How to deal with that bossy coworker who acts like your supervisor

Know-it-all coworkers are one thing, but ones who act like they’re your actual manager (when they’re not) are a completely different beast. Here’s how to keep them from controlling your workday.

Don’t run away — act with “compassion”

This isn’t impossible.

In this video, Kathi Elster and Katherine Crowley of K Squared Enterprises answer someone’s question about a bossy secretary “who thinks she runs the office,” and what they can do in response.

“It’s tempting to think that you can shut her down, and ‘relieve her of her delusions.’ Come on, you can’t do that. Anyone who gives themselves that kind of self-importance usually feels really shaky inside. So self-awareness is gonna come to this secretary when she’s ready to grow. Your best bet is to feel sorry for her. Your compassion will ease her need to be so self-important. I know this is not what you wanted to hear, but your anger is only fueling her desire to act out.”

Say it to their face

Sara McCord, a freelance writer and editor, writes about this in The Muse, recommending that you “speak up in the moment.”

After talking about a hypothetical scenario where your colleague assumes control and gives you a “boring” assignment (and you’re annoyed by it), and that she may not realize how you or others on the team feel, McCord explains about the best way to proceed:

“So, step one is speaking up. She may not realize how aggressive ‘Here’s what we’re going to do… ‘ sounds.

Practice saying things like, ‘I have an idea for a different approach… ‘ and ‘I’d like to take a more active role in the direction of this project. How about if… ‘

Maybe she’ll do a decent job at sharing leadership roles, it’s just that no one had previously expressed interest. Your first step is to give her a chance to do just that.”

Remember, they may not always have it out for you

Peter Barron Stark is a coach, author, speaker consultant, co-creator of The Manager’s Toolkit and President of Peter Barron Stark Companies.

He writes on the organization’s website about experience coaching top managers with a difficult relationship, and that when working with difficult colleagues, you should “assume positive intent.”

“We don’t think that people get up in the morning and say, ‘I’m going to be a real controlling, arrogant jerk today at work.’ We do believe that despite appearances, people try to do their best. Some people have baggage they cart with them. Some appear insensitive and are oblivious to the impact they have on others. Others seem to work in a world of their own and make decisions in a void. Accept people for who they are, and assume that they have positive intent, despite their approach. If you can look deeper and try to understand your counterpart’s perspectives, you’ll almost always realize that they are doing what they believe to be best. From there, it is easier to figure out ways to work collaboratively to achieve common goals.”

Get your actual boss on board

Lolly Daskal, speaker, consultant, coach, author and President and CEO of Lead From Within, writes in Inc. that you should “seek additional support.”

“Enlist the help of your supervisor or a human resources manager if your colleague’s behavior is interfering with your work. Ask other coworkers who are frustrated with the control freak to support you if your manager resists taking action.”