some point, you’ve got to be direct. Saying things like “did you hear how you just spoke to me?” can help bring the problem to the forefront—and hopefully you can lead a constructive discussion afterwards. “Unfortunately, I don’t think people do that,” said Jansen. “They just get upset or defensive, go behind person’s back and complain about it. Or they wait until a boiling point and snap.”


Scotty Mac

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