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How to deal with bossy co-workers
Be direct, and don't overindulge
Published Thursday, January 26, 2012 7:11 am
by Wesley Carter

Everyone works with at least one. They are easy to recognize.
Wesley Carter

They typically know everything about everything. They lord their infinite wisdom over the office and often have the first and last say on most issues. Never short of an opinion, the bossy co-worker is a productivity nightmare.

Bossy co-workers provide an over abundance of unsolicited advice and direction. According to them, and only to them, they know best. The stress in the workplace created by bossy employees manifest itself in decreased productivity and team cohesiveness. 

Organizations lose productivity due to disruptions created by bossy employees. More often than not, bossy co-workers impose rigid codes of conduct on others and excuse themselves. Masquerading as experts, bossy co-workers impose their will on others and create a tense work environment.
If the bossy co-worker outranks co-workers, it can be particularly bothersome. Abusing their power, bossy co-workers micro-manage lower ranking employees. Resistant to respecting organizational boundaries, bossy co-worker do not respect the rights of others.

Bossiness can result from insecurity, inflexibility, or over confidence. If a co-worker is insecure because of deficient or outdated skills, bossiness serves as a deflection strategy to divert attention away from their inadequacy.  Unbeknownst to them, bossy co-workers are quite transparent. Still, they continue to hide behind a displaced sense of purpose, dispensing advice like cough drops.

Conversely, if bossiness is a byproduct of over confidence, it can manifest itself as arrogance. In this case, co-workers should hold their ground and avoid interacting with the bossy co-worker. The lack of relationships may be enough to motivate a bossy employee to stop those behaviors that alienate others. If all else fails, a private conversation with the leadership may alert them of the productivity impact of a bossy employee.

Inflexibility is a clear indication of a bossy co-worker’s insecurity. While it is totally appropriate to adhere to company policies and procedures, few employees enjoy working under the watchful eye of a bossy interloper. Bossy co-workers would do well to focus on their own performance.

Bossy adults were likely bossy children. Left unaddressed, little tyrants have become big tyrants. There are several strategies for dealing with bossy co-workers.

Do not over-share. A bossy co-worker only needs a tiny morsel of information to start commanding and directing. Clearly, but tactfully, establish your boundaries. Simply state, “I’ve got it under control.”

Some bossy co-workers precede their intrusions with a rhetorical comment, such as, “If it were me.” Listen respectfully, evaluate whether you can use any of the guidance constructively, and proceed appropriately. No need to feel obligated to follow their instructions to the letter. When you have heard enough, politely excuse yourself.

It is doubtful that you will be able to get a bossy co-worker to change. However, you should establish boundaries to minimize the interruptions. Politely say, “No, thank you.” Those three words clearly articulate your decision without a lengthy dialogue. Teach your bossy co-worker that their advice is unnecessary and unwelcome.

Remember, you are at your place of employment and therefore, should always conduct yourself professionally. Work diligently to minimize the time-drain spent interacting with your bossy co-worker.  Focus on doing your job very well and leave the bossy co-worker to their antics.

E-mail WESLEY CARTER of KRS Consulting LLC at wesley@krsconsult.com. On the Net: www.krsconsult.com.  


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