Bossy Coworker

How To Handle A Coworker Who Bosses You Around

Have you had to deal with a coworker who somehow got confused, forgot their position in the company, and started bossing you around? Such employees may feel they are more capable than you are, and so they want to check every task you handle, manage all your interactions with others, question every decision you make, and downright wear you out.

I recently came across this complaint sent in by a frustrated employee to

“One of my coworkers in my department is constantly telling me what to do, and it’s driving me crazy! She does not give suggestions, she gives orders. She also disagrees with me on everything and insists on always having her way….. Even the most insignificant thing will set her off. For example, we recently cleaned out some old departmental filing cabinets, and my coworker demanded to know why I wanted to save a file consisting of ten pieces of paper… I explained to her why it was necessary to save these papers, and she disagreed with my reasoning and told me that I had to throw them out.

“In addition to disagreeing with and giving orders to people that she is interacting with, she constantly inserts herself into conversations she overhears…. For example, a client recently came to my office for an appointment with me, and said he would have to reschedule because he forgot to bring money for the parking meter. I asked him if he would like to move his car into our validated parking garage (which he did not know we had), and my coworker, who happened to be standing nearby but was not part of our conversation, came over and told my client that he should reschedule his appointment with me instead of moving his car!”

If you imagined putting such a co-worker in a choke hold and getting them to repeat “you’re not the boss of me” 20 times, or until they turn purple (whichever comes first), I can assure you you’re not the only one with that thought.

Gladly, there are more civil ways to handle such workers and get them to understand their boundaries.

What To Do About Bossy Coworkers

1. Be more assertive
Create clear boundaries and enforce them. If the person attempts to cross these boundaries, push back politely, but firmly.

Consider the following suggestion by Allison Green of Ask a Manager in response to the complaint quoted above:

Coworker: “Why are you saving this file?”

You: “Those are papers that I need. I have my area covered and don’t need help, thank you.”

Coworker: “But why can’t you throw them away?”

You: “Again, I have my area covered and don’t need help.”

2. Explain how you feel without sounding accusatory
A common suggestion is that you express your opinion with “I” messages. For example if your co-worker barrages you with ideas on how to complete your tasks, you could say “I appreciate that you have a lot of ideas about this task, and that you are willing to share them. However, I feel really put down each time you try to tell me how to accomplish my tasks and would appreciate if you treat me as a professional and allow me use my judgement.”

3. Arrange to discuss with the person
If the two steps above don’t resolve the issue, then it is necessary to have an open discussion with the person.

During the discussion explain that their intrusion has really become a problem for you and is affecting your general work experience. Require that that the person leaves your work to you and explain that you value their input, but will ask for it when it’s needed. In summary, explain all your grievances and try to reach a resolution.

When having this discussion, try to be firm but polite; you want to get this person to understand that they are not your boss, but you do not need to ruin your relationship to get this done.

By: Mesheal Fegor
Sales & Support